Tine (30 - 39 weeks pregnant), Tavish (35), and Miles Henry Mathiasen (19 months)
Grass Valley, CA | Reno, NV
Tine shares -
“I have never felt such gratitude or such heartache as I did while trying to conceive Miles. Gratitude that our dear friends would open their family to ours and take on a known donor role and all that comes with that - logistically, socially, politically, legally. Gratitude to live in a state that makes it relatively easy for my trans spouse to claim parenthood to a child to whom he is not genetically related. Gratitude that I had little reason to doubt that my body was capable of creating and carrying life. But for me, gratitude and heartache turned out to be so intrinsically entwined that it was almost impossible to feel one without the other.
There was the heartache of the cycles that did not "take" despite everything being so painstakingly planned. Heartache and fear that I was at the whim of another person to grow the family I so desperately wanted. Most deeply, there was the heartache of not being able to create a family privately and on our own schedule with my spouse. The very evening our friend offered to be a donor, an evening of hope and celebration and joy, Tavish and I drove home and sat in our driveway while I cried. We mourned. It was only when we had finally found our path to family that we were able to face the mountain of grief we carried in not being able to do so on our own.
So far, conceiving and carrying our second child has been easier on me than my first pregnancy was, more mild in both joy and pain. I feel more emotionally tempered. My body and spirit have gone through the wringer these past two years and I’ve found my power. I have no doubt that I can get through this pregnancy, delivery and postpartum period.
Years ago, much of my queerness involved dysphoria and discomfort in my body. Finding usefulness - all the bits and functions involved in conceiving/carrying/feeding a new life – has helped me embrace my physical self. Once I had Miles, I felt connected to my body and its amazingness in a new way. However, the message that bodies are “made for this” and are therefore magical/beautiful/powerful had a dark side for me. If I was made for this, what did it mean that I had had a cesarean delivery? If I was made for this, why did feeding my child hurt me? And if birth was magical, why was I so angry?
With the help of doctors, time and a strong support network, I was able to realize that I had been woefully underprepared for a less-than-ideal birth and postpartum experience. My body and I weren’t broken, we just needed extra support. I've made different decisions with this current pregnancy - choosing a different birthing facility with more options and resources for delivery, surrounding myself with young and queer-affirming doctors, not being married to a particular method of delivery - and my spouse and I are confident that we've set ourselves up for success no matter how this impending birth unspools. My body is awesome and I am proud of it, and if it needs help, that doesn't mean I am any less.
The first three weeks postpartum with Miles had both joys and struggles, but then everything became terrible. The baby became inconsolable and cried nonstop for weeks. I also rapidly developed pretty severe postpartum depression. Thankfully, I recognized this drastic shift in my mood and when I did, I immediately sought help and was able to bring the PPD under control. Just last week, I met with a perinatal psychiatrist and we came up with a plan to get ahead of any potential PPD that could arise after this delivery. Prevention will hopefully make all the difference in this next postpartum period.
When I wore my queerness more brightly on my sleeve and prior to Tavish's transition, the two of us stuck out in most "family-friendly" settings. Now we are the image of successful domesticity and look like a straight, cis, married couple. This ability to pass comes with great privilege and great loss. Where can we go to find our community, especially now that we live in a small town and have kids? How do we stay visible and out? Well, we've learned that queerness extends beyond sexual orientation and gender identity and into family structure as well. Forever connecting our family to another through known donation is one of the queerest things I'll ever do. I'm proud of it and it requires navigating a different kind of "outness" that I'm still learning to perfect. Queer kinship in all forms is powerful and never to be underestimated.
I want to capture this incredible moment my family is in. The last few days of my final pregnancy. My son on the verge of becoming a brother. My second child still unknown. My spouse freshly recovering from surgery. We are beautiful. I want to remember for myself and I want the world to see us, too. Update: Willa Lane was born healthy and happy at 41 weeks. Her birth was a phenomenal experience, no doubt one of the best of my life. Postpartum with a newborn and a toddler is wild and witnessing sibling love is magic.”
Tavish shares -
“Being transgender, I have experienced grief and sadness in lacking sperm to procreate with my wife. Before we found our donor, I didn't know how we would be able to have children. The cost of sperm at a bank felt out of reach and the prospect of having to pay for IVF or IUI was daunting. In that time, I wished my body had the genetic material we needed to grow our family. I have always wanted children and had begun to doubt that they would every be a reality in my life.
When our son, Miles, was born, it was a long labor that ended in c-section. Miles and I were very quickly separated from my wife. It was 2 long hours before we were reunited with Tine. At this point in time, I had not had top surgery. I wore a binder all the time. I was so very self conscious about my chest and how it looked. I wore baggy tee shirts all the time and was always tugging at my shirt, afraid it would cling too much. So, when the nurse asked me if I wanted to have skin-on-skin time with Miles while we waited for Tine to finish in surgery and recovery, I declined. It makes me sad that he had to wait those 2 hours to have skin-on-skin contact, and I was just too uncomfortable in my skin to make it happen for him. I had top surgery this last spring. I am more confidant and comfortable in my body than I have every been. I am excited for the skin-on-skin time that I will be able to share with our daughter.
Postpartum time with Miles was awesome, beautiful, crazy, terrifying and exhausting all at once. He was so tiny and helpless and perfect in his little body. He was also colicky and cried for weeks. There were times I just wanted him to stop crying and nothing would sooth him. There are pictures of me holding this crying baby while bouncing on a yoga ball, shaking a rattle and holding a music box. We tried everything to sooth him, and nothing worked. It felt like it would never end, but then it did. In this time Tine was experiencing postpartum depression and I was trying to hold the pieces of our world together. To say the least, it was a trying time and we got through it with love, patience and lots of tater tots.
My wife introduced me to this movement. I normally would not be comfortable with minimal clothing photography, but the message behind what this project is doing is powerful. I chose to participate to show others that a family that appears to be hetero can underneath be super queer and awesome. I want to represent the invisible queer families and show the world how beautiful we are.”