Support and Reassurance in Meeting Chestfeeding Goals
The New Beginning’s team would like to thank Trevor MacDonald, an LLL Leader from Canada, for interviewing Sion and writing this piece.
Sion Jesse called a La Leche League Leader for help at an early, critical moment. His newborn and first baby, Caleb, wasn’t latching. Sion’s family had been giving him not-so-subtle cues to say it would be okay with them if he gave up on nursing. None of his family members had nursed. It was all right to quit, they were saying.
Identifying as a trans guy, Sion had begun his transition a few years before his baby was born. However, he halted his testosterone therapy to conceive his baby and carry the pregnancy. He didn’t come out as trans to most of his health care providers, instead presenting as female. His family misunderstood his intentions and believed incorrectly that his pregnancy was a sign of de-transition. It was a part of his identity that was hard to share.
After his baby was born, Sion received help from public health nurses and lactation consultants. There was something different, though, about the kind of support he got from the LLL Leader on the phone. Sion explained to me, “Talking to the Leader was important because she said ‘it’s good that you’re trying and it’s okay that it’s really hard.’ She focused on what was positive, saying ‘any drops of milk are amazing, don’t beat yourself up.’ She helped me to keep a level head. There were times I was breaking down sobbing. I had a feeling of loss at the idea of not being able to latch the baby.”
Shortly after that phone call, Caleb latched, and the nursing pair ‘got it.’ They ended up having a happy and successful nursing relationship for three more years.
Ultimately, Sion found the most appropriate, long-term support for himself in an online space for trans people interested in birth and breast or chestfeeding. That’s also how Sion and I met and became good friends.
Sion said, “I relied so heavily on transgender support spaces just to get through the day. You need support to transition in a happy and safe way. In most transgender support spaces, people don’t want you to talk about nursing – it even triggers them! I didn’t want to make those spaces difficult for someone else to get support. I found the group [for trans people interested in birth and nursing] when Caleb was six or seven months old. It was amazing to have this space where I could talk about it. It’s so strange to have this desire to nurse your child and to also have chest dysphoria at the same time. Getting to talk to people who had already been through it before I did was so helpful. If an issue comes up, you know who you’re going to go to for help. Most people outside the group didn’t understand. They would say, ‘well if you’re comfortable having a baby then you must not be transgender – like, you don’t get a say in who you are, you’re a mother, that’s how we see you.’”
Caleb is now four years old and no longer nursing. Sion has since had chest surgery to reduce his gender dysphoria. These days, one of Sion’s favourite hobbies is make-up artistry, “doing art on the human body.” He noted with a laugh that he’d been to engineering school but now wants to become a make-up artist.
I see it all as being connected. Our bodies are amazing. Whether we are providing nutrition or becoming a canvas, we need others to see us for who we are and support us at where we are.
LLL USA is celebrating mothers, fathers, and parents
from May through June!
I donated in honor of my sister-in-law, Love Anderson. She is a Leader in Durham, North Carolina, and she is a fantastic mother to two wonderful (and energetic!) little boys. Her strength, patience, and above all, love for those boys inspires me every day. I am not a mother yet myself, but she is already an inspiration for me.
Tribute from Cailin Tasevski
In honor of Lonna who taught me that “It’ll be okay” on even some of the hardest days. And you know what? Twenty years later her wisdom still rings true.
Tribute from Debbi H
In addition to sharing stories, you can also make a donation (https://lll-usa.networkforgood.com/) to LLL USA on behalf of a mother, father, parent, or support person who has been an inspiration or help in meeting your nursing goals. Your donation keeps our volunteer organization running and is used for training, materials, and community outreach.
Send your submission, story ideas or questions to Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.