Anna and Krystyn Belc are the proud parents of two children, having each given birth to one of their sons. Here, each woman details her pregnancy experience as well as her experience of her wife’s pregnancy, and the way that their two wildly different journeys affected their bodies, their relationship, and their growing family.
When I was a little girl I seriously wondered why boys didn’t kill themselves just because they were born boys. I did not consider that they could have enjoyed being who they were. I have always felt that I was born into the right sex and brought up in the right gender. The only thing my body was missing was pregnancy.
I tried to fill the void with basketballs under my shirt and a stack of childcare books in my room before I was old enough to read. I spent my whole childhood thinking about this one experience and then four years after meeting my partner Krys and a year after we were married it finally happened. Positive pregnancy test, ultrasounds, maternity clothes. It was all happening just like I had imagined, and I was lucky to have an easy pregnancy. Barely any morning sickness. No back pain. No heartburn. I liked the attention I received from friends and strangers.
And I loved the attention I received from Krys. She had always wanted kids and could not wait for our son to be born. She found me more attractive and loved how my body was changing. She was proud and kind and patient. She stopped making her favorite sweet potatoes and made me all the pasta dishes I craved. We went on dinner dates and took long walks. We spent weekend afternoons sitting in the baby’s room thinking about what he would be like. Our time passed slowly and peacefully.
My labor and delivery were uncomplicated, and baby Sean and I figured out breastfeeding with minimal discomfort. Krys was encouraged by how easy it all was on me and decided to have a baby so that our two kids could be as close in age as possible. I was four months postpartum when Krys became pregnant and nothing about her pregnancy was easy for either one of us. I was still struggling with some mood swings and was severely sleep deprived; Sean hated sleeping. We had only two days off in common each month since we worked alternate schedules to avoid placing Sean in daycare. For the most part I wasn’t there physically for Krys and when I was, I was too drained to give her the support she needed. And she did need it. Krys never wished to be pregnant. Never wished for her body to change that way. She resented her new hips and breasts and hormones. In short, she resented becoming a woman. And so did I.
I am attracted to pretty masculine identifying women and choose the term “queer” over “lesbian” for that reason. Many aspects of my relationship with Krys are stereotypically “straight.” In arguments she’s highly rational and I’m highly emotional. I’ll accuse her of saying something insulting and when she replies, “I didn’t say that,” I’ll come back with, “Well, that’s what I heard.” When she needs attention she wants me to rub her head or feet rather than hold her. All of this changed when she became pregnant. And I didn’t like it. I didn’t find it attractive. Estrogen is a powerful thing. All of a sudden I was married to a woman.
Looking back I wish I had been more supportive. I wish I had been more patient when she complained about her body hurting. I wish I had figured out that she voiced her physical complaints to avoid talking about the severe gender dysphoria with which she was struggling. Yet I do not regret that our sons are 13 months apart. Having them this close took a toll on our relationship, but we are working hard now to find space and time for each other and recover. Our boys are becoming best friends and watching them play together makes the past year worth it.
We have always talked about having a big family yet we are hesitant knowing exactly what another pregnancy would bring. Krys loved being the biological parent of a newborn and while breastfeeding continues to be dysphoric she appreciates the bond that it brings. She would like to birth another child and is willing to go through another pregnancy in order to experience that again. I do not know if we are better or worse prepared for this based on our past experiences. I wish that next time we could pause the rest of our life and once again spend sunny afternoons folding baby clothes amidst thoughtful conversation. Yet I’m sure within hours I would miss the squeals of our little boys, their sticky apple and peanut butter fingers, and their slobbery kisses. There is no perfect way to have a baby and there is no perfect marriage. Every day we do our best for them and try to do the same for each other.
I was 24 the first time I looked at my body and loved what I saw. Some people experience this feeling often; others, never. I didn’t mind my body too much as a kid, even when I was a prepubescent fat kid. I hated that my parents made me keep my hair long, but as far as I was concerned, my hair was dead, like shoes, and one day I’d have it however I wanted.
Then breasts came. Hips. My period. It hit me for the first time: I was destined to turn into a woman. Some people know they were born the wrong sex the moment they have consciousness. For me, it took having to wear a bra; realizing my friends all shaved their legs; asking my mom how tampons worked. I didn’t know anyone transgender. I didn’t even know that was a thing. All I knew was that suddenly I had flashes of my life’s path: wear a prom dress, date boys, marry one, have babies. I wanted nothing to do with it.
Nearly 15 years later it seemed like things were working out, after all. I was married, to a beautiful woman. She was pregnant with my baby. Intense workouts, tight sports bras, and men’s extra small shirts had combined to make me into the perfect well-muscled genderqueer person I always felt but never saw in the mirror. I was happy that summer; excited about our son; feeling like a dad. Anna was gorgeous and radiant as a pregnant woman. She made it seem easy, and when Sean was in my arms all I wanted was to do it over again.
Four months later, I’m sitting on the toilet looking at a pregnancy test: positive. But all the rest of the day and the next nearly 20 weeks I think about going to get an abortion. Not because I don’t want another baby; not because I don’t love my family and want it to grow; and not because I feel no connection to the baby.
It’s the hormones.
I feel like I did those scarring moments at 11, 12: I’m a woman. Hormones are surging through my body, growing this baby, making me someone I hate. All of these years to get comfortable being me, and here I just threw it aside. I worry I’m backsliding years and years and will always feel this way. The decision to do this to my body and myself seemed easy: we wanted another baby, and fast. We hadn’t slept in months, didn’t anticipate sleeping in months, and didn’t want to raise Sean by himself. I’d been through tough things before and thought I could do it again, easily. And in the back of my mind I imagined how happy it would make my family, finally doing something they expected, finally just giving in and going with the natural course of things, sending my mom a surprise photo ultrasound and waiting by the phone for her call. For nearly 20 years I made myself accept being a girl and thought that going back to that for less than a year would be easy.
Twenty-three, 24 weeks come and go and now it’s inevitable. I’m having this baby. My boobs are huge. No one calls me “sir” anymore at the grocery store. I want to be held all the time. Our sex is different. Gentler, more awkward. It’s not us. I get upset for no reason. I eat so much chocolate. I’m not myself.
And Anna doesn’t want this me. She wants the old me. She wants my muscles, my abs, my deep laughter. She misses rational thinking. She misses her “straight” relationship. To you we might be giant queers; to us we’ve always been a pretty gender-normative pair. Now we’re so blinded by sudden discomfort with our seven-year relationship that we forget to get ready, really ready, for the baby. So it goes with second babies, I’d imagine, whether or not it’s a genderqueer dude having the kid. I’d imagine making a person changes a lot of people into someone their partner doesn’t quite know what to do with, and it’s distracting, and alarming, and frustrating. It takes away most of the joy of waiting for a baby. I worry I’m stealing something from my son before he’s even born.
Suddenly he’s out. Samson. My boobs are bigger, and I take on the challenge of doing the most womanly thing I know: breastfeeding an infant. It’s hard, harder than I think it will be, harder than putting on my first bra, harder than the moment in college when I told Anna that if she wants a lesbian relationship, she better leave me. Because I’m not a woman, and men don’t breastfeed an infant. Anna finally gets it, though. This is all temporary. She holds me when I cry about having a new baby, cooks all my dinners, lets me nap whenever I want. In those moments I think we’re the most normal new parents on earth.