#fertilityfairness - Transitioning? Have a chat about fertility preservation.
“When my son is older and says to me ‘mum, who is my dad?’ I will tell him the truth and explain that I am his mum but I am also his biological father,” says trans mum Jamie. She is telling her story to help others understand the fertility options for trans people.
Jamie’s son Toby was born two years ago after Jamie, who was born male, and her partner Sami had IVF at Bourn Hall prior to Jamie embarking on her transition journey to female.
The couple met six years ago and Jamie was open with Sami from the outset that she had already sought advice on transitioning. “I have spent my whole life wishing I was born female,” she says.
As the couple’s relationship became more serious one of the first things that they discussed was the subject of children.
“I had always wanted children and we knew that once I transitioned we wouldn’t be able to have them naturally because the hormone therapy stops sperm production,” says Jamie.
Infertility was an unexpected hurdle
The couple moved in together and started trying for a baby in earnest – assuming that as they were still in their mid-twenties that they wouldn’t have any difficulties conceiving naturally.
“I had been on the mini-pill for a number of years,” explains Sami, now aged 30, “and when I came off it my periods were really irregular. It hadn’t occurred to me that we would have fertility problems, we were both devastated that I wasn’t getting pregnant.”
The couple went to their GP and were referred for hospital tests which revealed that there were issues with both of them which could be affecting their fertility. They were told that they would be eligible for fertility treatment.
A new baby and new beginnings
The couple were delighted when their IVF treatment worked first time and Sami vividly remembers their first scan at Bourn Hall. “We saw his little heart fluttering on the screen and we both cried,” she says.
In April 2018 Sami and Jamie welcomed their son Toby in to the world and, with one embryo and the units of sperm in frozen storage at Bourn Hall, Jamie could begin her transition journey in the knowledge that they still had options if they wanted more children.
After attending a gender clinic in London Jamie was referred to a hormone specialist and has been taking hormone tablets for more than two years.
“I am at a really happy stage in my transition now,” says Jamie, aged 31. “The hormone tablets are really working. They change where the body fat is stored so my body shape is now more female, the hair on my head is much thicker and I have now got breasts.”
Fertility options for trans people
Jamie and Sami were fortunate in that the issue of fertility preservation was addressed early on and they were able to have sperm and their remaining embryo frozen at Bourn Hall should they want to have more children down the line. Jamie feels strongly that fertility preservation is something which people seeking to change gender should consider at an early stage – as once hormonal or surgical treatment has begun fertility is impacted.
“I think the best time for the issue of fertility preservation to be broached is once you have seen the psychiatrist or therapist and before you go to the gender clinic,” Jamie says. “By the time you get to the gender clinic you just want to get on with taking the hormones and having to make a rushed decision about freezing sperm or eggs would just cause a delay and hold you back. That conversation needs to be had earlier.
“Trans people, especially if they don’t currently have a partner, will be thinking in the ‘here and now’ which might be ‘oh I might not want a child’ but they should consider how they might feel about having a child in ten or twenty years from now.
“I know that once someone has made the decision to change gender they may want to act quickly to get to be who they truly are but all I would say is slow down and think about whether you might want children in the future, this is especially important for teenagers going through the process. Freezing your eggs or sperm won’t hold you up too much in the long run and it keeps the option of having your own biological child in the future open.”
Looking to the future
Family life now for Jamie and Sami is busy. Sami is a stay-at-home mum whilst Jamie works full-time as a data analyst and Toby is an engaging and active toddler who, prior to lockdown, was enjoying going to various clubs as well as regular visits to the park and softplay areas. “Lockdown with a two-year-old has been a bit wild,” laughs Jamie. “Toby is only two, he doesn’t understand why we can’t take him to all his various activities at the moment!”
Becoming a parent and moving forward on her transgender journey means the world to Jamie. “Being a mum is amazing,” she says. “I couldn’t be happier. Having this little thing who loves you for you and nothing else is just lovely, I love it. I have got everything I ever wanted, a child and a loving partner and I am the gender I always wanted to be, I couldn’t ask for more.”
The couple will decide when Toby is four whether they want to go back to Bourn Hall for treatment using their remaining frozen embryo – or further IVF using the frozen sperm – but for now they can enjoy family life secure in the knowledge that the option for them to try for another child is there for them if they want it.