'Pregnant Man's' Labor of Love

Read an excerpt of the "pregnant man's" book "Labor of Love."

ByABC News via logo
November 16, 2008, 1:40 PM

Nov. 17, 2008 — -- For the second time in a year, transgender man Thomas Beatie is pregnant. When he first told the world of his plans to give birth in April 2008, the story captivated the international community.

Beatie, who gave birth in July and expects his second child next summer, penned a book called "Labor of Love" chronicling his unique life experience and engaging saga. Read an excerpt of his book below.

I have been a daughter and a son, a sister and a brother, a boyfriend and a girlfriend, a beauty queen and a stepfather, a girl scout and a groom. But today I am just an ordinary human being in a whole lot of pain.

Today, it is happeningit is finally happening. I am wearing an enormous, 4x white T-shirt, on inside out. The soothing, insistent sound of a heartbeataround 140 of them each minuteis the only music in my otherwise quiet birthing room. My contractions are intensifying, and every couple of minutes I feel this surging pain that starts from inside my gut and radiates out. I remember trying to do a dismount from a chin-up bar when I was ten, and landing square on my back. That was the worst pain I ever felt, but this is way, way worse. Our midwife puts a cold washcloth on my forehead; my wife Nancy kisses me tenderly on my cheek.

It has been a long, hard, often surreal journey to get this point, and now I have to summon one last big burst of energy for the final leg. "Gravity is your friend," says the midwife, by way of urging me to walk around to try to speed things along. But the truth, I am finding, is that having a child is not in any way a passive act. You don't just show up and wait for the baby to arrive. You have to will the baby out of your body, and that means marshalling every last ounce of strength and resolve that you have.

Nancy puts her hand on my belly and feels our daughter thrashing around, and she tells me, "Don't worry, she'll be here soon." But the hours pass. I focus on odd little details to take my mind off the pain. Our midwife's left index finger is wrapped entirely in surgical tape; she cut it slicing whole grain bread that morning. This strikes me as neither a good nor bad omen, just unlucky for her. I also notice she has a tiny diamond stud in her left nostril. You can barely make it out in the dimly lit room but when she leans in to fix my blanket or move me from side to side, it sparkles. She's a wonderful woman, so calm and reassuring, and I like that she's obviously a bit of a hippie, too.

I am 100 percent effaced; I am also nearly fully dilated at 9 centimeters. And still no baby. We got to the hospital in the early morning; it's nearly nighttime now. "Let us know when you feel the urge to push," says our midwife. "Not just pressure, but a real urge to push." Nancy starts watching out for what she calls my "pushy face," then asks if she can get her own epidural. That's Nancy; cracking jokes, making everyone feel at ease, and still remaining a tower of strength for me to lean on. That morning at home she sifted through a bowl of jellybeans and brought all the purple and orange onesmy favoritesto the hospital. She slips a couple of them to mea simple, throw-away gesture between a husband and a wifebut it strikes me yet again, as it does every day, that I could never, ever have done this without her right by my side. Nancy gets up to straighten my sheets and touches my face with her hand. She says, "You're nose is really cold, like a puppy."

A nurse gradually fills my IV with pitocin, which is supposed to increase contractions and speed along my labor. "Your uterus is really tired," the midwife tells me, and I think, "That makes two of us." We're going on twelve hours now, but the nurse assures us, "That's the average length of labor for a first-time mother." Nancy gently corrects her by asking, "What about for a first-time father?"

A little earlier, our midwife brought over a red velvet sack filled with little slate tiles, each shaped like a heart and bearing a single word. "Pick one out and that will be your focus word," she says. Now I reach in, pull out a pink heart and show it to everyone. "Serenity!" says the midwife. But in fact, it's misspelled on the tile as "Sereinty." How perfect, I thinkeven my focus word is mixed-up, nonsensical, a deviation from what is known and expected. That has been the story of my entire pregnancyno one has known quite what to make of it, or been able to truly understand what it means. To me, it couldn't be simpler. I am a person who is deeply in love and wants to have a child. But, just like my jumbled focus word, what I know it to mean and what the world reads it as, are two very different things.

"Remember, Thomas, sereinty," Nancy tells me later. "Try to be sereine."

Things suddenly get serious; a doctor is hustled into the room. It is time for my baby to be born. "Let's get busy and push," the midwife says, and I push harder than I ever thought I could. The pain is searing, and I think I might pass out. But I keep pushing. I hold tight to Nancy's hand, and every once in a while I steal a look at my white, laminated hospital wristband. Just like my wife's hand, it's a source of strength for me. There's nothing all that unusual about it, unless you know my whole story. But a single thing on that banda single, solitary lettervis, for me, a symbol of the most emotional and triumphant battle of my life. On the band, in simple type, it reads: Thomas Beatie 34 M

Never before in history has someone delivering a child had the letter "M" typed on their wristband.

"Okay, here we go," says doctor. "I can see her head."

Now it is time for me to meet my daughter.

My name is Thomas Beatie, and I have a family. I have an amazing wife, Nancy, who I love more than I thought possible, and a baby daughter who to us seems like an angel on earth. Sometimes at night I lie awake and think about how lucky I am, to have the dream I dreamed so long finally come true. In my darker moments I've always feared that somehow I might lose what I have. But I know that we are a good and strong and loving family, and that we can withstand whatever the world throws at us. It has not been an easy trip for us to get here, and there are many, many people who would like to see us torn apart. But here we are, a mother and a father and a childa family just the same.

This book is about many things, but above all it is about family. It is a subject I know something about. I have lived through the experience of an unhappy family, and the things I saw shaped me and led me to this moment in my life. I also know what it means to be part of a healthy family, to love someone unconditionally, to share all your hopes and fears with them, to make constant sacrifices for one another and to put each other's happiness above your own. I know the feeling of devoting yourself to making your family workto prizing the intimacy of that bond above anything else in your life. I have some insight into this matter, if only because I have spent a great deal of time thinking about it, and because it means the world to me to have the family that I have. I hope that when you read this book, you will see something of your own family in my story, and that, if I have told it well, my story will make you take stock of the ones you love, and of how they love you in return.

Of course, the path I have taken to create my family is very different from yours. What Nancy and I have done is completely unprecedented. On the face of it, we do not look like an unusual couple at all. Yes, I am half-white and half-Asian, and Nancy looks Italian, but that alone would never earn us a second glance. It's also true that Nancy is twelve years older than I am, and sometimes we get asked if I am her son. But plenty of people in love come together at different ages. In many more ways we are just like any other married couple in our quiet community in central Oregon. We take walks around the lake and hold hands, we work hard and try to save money, we were thrilled to buy our first home together, and we practically live in Costco. And then, like millions of happy couples, we decided to have a family. In these things we are no different from anyone else. Our dreams are white-picket dreams.

But it would be naive to think that we are not different. I am, as far as I can tell, the first fully legal male and husband to get pregnant and give birth to a child. In 1974 I was born female, and I lived the first twenty-four years of my life as a biological woman. But for as long as I can remember, and certainly before I fully knew what this meant, I wanted to live my life as a man. When I was young I was a tomboy: I dressed in boy's clothes, I did boy things, I resisted the trappings of girlhooddolls, dresses, all of that. I identified with the male gender in every way. I never thought I was born in the wrong body, however, nor did I ever want to be anyone else. I was happy being me, because I knew who I was inside. I was never confused about my gender identityI always knew, long before I could articulate it, that I was really a man. If anything, I was sometimes confused about how to make the rest of the world understand my situation. But I never struggled with my identity, or fought it or tried to change the way I felt. It was just the simple fact of my existence: outside I was female, but inside I was a man.

And so for most of my life I dressed like a man, wore my hair like a man, and cultivated traits that most would consider manly. This was never a strategic decision or something I imposed on myselfit was always just the natural, organic way I preferred to be. Later, when I was an adult, I learned there were things I could do to make my body look more like a man's body. This does not mean that I was unhappy with my body the way it was. It only means that I found a way to make the outside catch up with the inside. I began taking doses of testosterone to build muscle mass, and I worked out strenuously to shape my body even more. The testosterone also gave me facial hair, and before long I looked completely and utterly masculine. I then went one step further, and had surgery to remove my breasts. Before the surgery I used to walk with a stoop to try and hide my breasts. But afterwards I stood tall and straight, and I walked with a newfound purpose and confidence. I was finally the person I wanted to be, and believed I was all along.