I have been reading books about pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding for years, and am routinely disappointed by their lack of representation. Most of these books depict heterosexual, cis-gendered, white, able bodied couples. Few demonstrate the beautiful medley of families that make up our communities.
A couple months ago, someone saw my copy of the The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. The person commented on the white, heterosexual couple on the covered being assisted by a woman of colour. Ugh. The book that I so often recommend to families as they prepare for their birth is a prime example of the limited representation in pregnancy and birth literature. This is the beginning of a book review series to showcase queer authors and families.
I’ve been following Trevor MacDonald’s work for years now. He writes a blog called Milk Junkies and is a featured blogger on the Huffington Post. Earlier this year, MacDonald published a memoir called Where’s the Mother about his experience as a gay, transgender man giving birth and breastfeeding¹ his son.
Where’s the Mother? is engaging, funny and touching. MacDonald eloquently narrates his experience, while providing invaluable information about breastfeeding.
The memoir begins with MacDonald’s exploration of his gender identity and coming out as transgender. He shares his process of choosing to get pregnant, despite potentially excruciating gender dysphoria. When MacDonald and his partner get accepted into a Winnipeg midwifery practice as part of their mission to serve “marginalized communities”, MacDonald reflects on feeling both touched by this prioritization, and a bit afraid of how the rest of the health care system might treat him.
As they explore methods of feeding their unborn child, MacDonald and his partner decide to avoid formula for as long as possible. This is the beginning of their journey into breastfeeding and milks donors. Early on, MacDonald finds community and support through La Leche League. After spending years with the organization, MacDonald’s request to become a leader was rejected in August 2012. Eventually, in 2016, the organization changed their policy to allow applicants to be inclusive of all gender identities, and MacDonald finally became a La Leche League Canada leader.
MacDonald describes the stressful, challenging and immensely rewarding adventure of breastfeeding his child.
He emphasizes throughout the book that despite all of the obstacles, he never once regretted choosing to exclusively breastfeed², and his delight in the resulting bond with his son.
Clearly and eloquently written, MacDonald sets a precedent for other queer and trans parents exploring methods of feeding their babies. Whether you are looking for a great memoir, a story about a queer family or a breastfeeding resource, I highly recommend Where’s The Mother.
¹ MacDonald uses the term breastfeeding throughout his book. Some people in the trans community prefer the terms chestfeeding or bodyfeeding.
² I want to point out that while there are extensive benefits to breast milk, breast or chest feeding is a choice and not the only way to feed a baby. There MacDonald makes this point throughout the book, but I think it’s important to re-iterate.