Self-awareness : parenting babies

During the years I made use of a binder, I was reluctant to hug. I didn’t want people to feel the extra layer between them and I; it made me acutely aware of how much I was struggling with my body. By and large, these are faded memories that rarely cross my mind. But for some reason, the 1st few times I strapped a twin in a carrier, or they took a nap on top my chest, I was extra grateful for the resolution of my chest dysphoria. No binder hindering skin on skin contact, no compression. Just the light weight of a precious love, peacefully resting against me. Pure bliss.

[Photo by Julianne LIbermann from Unsplash. Description: a man seen from behind holding 2 young children in a field of poppies.]

Every moment is something new to them: a new colour, texture, sound, movement… they watch, taste, and touch it all in amazement. They babble but don’t speak, yet their facial expressions and noises convey so much.

This is the day they gain enough awareness to realise something about this patch of skin’s different from the rest. They grab my donor site and try to stretch it. They run their hands from outside the graft to the middle of it and back out with a serious look of confusion. They’ve never known me otherwise, but for whatever reason, today the skin graft stands out. They’ll lose interest in it before long, it’s not a toy, food or interactive.

They’ll forget about it. A few days will go by, and then again, fascination with this weird textured patch of skin, before once more losing interest in it. It won’t take long for their baby selves to become bored of it for good. But I wonder if toddler them will ask what happened. I wonder what age appropriate response I’ll give. I wonder when the scars on my chest, irregularities in my fur and skin from this and that incision will prompt further conversations.

I know body positivity isn’t at odds with transition. But it seems less than obvious to eventually hold space for some questions that’ll be asked innocently, but will be difficult for me to meet.

[Photo from Unsplash. Description: a row of blue and purple porta-potties against a row of trees in an evening.]

It’s diaper change number whatever of the day. I have to make sure the penises point down when I put the new diaper on, least some urine comes up and out onto the belly. I’m aware every time that for them there’s no such thing as wiping front to back or vice versa.

They have upset tummies and colds. The only thing more impressive than the amount of diarrhoea being produced, is the colour spectrum of it from the snot flowing straight from ther nostrils into their mouths, and down the digestive track. Poor kiddos, no sinuses yet.

On the occasions the poop has exploded to cover their entire groin region, including the tip of their urethra, I rinse extra, and hope they don’t get a UTI to boot.

I’m acutely aware that my parents had to be careful about which way they wiped but not which way my urethra pointed every time they put a diaper on me.

[Photo from Unsplash. Description: the silhouette of a parent swinging 2 young children on a beach as the sun sets.]

Most people ask if they’re twins. Maybe it’s their differing hair colour. But then, the moment I confirm they’re twins, people ask if they’re fraternal or identical. So apparently the differing hair colour is of limited importance. More people than I expect than ask which one is the girl, which one’s the boy. Or they assume. As if fraternal twins can’t be assigned the same sex at birth. As if their assigned sex matters. They’re born babies. Unless you’re changing their diapers, I don’t get why their genitals matter.

People will ask their names. They’re gendered names. And still, people will ask or guess which one is a boy and which is a girl. It’s validating of how intense I remember adults investment in my gender from my earliest memories.

The twins seem a-ok with the gender norms being projected onto them despite our best efforts to have them sort it out independently. Still, it’s unsettling how invested in gender norms everyone is with them. How horrified so many are of misgendering a baby if they believe fraternal twins are necessarily of different assigned sexes. I challenge people, without the worry that the twins are struggling as I did, but acutely aware of how much these strangers’ assumptions are understood and can impact little ones.

[Photo from Unsplash. Description: a baby looking grumpy on a picnic blanket in a park.]

They’re aggressively gendered by every stranger, most of their relatives and friends. No matter what, even most people who claim progressive politics are busy projecting cishetnormativity at every turn.

Many of these people know me, my medical history, bisexuality. I start to wonder how much of this stuff about adults they censor around me. The experiences that come with parenting have resurfaced a former worry that people who know my medical history are humouring me. That they use my male name and masculine pronouns because it wasn’t worth the arguing with me anymore, but not necessarily because they see me as actually male.

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