Image description: Jacob - A masculine appearing person with facial hair holds a small baby. Jacob is wearing sunglasses, dungarees and a navy t-shirt with rainbows on. He is holding a baby in his right arm, towards his right shoulder. The baby is wearing Rainbow and cloud dungarees and a white long-sleeved vest.
The postnatal period is a funny thing. Like I've said before in a blog it comes after a period of the biggest change that someone's life and body can go through.
As a trans person I'm not unfamiliar with my body changing. Heck, over the last 5 years I've played the hormone hokey cokey, stopping and restarting testosterone with pregnancies in between. My poor body doesn't know whether it's coming or going when it comes to hair growth, fat redistribution and muscle mass, let alone all the other changes big and small that come with hormonal changes.
If you're an adult reading this then you're likely to have been through at least one puberty so you'll have some grasp of the power of hormones, but the topsy turvy-ness of how they can impact you will be much more familiar to anyone who has been pregnant, gone through menopause, taken HRT of any form or even just had periods. Hormones are powerful and given that we are so often at the mercy of them, it's strange to be in a position to get to actively choose how I'd like mine to look.
Back when I first started testosterone I didn't have a choice. Honestly, I don't think I'd be here today if I hadn't been able to access medical transition in the form of hormone therapy, it was quite literally life saving (despite being wrongly told I was infertile because of it, I could have done without that mind mess!)
But testosterone is powerful stuff and there are a lot of changes that don't go back (or not without further medical support, e.g. electrolysis for hair removal). Even after only giving birth 3 weeks ago and only being on testosterone for 10 months out of the last 5 years, I have a full beard, chest hair and my voice is still low (not as low as it once was, but nobody else would know that).
Testosterone isn't the driving force here right now but it has left its mark indelibly on my body. So I'm left wondering, should I restart taking it?
I had my blood test today to measure my base hormone levels. I could restart testosterone right now if I wanted to.
And I know if I do, my body will change. Again. And I'm kind of exhausted with having to learn a new body all over again. New hair, new smell, new texture, new shape. I'm only just getting used to not being pregnant, am I ready to change again?
Even after all I've been through, I am still assumed to be a cis man by strangers (which is honestly wild considering what my body has just done) and I'm wondering if I really want to smell like one again. I'm not kidding. You know that teenage boy smell? I'd be signing up for that. Not to mention the back hair and the way that my arm hair joins up all the way round when I'm on T (I don't know why, but I really don't like that!)
But I also know that not taking testosterone is still signing up for change. Without testosterone I'm facing the peaks and troughs of oestrogen and progesterone. A monthly merry-go-round that has never done me well. Between physical agony and life disrupting PMS (that's an understatement honestly, check out PMDD for more info) I've always had a rough ride of them.
When I first started testosterone I suddenly had an opportunity to learn who I was without the constant psychological flux from my PMS cycle. I finally found some balance in myself. But I now know what that balance feels like so even when I am affected by hormones I am much better equipped to manage it. (Or so I'm telling myself, if I don't restart T then ask me again in a couple of months!)
After my first birth I went through a similar experience and I waited around 5 months after giving birth to restart T, which I decided in retrospect was too long as my mental health had been affected. But despite the parallels I don't feel quite the same this time. I was definitely struggling with PND last time and I was also facing another pregnancy within a few years. This time I'm done and it feels strange to face an indefinite time on a medication when I don't know if my body is going to feel familiar on it. I know it once did, but that was 5 years and 2 pregnancies ago.
If my beard had gone, this choice would be easy. My beard is one of my biggest sources of gender euphoria and without it I wouldn't even take the time to write this because I'd be too busy sticking a needle filled with testosterone in myself. But my beard is still here, my voice is still here and my body is in a beautiful in between where I am lucky enough to be comfortably masculine but with a softness that after all this time feels familiar and safe.
Running parallel to my pregnancies and during my hormone hokey cokey I've also been exploring my gender in new ways. Despite my comfort in a masculine body, I'm also recognising that I get gender euphoria from softness, from colour and from nurturing. I am nonbinary, but I didn't realise it for the longest time.
More than that, I get some amount of euphoria from having a nonbinary body that isn't striving for cis-ness in a way that I once was.
There's an unsatisfactory conclusion to all of this. I'm at a crossroads and there's no pause button where I can stay right here. Softer than testosterone would make me but more predictable than when I'm having periods.
I'm going to wait, which means continuing down the oestrogen and progesterone path for a while. That feels right for now. And perhaps next week, next month or next year I'll consider taking a fork in the road and restart T on my terms. And believe me when I say I know how lucky I am to get to have that choice.