Menu

What it’s really like to raise a transgender child

A month before Ryan turned three, we once again broke the sac that contained her and celebrated her birth.

What it’s really like to raise a transgender child

There is a lot of noise coming from the other room, but it's happy noise, the sound of children playing, laughing, and talking in broken conversations that only make sense to 3-year-olds. I peek around the corner to see what my twins are up to and watch Ryan tackle Ben. I wait for Ben's reaction, and walk away when he starts to giggle. They're fine.

Ben was quiet in utero, in terms of movement. His twin was not. Ryan was restless, seemingly fighting for space, or perhaps looking for it. When my partner's water broke at 36 weeks, it was Ben who entered our world first.

Ryan would have been right behind, but for about 30 seconds his heartbeat could not be found. The monitor had been bumped off during the commotion of Ben's birth, so once the room started to breathe again, the doctor broke the second sac so that Ryan could be born.

For nearly three years, Ben and Ryan were our sons. They were the baby bros to their big sister, our first child. Two boys born into a house with two moms and a sister, they balanced the hormone levels a bit. We were relieved they would have each other, have their matching male statuses to lean on in a house already filled with females.

We quickly realized our boys were very different babies with very distinct personalities. Ben was and is the easier twin and our easiest child. He has always been more content and quicker to smile.

Ryan, on the other hand, has been the child who has challenged us the most. His restlessness in utero translated into a baby who was not easily comforted, who always seemed to need something we weren't providing. Our love was strong, but our previous experience as parents seemed weak.

In the early stages of getting to know our twins, as we were finding ways to connect with them individually, we noticed the unmistakable bond they already had with each other. They don't know themselves without the other. And in some cases, when I or my partner (or both of us) were busy taking care of their then toddler sister, all they had was each other.

They would babble to each other from their cribs when we couldn't rush in to get them after they woke. They would stare and giggle at the other when seated on a blanket full of toys, entertained more by each other than the toys at their feet. They would feed each other food from their trays, sitting side by side, heart by heart.

"Ben, Benny! Look! A firetruck!" Ryan points to the truck at an oncoming intersection as we make our way to Costco.

"Where?" Ben asks.

I tell him to look on Ryan's side. When riding in the van, the two of them are always observing and sharing their findings with each other. To help them see the object, we locate it by determining whose side it is on: Ben's side or Ryan's side.

"It's on her side?" Ben can't find the truck.

"Yup. You'll see it in a second," I tell him as I drive by the intersection where the firetruck is parked.

When Ryan was an infant, there were many times we didn't know what to do or how to make him feel better. As he got older, the independence of crawling and walking eased some frustration. Words helped, too. Ryan just wanted to be understood, and we were doing our best to understand.

Ryan's gravitation toward his big sister's clothing at 18 months told us he liked dresses and pink and purple. Ryan's desire for long hair made us regret cutting all of his long curls off before he turned two. A few months later, Ryan's declaration of being a girl made us question his motivation for saying so.

Perhaps he loved his big sister so much he wanted to be just like her. Maybe he thought he had to be a girl to wear dresses, to play with princesses, and to grow long hair. We didn't care that he was a boy who liked 'girl' things and told him so. But he cared. He was not a boy who liked dresses; he was a girl who liked dresses.

We skirted around gender by no longer referring to Ryan as a boy. We called him our kid, not boy or girl, and we lived a few months in a land of neutrality.

His moodiness, anxiety, and sadness told us we needed to do more. We were loving our child, but not validating who he really was and who she needs to be.

After a lot of research and consultations with our pediatrician, and with Ryan's unwavering wishes, we began the process of socially transitioning him from a male to a female. A month before Ryan turned three, we once again broke the sac that contained her and celebrated her birth.

This new Ryan was happier than the first, she became easier to please and more relaxed. Our new understanding came with acceptance and support, and our internal struggles with saying good-bye to what we thought was going to be were overshadowed by the confidence and joy radiating from our daughter.

Our twins are now a boy/girl set, and we have two daughters instead of one. Our family's dynamics have changed, and sometimes I miss having the bros, but I worry more about the impact Ryan's transition will have on Ben.

Ben is not just the only boy in the house. He is now the twin brother to a transgender twin sister. His identity was changed, too, and when Ryan pulls away to stand alone as a girl, or to search for more ways to solidify her identity as a female, I worry about their bond.

Ryan was home sick from school one day, and when my partner picked up Ben, the teachers said he had a good day, but missed Ryan. "She's my best friend," he had told the teacher.

I realized the bond has always been there and always will be. Ryan has been pushing and pulling her way to get where she needs to be from the beginning. And Ben has always been next to her, seemingly not bothered by her restlessness or aware of her differences.

In this case, what we're looking for is not on Ben's side or on Ryan's. This love they have for each other is just there, waiting behind doors, peeking around corners, hidden in simple gestures, and shared in conversations only they can understand.

I have been waiting for Ben's reaction, but I now know it's okay to walk away. They are fine.

Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this

Shop

12 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$189

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

20 baby names to set your child up for success

What do Jacqueline, Morgan, Madison and Parker all have in common?

They say picking a baby name is an art, not a science. But when it comes to figuring out which baby names have been linked to successful futures, there has actually been some scientific work on the subject.

Keep reading Show less
News