A transgender father who came off testosterone to have a baby with his partner wants ‘other trans people to know it’s OK to carry a child’.
Caleb Bolden, 27, started transitioning six years ago. This was around the same time he and partner Niamh Bolden, 25, started trying to have a child together with the help of a sperm donor.
But Niamh suffered three miscarriages and a stillbirth of twins before doctors said it was unlikely that they’d ever be able to grow their family this way.
Rather than pay an estimated £70,000 for Niamh to undergo private fertility treatment, Caleb stepped up.
He stopped his daily testosterone injections, used a sperm donor he found on social media to become pregnant, and baby Isla-Rae Bolden was born in May.
Despite suffering gender dysphoria while he was pregnant and having to face horrid comments from strangers, Caleb loves being a father and plans to have another baby.
Store manager Caleb said: ‘Coming off testosterone was a rocky road as I had so many hormones going around my body.
‘It was soul-destroying. Transitioning was something I knew I wanted to do from a young age.
‘But I knew for myself and my partner [parenthood] was something we had always wanted, and I wanted to give it a shot.
‘When it’s age-appropriate, I will tell [Isla-Rae] the things that are relevant.’
Caleb, from Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, started transitioning in 2017 and stopped taking testosterone in January 2022 – 27 months after he started.
Niamh, also a store manager, found out she was unable to conceive naturally in 2022 after miscarriages and a stillbirth in 2019.
She said she was told the eggs she produces are incapable of being fertilised because they’re immature.
Even so, Niamh and Caleb said she would still have been forced to undergo 12 consecutive rounds of artificial insemination – which they claim could have cost as much as £80,000 – to get NHS help.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines state that NHS-funded IVF is only available to women ‘who have not conceived after two years of regular unprotected intercourse or 12 cycles of artificial insemination (where six or more are by intrauterine insemination)’.
Campaigners have argued that these rules mean women in same-sex relationships, or couples where one person is trans, can only ‘prove’ that they cannot conceive by trying artificial insemination.
Rather than put his partner through that, Caleb decided to try.
After building a good rapport with a sperm donor, he proceeded with IUI fertility treatment, and he discovered he was pregnant in August 2022.
‘I’d been on testosterone for 27 months and was told there was a good chance I couldn’t fall pregnant, and my period probably wouldn’t come back,’ he said.
‘But within a month of stopping my menstrual cycle returned and within six months and three attempts using a sperm donor, I fell pregnant.’
Caleb’s coworkers didn’t know he was trans until he shared that he was pregnant, but they were supportive.
However, some people suggested ‘men can’t get pregnant’.
He was also at the receiving end of comments from strangers in the street pointing out that he was a man who was pregnant – as if this was news to him.
But Caleb praises the support he got from healthcare staff.
‘From quite early in the pregnancy we got very good support from West Suffolk Hospital,’ he said.
He was offered separate rooms for scans, so women didn’t see him, and midwives and a consultant came up with a specialist care plan to make sure he had privacy throughout.
When he gave birth in May 2023, he was induced and had the baby in a separate room rather than the ward.
‘To begin with, it was hard as I suffered with complications,’ he recalled. ‘For the first four weeks after leaving the hospital I was bed-bound, so wasn’t able to have that bond with my daughter.
‘During labour, her heart rate was dropping rapidly and I underwent an episiotomy. But after leaving hospital I was in agony – it was because there was a breakdown in the episiotomy.
‘The stitching broke down, and I had constant infections for five weeks – I couldn’t move.
‘At the beginning for two weeks after giving birth I did breastfeed, but I found that quite difficult.
‘I know she’s my daughter and I gave birth to her, but for me, it felt really odd, and I didn’t feel like that father figure to her.
‘I’ve recovered now so am able to do a lot more, and my partner has been a great support.’
Caleb is still halting his testosterone treatment in the hopes that he’ll be able to get pregnant again later this year with the help of the same donor.
‘I want to be able to carry a child one more time before I start taking testosterone again,’ he said.
‘I’m planning on doing that later this year and will be using the same sperm donor again.’
He added: ‘I want other trans people to know it’s OK to carry a child.
‘We’re no different to any other person. Just because we were born a biologically different sex, it doesn’t mean we should have to worry or lock ourselves away.’
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