Parenting Transgender: For This Cis Woman and Trans Man, It’s Love That Makes a Family
Defying all odds, this love-at-first-sight couple didn’t allow distance, age, stigma, gender, or FDA regulations get in the way of creating an incredibly beautiful family.
There’s an excitement in the air at Mitch and Heather Davis’s New York City apartment when the Parents team stopped by one humid summer morning. Their 7-year-old son, Owen, proudly showed off an intricate cardboard Millennium Falcon built onto his top bunk—a project he shared with his dad. Nora, his 5-year-old sister, soon directed the attention to her many dolls and rainbow-colored nails (which matched Owen’s). One large cat nonchalantly reigned King of the couch.
Dad, 45, and Mom, 44, wore the hats of gracious hosts while juggling the tail end of a morning routine. It was their ninth wedding anniversary, which they celebrated with pizza in the park while the little ones shrieked and giggled their way through water features—drawing the occasional knowing smile from their fellow New Yorkers perched on the surrounding benches. It’s hard to believe just over 10 years ago Heather was close to swearing off love altogether before meeting Mitch at her New Year’s Eve party—but isn’t that how the story always begins? Heather can recall verbalizing to a close friend that evening that she just wanted to meet somebody who is smart, funny, and has at least read Rumi or Hafiz—the two poets Mitch happened to organically inquire about within the first ten minutes of their meeting. “I almost started laughing. I was like, did someone send you here?” Heather sweetly reminisced.
Although the “incredible and magical” connection was instant, the two lived in different cities. But within a year, Mitch moved from Arizona into Heather’s New York City apartment before the two quickly got engaged and married. After honeymooning in Greece, Heather’s baby fever started to heat up—but the couple had plenty to consider first. When Heather and Mitch first met, Mitch was in the early stages of transitioning from female to male, a process he completed while living with her. By the time they wed, Mitch was legally male, but the couple was still missing one major part of the baby-making equation: sperm.
That’s where Heather’s longtime friend Chris comes in. The two met while living in Austin, Texas years ago and had the running joke that despite Chris being gay, they’d have a baby together if neither of them met anyone else. “So, when we started to think about having kids, I immediately thought of Chris,” Heather explained. “I just thought we liked the idea of having a known donor, someone who could be in our kid's lives and to me, Chris was just the obvious choice.”
Mitch agreed, despite emotionally struggling with the fact that although he had transitioned, he was still unable to be the biological father. “There was a lot that needed to be resolved and it was a process: defining what makes a family to us, trying to figure out what it meant to be a father, for me, thinking about what it meant for us to have another person in our life that intimately,” Mitch explained. “It was a beautiful process. It was a very painstaking process. But, when we got through it, everything just seemed to make sense. And it doesn't mean that it was over when she was pregnant, we still have these conversations.”
Heather, Mitch, and Chris agreed upon a DIY insemination—which the couple admits was a somewhat awkward experience. In simple terms, Chris privately provided semen into a glass, which was passed off to Mitch. Mitch then used a glass syringe to insert the sperm into Heather. This process was repeated multiple times over the course of four days in their apartment. Although this method of fertilization is illegal under FDA regulations—that requires sperm from a donor to be tested, frozen, and quarantined for at least 180 days by a medical professional—the DIY approach saved the couple a lot of time, money, and privacy. Plus, it included Mitch in the process, giving him an important purpose in the pregnancy.
Despite Heather’s promises to Mitch (who was still in graduate school at the time) that getting pregnant would take time, two weeks later, on Father’s Day, Heather took a pregnancy test and it was positive. Nine months later Owen was born and Mitch’s name was on the birth certificate. Chris is now known as “Poppy”—no traditional title felt fitting for his unique role, so they created their own.
Navigating parenthood is difficult for anyone, but Mitch was faced with the added dimension of figuring out what it means to be a man and a father at the same time. But their family dynamic was seemingly effortless and two years later, they decided to try for another baby.
For the couple’s second child, Mitch and Heather decided to ask Chris’s husband, David, to donate his sperm. Not only did the couple find David to be an intelligent, caring, artistic, and an all-around wonderful person, but David grew up Jewish, as did Mitch—and would bring a piece of that heritage into one of their children. Mitch also preferred that both of his children not share a biological father. That way his own role as dad would not be trumped by shared genetics. Once Nora was born, David became “Pippy” and the family was completed.
Throughout the years, Pippy and Poppy continue to maintain a strong relationship with the family through phone and video calls while living in California—a dynamic that works well for all parties involved.
As for Heather and Mitch, they continue to be open and honest with their children about how their family came to be—in a way that's understandable to Nora and Owen. As the couple continues to pioneer this unique parenting situation, it can be tough to field questions like, “Whose eyes do your kids have?” or “Do they look more like Heather or Mitch?” But there isn’t a true handbook for dealing with anything when raising kids. And there are plenty of tricky scenarios the couple expects in the future, like when Owen is older, will Mitch be the one to guide his son through puberty and other milestones he himself never experienced?
As far as day-to-day goes, the Davises are a typical, loving American family who never fail to figure out life’s harder moments together, as a team. Heather’s ambition, and go-getter attitude and Mitch’s thoughtfulness and peaked self-awareness make for an intelligent parenting duo that continues to defy all odds and nurture their beautiful family.