Jake and Hannah Graf are just like any other expectant parents as they anxiously await the birth of their first child. There is just one small difference to most – they are a trans couple who both transitioned
Hannah is an ex-Army captain, and Jake is an actor – now they are set to be a British first when they welcome their baby girl in April, 2020.
After meeting and falling in love in 2015, the couple always knew that they wanted to be parents. Hannah, 32, recalls that Jake, 41, was always keen to have children. ‘Within a week of our first date Jake was asking if I wanted kids. He wouldn’t have taken the relationship further if I’d said “no”. I did want children, but I never thought I’d end up having them. I thought I’d never have a boyfriend, let alone get married.”
However, they were unsure whether this would be possible, as they are both transgender. Thankfully, five years ago Jake discontinued his testosterone therapy for 6 months in order to prepare his body for egg retrieval. The couple then found a surrogate who was willing to carry the pregnancy to term.
In order to make this dream come true, Hannah’s mother generously paid £17000 to a West London fertility clinic in order to help her daughter become a mother. She is now a proud expectant grandma! Hannah is beaming ‘Here we are: I’m going to be a mum!’
Hannah was the highest ranking transgender officer in the British Army until she left her job last year to prepare for her role as a wife and mother. Formerly known as Captain Winterbourne, she was awarded an MBE for her advocacy for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) army personnel. She now works in finance.
Jake is a successful actor who recently appeared opposite Keira Knightley and Dominic West in the film Collette. He began gender reassignment in his late 20s, and had eggs harvested five years ago.
He describes the process of ceasing his testosterone as a very unsettling one. ‘It was invasive and unpleasant. I found it quite emasculating. I’d been on testosterone for a good six years and I was very happy living as myself, but I didn’t want to miss out on kids and there was only one way I could be certain of being a father.’
‘So I stopped taking testosterone for six months and went to a well-known London fertility clinic. They were very frank. They said they had no statistics to show how successful it was likely to be. They’d never done anything like it before.
Rather than freezing his eggs unfertilized, Jake was advised to choose a sperm donor in order to create embryos
Jake chose an anonymous donor, who coincidentally looked a lot like his future wife Hannah. ‘I’m quite short and artistic, rubbish at science and logic, and I wanted a sperm donor to balance that. So I chose a tall, sporty, brown-eyed engineer. I picked someone just like Hannah!’
(Hannah, incidentally, has brown eyes, blonde hair, and a master’s degree in engineering – and she loves athletics!)
When Jake and Hannah were ready to be parents, they had to find a surrogate who was willing to carry the pregnancy to term for them. Of course, they also had to hope that the implantation would be a success, something that many people undergoing IVF can relate to.
The IVF was successful, and now the couple is thrilled to be expecting in April 2020. While their families have been extremely supportive, they are worried that they will face criticism in the press. No parent likes receiving unsolicited judgment or scorn, and Jake and Hannah are no different.
Jake sadly revealed, ‘We had a very upsetting message from an old school friend I hadn’t seen in 20 years who said she felt surrogacy was “utterly wrong. Yet she was speaking as a mum fortunate enough to have three children, and we felt it wasn’t her business to comment.’
Hannah also voiced her concern
‘The trouble is, people have strong opinions about surrogacy, as they do about people being transgender, without taking the care to understand. Some people see it as an ideology we’re trying to force on others. But nothing could be farther from the truth. We’re just being the happiest version of ourselves we can be. And we also want to support other trans people.’
Jake continued. ‘We’ve even heard people say we want to raise a trans baby. Why on earth would we choose that for our child?’ He said incredulously. ‘We know how incredibly hard it is to be transgender and we want the exact opposite for our daughter.
While Jake and Hannah were able to count on some financial support from family, they self-funded their entire fertility journey
In addition to the cost of freezing, storing, and implanting the embryos, they also had to compensate their surrogate.
UK laws state that surrogacy must be a purely altruistic act, but expenses of up to £15,000 are usually paid to the surrogate to compensate her for lost wages. The couple was able to find their surrogate from the National Fertility Society.
Hannah stated, ‘It’s a little bit like dating. You need to have shared values and the same outlook, and I think our surrogate — who is a very warm, practical person with children of her own — got the sense that we were a happy couple who love each other; that we’ll be good parents. After all, that’s what all surrogates are looking for, isn’t it?.
Jake added, ‘We’ve met her lots of times. She calls our baby her “little lodger”. She loves being pregnant and she felt strongly that she wanted to help a couple who’d had to overcome prejudices. Right from the start she was very open and down-to-earth. When we first met we felt we’d known her for ages, we got on so well.’
The couple plans to tell their daughter how she came into the world in an age appropriate way, when the time is right. They only have one wish – that their little girl is happy and healthy.
‘Our little girl will always have our support and love. We’re just being the happiest version of ourselves we can be. And we also want to support other trans people.’ ‘If our little girl likes pink, she’ll have pink! But if she prefers blue, that’s fine as well.’
Hannah and Jake met their surrogate through the National Fertility Society.
The CEO, Sandra Bateman, told us “becoming a parent through surrogacy can be a long emotional journey. At The National Fertility Society, we are very passionate about psychologically supporting intended parents (IPs) and surrogates because surrogacy is a huge commitment for both parties. We are here to make the journey run smoothly and provide advice and support.”
Have you contemplated surrogacy yourself, either seeking the services of a surrogate, or giving this gift to another couple? We would love to hear your story at firstname.lastname@example.org or why not share on social media @ivfbabble