FREDDY McConnell is the picture of a proud dad as he cradles his blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby son and plants a kiss on his forehead.
But the 32-year-old’s journey to fatherhood has been very different to that of most men – because he actually gave birth to the bundle of joy in his arms himself.
Freddy, who is transgender and was born female, fell pregnant with his first child using a sperm donor in 2017 despite having already transitioned into a man.
Because he had decided to keep his womb in case he wanted kids, he was able to carry the little boy for nine months himself before eventually giving birth last year.
Now, Freddy has shared his full, remarkable journey to fatherhood for the first time in a new BBC documentary, Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth, which airs tonight.
The film documents his bid to become a parent – from his disbelief at his positive pregnancy test and his first pregnancy scan to his agonised groans during labour.
‘It’s like a total loss of myself’
It also records the psychological struggles he faced – such as a loss of identity as he developed a baby bump like millions of pregnant women and his trousers became too tight.
“What I feel like I’m going through isn’t me having a baby, or pregnancy, it’s like a much more fundamental, total loss of myself,” he explains in the documentary.
A childhood secret
For Freddy, becoming a parent was a dream come true.
Born a little girl, old family videos show him playing on a swing in a patterned dress with a bob haircut, and being told “good girl” as he totters across the grass as a toddler.
Freddy, who lives in England, had always wanted to have children one day, but grew up feeling that he was a “boy” – something he eventually revealed to his mum, Esme Chilton.
“He was up at university at Edinburgh and he’d been feeling quite unhappy,” Esme recalls in Seahorse, directed by Game of Thrones filmmaker Jeanie Finlay.
“He just said, ‘I’m a boy and I want to be a boy… this is how I’ve been feeling all my life’.”
She adds: “I did think, oh my God, that means I won’t have grandchildren from Freddy.”
Testosterone injections and “top surgery”
Freddy – who studied Arabic and once nearly joined the prestigious Sandhurst military academy – began taking testosterone injections aged 25 as he transitioned from female to male.
These hormone injections are used to make transgender men more masculine, causing them to develop more body hair, facial hair, muscle and a deeper voice, and stopping their periods.
Freddy also underwent “top surgery” to remove his breast tissue and reshape his chest – yet he chose not to have a hysterectomy because he hadn’t ruled out having a child himself.
Although Freddy had been warned testosterone would make him infertile, he still hoped he could carry his own baby. And aged 30, he stopped taking the hormone in a bid to conceive.
“I’m now one month and three weeks off testosterone,” he says in the documentary.
“And now I feel a little bit soft and almost like I’m shrinking from inside.”
Freddy’s body effectively went “into reverse” after he halted his injections, meaning he had periods again, his facial hair got wispier and his hips broadened, the Guardian reports.
“I don’t like it. Every time I think about it, it’s like “what the f*** am I doing?” he adds in the film, before sobbing into the camera and admitting that he feels like a “f***ing alien”.
Freddy felt that having his own child via artificial insemination, using a sperm donor, was the “simplest option” for him as a both gay and transgender man.
“Not only women feel broody,” explains the multimedia journalist, referring to his decision as “the pragmatic thing to do”. “This is a physical process and I will be the dad.”
Mother Esme adds: “I loved being pregnant.
“Everyone should experience it, shouldn’t they? I think… especially men.”
Freddy, who started the process of trying to conceive in 2016 and visited a fertility clinic, conceived his son on just his second round of insemination after his first attempt failed.
In the film, he reacts with disbelief as he peers down at the positive Clearblue pregnancy test.
“What? Am I imagining that?” he says, turning to his mum beside him.
“That looks like a positive result to me, darling,” Esme replies.
Freddy, who describes his heart as “f***ing racing”, is later filmed attending a pregnancy scan with his mother, where the pair listen to his child’s heartbeat inside his womb.
Online trolling and death threats
But while Freddy’s bump grew over following months, he was never recognised as a pregnant transgender man, with strangers assuming he simply had a “beer belly”.
Yet after his pregnancy made the headlines, he was targeted by cruel trolls and even received death threats, with some claiming “there’s no such thing as a pregnant man”.
“As a trans man to carry your own child is a scary, daunting prospect,” Esme weeps in the film, wiping her eyes. “You just worry for your child that you want them to be happy.”
A birthing pool and agonised groans
By the time Freddy went into labour last year, he was ready to be on the “other side” of pregnancy.
Filmmakers followed him to hospital, where he battled through contractions, clambered into a birthing pool, groaned loudly in pain and finally delivered his gorgeous boy.
“If men had to go through this all the time, you’d just never hear the end of it,” Freddy says.
Fight to have a “motherless” child
Yet despite being legally recognised as a man at the time of his son’s birth, Freddy was not allowed to be listed as the “father” or “parent” on his birth certificate, only as the “mother”.
He took the decision to London’s High Court earlier this year – where in July judge Sir Andrew McFarlane lifted a previous reporting restriction banning his identification.
If Freddy wins the case, his boy would be the first child in Britain to legally not have a mum.
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Today, Freddy’s fight to be formally registered as his child’s dad continues – amid an increasing hostility towards transgender people in Britain and elsewhere.
UK Government figures show that anti-trans hate crimes soared by nearly a third in just a year – from 1,248 in 2017 to 1,651 in 2018.
Yet Freddy finds comfort in the beautiful little boy whom he carried and delivered himself.
“I obviously feel a very strong bond with him,” he says, cradling his tiny son. “I just know that I want to be near him all the time. And I miss him… even when he’s in bed at night.”
He adds: “I think anyone has the potential to feel that way.”
- Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth will air tonight (Tuesday, September 10) at 9pm on BBC Two. It will be available to watch on iPlayer shortly after