Rating: 4 stars out of 5
While this is a love story, it is more the story of a first year with a new baby and how much it can take for someone to bounce back from it. Andreas and Erik are an established couple who, as the book starts, are having their first baby. A girl, named Beatriz. Both of them have some trauma in their past. Erik is very English and was abandoned by his mother at 18 months and then bounced around foster homes until he aged out; Andreas is from Spain and was verbally abused and kicked out of his home when he came out to his family as trans. These two couldn’t be more different. Erik is a red-headed giant of a man who has wanted nothing more in his life than a family he could call his own. “He’d waited his entire life to be here, and the enormity of it threatened to burst him right out of his own body.” Andreas is slim, fashionable and has wanted nothing for than for his body to match who he really is and while he wanted a baby, the consequences to himself were really horrible. “Nine months of absolute hell-unimaginable hell, from the horrifically persistent misgendering to the disgusting betrayal of his own body.” His dysphoria was out of control, “…nine months of hating himself for hating being pregnant…”
Beatriz is everything Erik has dreamed of, except he’s too terrified to touch her. “She’s too small. I’ll break her.” Despite what he had to go through, Andreas does as well. “He’d been so scared it wouldn’t be worth it. But here she was. And despite all of his fears, he already know he loved her.”
There are a lot of baby details here so those who don’t like to read about children should be aware. There is sweetness to the point of overload at times, but for me it matched the enormity of what Erik was feeling. “Erik didn’t care it he looked a bit bonkers, having a cry while holding his baby and hugging his partner. He’d wanted her for his entire life – he was allowed to have a bit of a meltdown now she was actually here.”
What made the book more balanced in terms of the sugar was the incredible struggle Andreas was going through to try to get back to himself. He had already been struggling with dysphoria and now genital dysphoria has been added. “The dysphoria had taken everything from him – the gym, his job, the spa, Saturday mornings in coffee shops while Erik was at work, even going to the pub for an evening meal to walk home with Erik after he’d closed up for the night. Everything. And it had been a struggle to remember it hadn’t been Beatriz taking it all away, but himself.” I can’t even imagine the pain he had to go through to have this baby he’s always wanted so desperately that turns him into something he’s hated. He has always called the worst days his “dizzy days” and the pregnancy and aftermath are nearly all dizzy days. Erik knows he can’t understand but he tries so hard to make things easier for Andreas. He doesn’t look at just Beatriz as what he spent a lifetime waiting for but Andreas as well. He knows how much Andreas has struggled since starting to show. “And I miss you, and I know I can’t make it better because it’s all tangled up with your body and how it makes you feel, but I love you and I hate seeing you down, so I want to make you feel good for a bit, even if it’s just surface good.”
They have some great friends in Jo (a former foster sister of Erik’s), her husband, Mike, and Lauren. The airport broke my heart for Erik, I have to admit it. I know it was always to help Andreas but once in a while Erik’s feelings should be considered too. The dysphoria did affect him during the pregnancy as well. “It had been nine months of juggling his excitement with his partner’s horror. It had been nine months of trying desperately to navigate when he could be excited, when he had to pretend it wasn’t happening and when he had to consider the possibilities of termination without outright begging Andreas not to do it.” While maybe not as painful as what Andreas is going through, still painful.
The writing is very realistic and even without the added trauma of being trans, I appreciated the attitude toward being pregnant. Despite what some would have us believe, not everyone enjoys being pregnant. Some people hate it. That doesn’t mean hating the baby, Andreas shows that very well, but hating the process, what it does to your body, the aftermath of trying to get that body back while you are exhausted and trying to adjust to having this new person in your care. As a cisgender person I can’t speak for how much it would affect a trans man but I definitely was in the not loving pregnancy group. There were a few baby things that made me say “huh?” but those were minor. The major focus of this book was adjustments. Adjusting to a new life for all of them. Getting back to the real him for Andreas. I loved the reason for “Erik the Pink”, probably the sweetest thing in the whole book for “An abandoned, unwanted, unloved survivor.” The book is sweet without being overly fluffy. It ends on a high, hopeful note and I can only wish the best things for all of them.
Cover art, showing a baby held in gentle hands, conveys the feeling of the book well. Soft and sweet.
Kindle Edition, 212 pages
Published June 30th 2018 by JMS Books LLC