He gave birth. He breastfed. Now, he wants his son to see him as a man
Updated 7:22 AM ET, Fri June 15, 2018
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(CNN)Like many new dads, Sabastion Sparks knew parenting would come with serious challenges.
But most new dads didn't give birth to their child. They didn't breastfeed them. And they don't endure glares from strangers when they go shopping with their wife and their toddler son.
Sabastion, 24, is a transgender man who lives with his wife Angel in suburban Atlanta. Assigned the female gender at birth, he began transitioning five years ago . It's a process that felt more complete last month when he had surgery to remove his breasts.
With Father's Day approaching, Sabastion finds himself thinking about gender roles and what it means to be a dad. He wants Jaxen, their 20-month-old son, to have as normal a childhood as possible.
And for the first time, he now feels at ease inside his own body. He hopes Jaxen will see that difference.
"I'm going to be a better father being comfortable in myself and him seeing that confidence in me," he says.
Sabastion's journey to marriage, and manhood
As a teen growing up in Locust Grove, Georgia, Sabastion felt different.
Before he transitioned to become a man, he would sit on the school bus and think how much he hated having breasts.
Sabastion hoped that one day after saving enough money, a surgery could remove them.
By the time Sabastion met Angel five years ago at a convention for transgender people, he identified as a man. Angel, 33, was designated male at birth but had transitioned years earlier.
They both knew they wanted to be parents. After they were married in 2016, they agreed that Sabastion would carry their child -- a decision, Angel Sparks says, that wasn't taken lightly.
Like many transgender men and women, they had been taking medication to increase the testosterone or estrogen in their bodies. So to make a baby, they briefly stopped taking their hormone pills.
The couple conceived their son the conventional way, even though their biological roles at the time were not compatible with how they saw themselves.
"Getting pregnant was fine," Angel says. "Trying to stay pregnant was difficult."
The first time they tried, Sabastion miscarried. When he got pregnant with Jaxen, they worried another miscarriage could happen.
"Before Jaxen, Sabastion was my baby," Angel says. "I was worried about the baby, but I was also worried that I could lose Sabastion too."
When they went out in public, 'people would snicker'
The couple also faced the prejudice of others.
When Sabastion was pregnant, someone close to him threatened to take the baby away, saying his life at home would be unnatural. For security reasons, he and Angel were listed as anonymous at the hospital.
Angel, a multi-faith minister, said this was a test of their faith. But as she sat there in the delivery room with Sabastion, teasing him "to be a man" while in labor, Angel's fears began to fade away.
"I always say the most beautiful thing in the world gave me the most beautiful thing in the world," she says.
After Jaxen was born, Sabastion sometimes had to breastfeed when he, Angel and their son were out in public. The three of them drew stares as they navigated the aisles of their neighborhood stores.
"People would snicker or call us 'f******,'" she says. "He'd try so hard to cover it up and hide what he was doing."
Sabastion, feeling self conscious, wore a chest binder -- a compression shirt used to flatten breasts.
"It's uncomfortable and sweaty and itchy," he says. "Imagine wearing that for 10, 12 hours at a time. I (was) always having to hide myself."