New papa Scout Barbour-Evans can't remember a moment when giving birth to a baby wasn't part of "their" future – even when they started changing to a different gender.
As the Dunedin student deftly juggles bottles in one hand and a little daughter in the other, Scout – who identifies as takatapui and uses the pronoun "they" instead of he or she – shares how it's always been a dream to have a baby since they were a youngster.
"I guess it's young to have a baby at 23, but I've wanted to have children my whole life," tells Scout, who was a girl before coming out as non-binary aged 18.
"Even as a kid, I was obsessed with a doll that I was given when my little brother was born. I knew that one day I would have a family and then I started transitioning."
Two years into physically transforming their body, including surgery to remove breasts, Scout decided to give pregnancy a shot ahead of further operations.
To their astonishment, they fell pregnant straight after stopping testosterone therapy and a day after their cherished nana's funeral.
"That was March last year and suddenly I was pregnant really quickly using donor sperm – and now she's here!"
Scout, who will be known as Papa to their daughter, explains that the decision to start a family on their own in their early 20s couldn't have come at a more perfect time.
"People think when you start testosterone, it will make you infertile and it'll stop you from being able to conceive, and that's not the case," tells Scout, adding the operation to create a flat chest happened just four months before conceiving.
"I knew I was going to need revision surgery, so I got pregnant between."
And while it may have come as a surprise to the wider world, the announcement utterly delighted their family.
"My grandmother didn't think she was ever going to have great-grandchildren, my parents thought it would be a very long time before my younger brother got around to it and everybody thought the testosterone would stop me from having children," says Scout.
Even so, the Otago Polytech third-year student, whose gender is marked as X on their passport, reveals it took nearly a dozen tests to be convinced they were truly pregnant within the first month of trying.
"I took one test and it was positive, and I was a bit shocked," they admit.
"Then I did about six more and a blood test, then I saw the midwife and did a couple more blood tests just to make sure, but I still didn't quite believe it. And then we did an eight-week ultrasound so that I definitely saw it there and believed it!"
With the baby due just before Christmas, Scout says the pregnancy was marred by nightmare hyperemesis gravidarum that lasted until the day the baby girl, affectionately dubbed "Pepi", was born.
"I had morning sickness on steroids and spent a lot of time at the hospital getting IV fluids, and did all my classes on video with a bucket just off screen," recalls Scout
Pepi – whose real name is only known to family and close friends to protect her privacy – was born a week and a half overdue, on December 19, at her grandparents' Dunedin home.
"I went into labour about 4.30am and I gave birth at 1.19pm. The first thing I said was, 'Holy s*!' I was eight centimetres and begging my midwife to check how far along I was, telling her, 'I can't do this for another 20 hours like other people do.' And it turns out I was that far along! She came very quickly for someone so late."
Scout's mother Tina Barbour, who was on hand throughout the 10-hour labour, cut the umbilical cord.
"It was really cool because my mum was there when she was born and Pepi just lights up when she sees her, Scout tells. "She loves her grand-parents and seeing my kid make those really strong relationships with other family members and other people who aren't just me, that's super-cool."
But Scout reveals everything didn't quite go to plan in the days following, with the tot struggling to chest-feed.
"I was producing milk, but she just refused to latch. She would scream at my chest and bang her fists because she couldn't compute that she needed to move her hand out of the way to get to me.
And I didn't have enough hands to be pinning her down and feeding her. We just had to switch to a bottle from day one. I was trying to pump, but it's really hard to pump milk when a baby is sleeping on your chest."
Despite the feeding hiccup, Scout says their daughter is thriving and, at four months old, becoming increasingly mobile and vocal.
"She's done nothing but grow. She's one of those babies who grew on the first week of formula. She's started to roll and she loves to kick – she wakes me up by kicking me if she's in the same bed, which we try not to do, but she has other ideas, as babies do. She's even trying to mimic the animal sounds that I make now."
The politically ambitious Scout, who hopes to run for the Dunedin mayoralty and city council later this year has already shared Waitangi Day dawn service on the Treaty Grounds as a family when Pepi was barely six weeks old.
"I've been to Waitangi a number of times myself and to be able to take her to her first Waitangi Day was really special."
With the little tot sprawled contentedly across their chest, sated with a bellyful of milk, Scout hopes any choices their darling daughter – and any future brothers or sisters – makes will be minus the discrimination her own papa continues to face.
"I hope that she grows up in a peaceful, loving world and environment where she can go swim in the river if she wants to or she can wear a suit if she wants to. She can come out as transgender if that's who she is and it will be safe for her to do so. She won't have to question every single move she makes like I've had to."
As the pair begin their lifetime journey together, Scout's plan for the future is clear.
"My goal is to raise her with as much love as humanly possible and so far that's a lot!"
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