Like all three-year-olds, Susan Beatie is fascinated by animals. She wants to be a vet — maybe even a vet and a princess — when she grows up.
At bedtime, she loves to climb onto her father’s knee and demand a story about a hungry caterpillar, a greedy bee or a snail sailing away on the tail of a whale.
But the book she loves most is Mister Seahorse, which explains how male seahorses become ‘pregnant’.
A quirky choice for a child, you might think, but entirely understandable given that this story has been used to explain to Susan the inexplicable: how she came to be.
‘It’s her favourite bedtime story,’ says her father Thomas, 38. ‘I tell her that’s what I did: I carried her in my tummy like Mr Seahorse, and she gets it.
‘She doesn’t think there is anything weird about it. There is a photograph of me pregnant, and she points to it all the time, saying: “Daddy, Daddy, I’m inside and I got bigger and bigger, and then I had to come out.” ’
It may sound like a particularly strange sort of fairy tale, but the story Thomas has told his daughter about her arrival in this world is true. The slightly-built martial arts instructor made history as the first ‘man’ in the world to give birth.
Of course, as Susan will doubtless discover one day, there was nothing natural about it. Male seahorses are genetically able to carry embryos: Thomas’s pregnancy was possible only because he was born female.