The way Paris Rodgers and Max Jahufer tell it, they were always meant to be together. At the couple’s first meet-cute, during a New Year’s Eve party, “there was some sort of a vibe”, Jahufer recalls. But they were living in separate cities and Rodgers was dating someone else. “The stars were not aligning at the time,” Rodgers says. “But it was one of those instant connections where you’re like, ‘Oh my god. Why is this person not in my life?’”

By 2018, the situation had switched up. Jahufer moved down to Melbourne from Sydney. Rodgers was single again. And the mutual friends who’d helped them stay in touch witnessed the start of something big. “I think all of our friends knew straightaway,” Jahufer laughs. “They were like, ‘Oh shit, this is it.’”

Five years later, Rodgers and Jahufer are parents to 11-month-old Windsor (aka Winnie) and engaged to be married later this year. Living in Brighton East with a tiny baby (and their practice “firstborn”, Baci the dog) is something they’re still getting used to. “Before we had Windsor, I would have called us the ‘entertaining couple’,” Rodgers says. “We love to put on a good dinner party. Epic food and wines. But now, not so much.”

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“Now we’re the parent couple,” Jahufer adds. “We’ll still go out for dinner, but it’s 5pm and we’ve got to be home by 6.30.” Entrecote is a favourite destination, though the couple admit they’ll go anywhere in search of a good steak frites. Still, most nights it’s supper at home and hanging out on the couch after Windsor goes to sleep – unless any of the interstate grandparents are in town, in which case: “We take full advantage: all of the dinners and all of the movies,” Rodgers laughs.

Windsor’s arrival took some doing – and a journey through IVF during lockdowns. “I was initially the one thinking, ‘Yeah, not sure if I’ll have kids, who knows?’” Rodgers says. “And Max was like, ‘Well, I definitely want to have kids, so get on board’. By the time we started trying and having appointments for IVF I had completely changed my tune … It was like: ‘I definitely want to have kids with you!’”

Jahufer and Rodgers had to quickly become experts on the intricacies of IVF – including the fact they could access more potential donors in Queensland than in Victoria. So in 2021, Jahufer explains, “we started the injections in a hotel room that we were quarantining in for two weeks”.

It may sound like an unromantic start, but after going through the lengthy process of egg retrieval, then embryo fertilisation, then implantation, Rodgers fell pregnant – and the duo became parents to Windsor in 2022. In the scheme of things, they’re still relatively new to the mum and dad game, and still marvelling at how their lives together have changed.

“In terms of the connection [with Windsor], it’s one that you can’t explain,” Jahufer says. “It’s one that I couldn’t ever dream of … He’s sitting up and crawling now. He’s got a couple of teeth, he knows his name. He’s a little person.”

Rodgers, a NIDA graduate, worked as a nanny for many years alongside her acting career, so childcare skills were already on her CV. Still, she says, “It is very different doing it and getting paid for it and being able to hand them over at the end of the day, then go home and have eight hours sleep. You can’t send this one back!”

On top of motherhood and acting work (she’s been known to shoot self-tape auditions in between Windsor’s naps), Rodgers is currently focusing her time on Winnie & Boo – an online shop for parenting needs like breast pumps, nursing pillows and infant clothes. “I mean, it’s a little bit cliche,” Rodgers chuckles, “being a stay-at-home mum and doing an online mums and bubs store. But there are just so many things that you need as a mum that you don’t know you need until you have [a baby].”

Jahufer’s creative career could best be described as broad – and perhaps a little hectic. After graduating with a masters in architecture and working in the field for a couple of years, he changed course completely to pop music, competing on The X Factor as a singer, recording singles and going out on tour. A stint in sales and marketing followed, before founding his own creative agency, Future Studio, at the start of the pandemic.

Then came another type of challenge: an invitation to join an Aussie movie’s writing room as a consultant, “to make sure that the trans characters were being written correctly and equally”. As the project evolved, producers asked Jahufer to audition for one of the film’s leads. “I got offered the role,” he says. “And then I jumped into acting, which I had to learn in two months.” Thankfully, Rodgers was on hand as acting tutor. (The film, A Savage Christmas, is set for release later this year.)

Identifying as trans is a relatively new thing for Jahufer – as well as something he’s sensed all his life. One year into their relationship, it was Rodgers who prompted him to act. “Paris kind of nudged me and went, ‘Dude, let’s just do this. You’ve got to start focusing and acknowledging this stuff. Because you’re not going to be happy if you don’t.’”

The medical side of things started with a trip to the GP, then months of assessment with a psychiatrist, after which options were discussed – from social transitioning to surgery. “It’s very rigorous and measured and structured,” Jahufer says. “You don’t just rock up and get an injection.”

Jahufer sometimes wishes he’d recognised his situation earlier, but it can be a tricky process, he says. “Confusing it with being a lesbian, and being a masculine lesbian, or a tomboi … There’s a lot to work through to distinguish the two. And then I was like, ‘Shit, I’m not just a boyish lesbian. I actually don’t identify as female at all.’”

Since that turning point, it’s been “a happy process [and] a challenging process”, Jahufer says. “I’d come out as gay in my early twenties. It was like coming out again. And it wasn’t just coming out. It was changing basically who I was to other people.”

Though Rodgers agrees Jahufer has “definitely changed and [is] changing”, it’s not like her partner has suddenly switched identities. “It does seem that the way he’s changing is more into himself,” she says.

“When I met Max, I just fell in love with the person … But it was so obvious that Max was born in the wrong body, and I always just wanted him to be happy. I just wanted to be there and support him.”

It feels right that change has been such a hallmark of Rodgers and Jahufer’s relationship, because it’s something they both clearly embrace, in terms of business, family and life.

“Max and I are still always dreaming,” Rodgers says “We’re always talking about what we can do. And we’re always looking for new opportunities: new things we can do, new businesses we can create. I think that’s important … Even if you do have a kid it doesn’t mean you’re tied down. You can still create and you can still change.

“I feel so much more than ever that everyone should just be who they want to be. It doesn’t matter what that looks like.”

Read more in our Creative Couples series.