Part One: The Ol’ Mama Gang
“I saw my daughter for the first time in a vision while I was meditating.” LeConté Dill
After Dr. LeConté Dill’s vision in 2014, she met her husband, had an epic first date, eloped, and began her journey to motherhood.
She soon discovered she would need some support to get pregnant, namely A.R.T.s - or assisted reproductive technologies. She leaned on in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive the baby of her literal dreams and gave birth in her early 40’s right before the lockdowns in NYC Spring 2020.
Tune in to hear how this crunk public health scholar:
This interview has been edited for clarity and length. To listen to the full interview, visit Patreon.com/TajaLindley.
Dr. LeConté Dill is a scholar, educator, and a poet in and out of classroom and community spaces from South Central Los Angeles, California. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University. She listens to and shows up for urban Black girls and other youth of color and works to rigorously document their experiences of safety, resilience, resistance, and wellness. Her work has been published in Poetry Magazine, Mom Egg Review, Journal of Poetry Therapy, and The Feminist Wire. Her full interview is available on Patreon (running time: 01:31:06).
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Producer’s Note: The Black Women's Dept. of Labor is produced as a podcast. Transcripts are generated using a combination of transcription software and human transcribers, and may contain typos. Please confirm accuracy before quoting by contacting us.
[00:00:00] LeConte Dill: In meditation or visualization, often the daughter figure would comfort me.
[00:00:10] LeConte Dill: imaging implantation infertile inheritance
[00:00:16] LeConte Dill: And we heard the heartbeat for the first time.
[00:00:19] LeConte Dill: oocytes appointment open appointment orgasm appointment ovary appointment ovulation appointment
[00:00:27] LeConte Dill: But two days later I learned that I was no longer pregnant.
[00:00:33] LeConte Dill: ultrasound found nothing in my uterus after all
[00:00:39] LeConte Dill: I began writing about my journey to motherhood
[00:00:42] LeConte Dill: egg retrieval egg transfer injection egg transfer injection in vitro fertilization
[00:00:49] LeConte Dill: She looks like the child I saw in my visions in 2014.
[00:00:51] Taja Lindley: You are listening to the Black Women's Dept. of Labor, a podcast and project by yours truly, Taja Lindley, where we examine the intersections of race, gender, and the double entendre of labor: to work and to give birth.
[00:01:12] Taja Lindley: Reproductive technologies ain't just for folks who want to avoid pregnancy. It's also for people who desire parenthood.
[00:01:18] Taja Lindley: And today's episode is part one of a two part series featuring birth stories that relied on assisted reproductive technologies also known as A.R.T.s.
[00:01:28] Taja Lindley: You might've heard of in vitro fertilization or IVF for short. As a self-proclaimed member of the old lady gang, Dr. LeConte Dill leaned on IVF treatment to birth the baby of her literal dreams.
[00:01:41] Taja Lindley: Her journey did not begin with IVF, but the technology supported her with getting pregnant and later giving birth to her daughter Worthy.
[00:01:48] Taja Lindley: You already heard a little bit of her story at the top of the episode. Our intro sonic collage featured her voice reciting her poem entitled "Growing a Glossary" one of many pieces she wrote while documenting her journey to motherhood.
[00:02:01] Taja Lindley: If you'd like to hear her full story, head on over to Patreon.com/ TajaLindley. Your contribution supports the podcast and get you access to this and other full interviews from the season.
[00:02:13] LeConte Dill: I am a mother. I am a partner. I am a daughter: Debra's daughter. I'm a poet and I've been a poet before many of those other things. I am a professor of public health, but also across disciplines. And at times I am undisciplined.
[00:02:33] LeConte Dill: Uh, yeah, So crunk public health. it pays homage to me studying in Atlanta, the dirty south, where crunk music and as a genre and as a way of being was birthed.
[00:02:45] LeConte Dill: And so crunk, as a music genre, we know is exuberant, is live. Jumping around the dance floor, you throwing those bows. And so I was doing that literally in the dance floor in Atlanta, as a student. But I also was doing that in the classroom as a student. And I do that in the classroom as an educator.
[00:03:02] LeConte Dill: And the ways that I learned public health was in a disruptive manner. That health wasn't just about illness and disease and death, particularly for Black folks, that it was about living and thriving and joy.
[00:03:15] LeConte Dill: So my research, my teaching, is disruptive and even disruptive in its stillness and slowness. So meditating before I start a lecture is disruptive in the U.S. western academic industrial complex. Bringing in the arts is disruptive in the U.S. medical industrial complex and in the academic industrial complex.
[00:03:36] Taja Lindley: I'm curious about why you felt and continue to feel passionate about mommyhood. Why did you get pregnant and why did having a child feel like an important experience for you?
[00:03:46] LeConte Dill: Around 2014, and this is before I met my partner, I saw my daughter um, for the first time in a vision while I was meditating. I saw her at about four years old and she was playing with a bracelet and it was a very natural realization. Like the visualization. I was like, "yeah, that's her. "
[00:04:07] LeConte Dill: I just felt always comforted that I knew that this person was coming.
[00:04:13] LeConte Dill: And oftentimes like throughout the years, in a conscious state or in this kind of subconscious in meditation or visualization, often the daughter figure would like comfort me. Not in a way of I'm putting all my burdens on this child. But like in a inter-generational healing kind of way. And just made me have tons of realizations about my own healing work that I needed to tend to before I would even approach bringing a child into this world. Um, so I did a lot, a lot, a lot of self-work. Not just because I saw the child and she gave me messages, but because it was time to do the work and I was ready to do the work.
[00:04:51] Taja Lindley: So you had the visions in 2014 before you met your hubby. How did y'all meet? Like what's yall's origin story?
[00:04:58] LeConte Dill: So we met about a month or two after that vision. Uh, we met online, uh, we met on plentyoffish.com. We had what, people know around us and even on social media, a like an epic seven and a half hour first date.
[00:05:11] Taja Lindley: So y'all have an epic first date. When do you tell him about the vision that you had? When did y'all collaborate on parenthood together? How does that unfold?
[00:05:21] LeConte Dill: Four years into our relationship, he was like, of course we're going to have kids. And I was like, oh, well, let's talk about that. Because we hadn't articulated it as explicitly like that.
[00:05:30] LeConte Dill: So we get married in May of 2017. Just the two of us. So It was an elopement, but not like a surprise elopement. So people knew. We got married in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. And then we had a big party at a club in New York with all of our family, all of our friends. And immediately we're like, okay, let's start a family, a bigger family. In addition to the two of us. Let's try to conceive.
[00:05:55] LeConte Dill: We named our daughter years before we conceived of her. We didn't share the name until she was out in the world, but when we were just alone, we would always refer to her by her name,
[00:06:06] LeConte Dill: It was a hard road, which we'll talk about in a minute, for her to even come into being, but we always called her by her name.
[00:06:11] Taja Lindley: Wow, that is so deeply special.
[00:06:14] Taja Lindley: Did you know you needed to do IVF, in vitro fertilization, or is that something you came to discover after trying for awhile?
[00:06:22] LeConte Dill: Um, I mean, I knew it was a practice, an offering, but didn't know so much more about it. And didn't know that that was going to be my journey at all. We just tried naturally. I did very early on start to download apps, um, just to follow my cycle to track other biological and hormonal changes and just be more aware about my body, I think, as a science and an art. I'm adding the art piece, but I think some of the apps are talking more about the science. So tracking my basal body temperature, taking my temperature in the mornings, and thinking about sleep and sleep hygiene, and thinking about fertile window.
[00:07:01] LeConte Dill: And then it stopped being fun and started being like, okay, like let's like have sex during this time and time of day, time of time of the month. Like, um, so that became a thing for probably six months or more.
[00:07:18] Taja Lindley: You were just interested in your body as a science and an art, or was it, were you concerned about age? Like what led you to be doing conception in this way?
[00:07:27] LeConte Dill: I wasn't worried and concerned. I definitely was like, okay, I'm older. So I was 39 when I got married. I felt actually like, "oh, I'm not as aware as I need to be." I felt like, oh, maybe this is also opportunity for me to just become more aware of my own body.
[00:07:47] LeConte Dill: It's also linked to this notion of like public health and in crunk public health, the concept of embodiment in public health is usually around stress and how our body takes up stress. But if other folks in humanities or the arts, or even like Black feminism talk about embodiment, it's about joy and pleasure and awareness. You know, it was also me moving from like this risk to this, like knowing.
[00:08:14] Taja Lindley: Got you. So what brought you to IVF? What was the catalyst to seek that out as a service and a support for conceiving?
[00:08:23] LeConte Dill: In October 2017 I went to my primary care physician because I was just feeling really, really fatigued. So she was like, let's do like a workup, on everything. I had several blood draws and I had several ultrasounds, even of my whole body.
[00:08:36] LeConte Dill: I remember it was like a Friday in the Fall and she calls me with the results and she's like, you have polyps in your endometrial lining. You should probably follow up with your gynecologist. And it was a Friday evening, you know, office is about to close and I'm like, what? Endometrial lining. What are polyps? I go to the Googles and that's terrible because that's, you know, that's the worst.
[00:09:00] LeConte Dill: So I made a, an appointment with my gynecologist and I could sit in her office so like, not necessarily like in the exam room and she's explaining. And she's like, yeah, I've seen these polyps before in women. It's probably you know, benign, nothing to worry about, but I do encourage removing them because they can lead to infertility and miscarriage.
[00:09:20] LeConte Dill: I started bawling in her office and she was like, why are you crying? But she's handing me tissues as she's kind of like, well, why are you crying? You said infertility and miscarriage two huge words with tons of fear and the unknown and risk and pain.
[00:09:37] LeConte Dill: So that was that encounter. I got them removed in November 2017. They weren't saying that this was a problem for my fertility, but they were saying, but when you get this removed, oh, you're probably going to be pregnant like next month, um, just based on other cases they've seen.
[00:09:51] LeConte Dill: And so kind of left that procedure, thinking like, okay, I'm healthy. It wasn't a risky thing. It just was like, okay, this should be removed. And, supposedly I'm supposed to get pregnant tomorrow, according to them. Um, and that didn't happen. We kept trying naturally naturally, naturally.
[00:10:08] LeConte Dill: And so I have these like homegirls that are like, my follicle-stimulating hormone is this level of my anti-Mullerian hormone is this level. And I'm like, I have no idea what my levels are. I have no idea how many follicles I have.
[00:10:20] LeConte Dill: And so I was like, oh, can you guys like, do these tests? Like, let me get my numbers poppin. And the gynecologist office was like, well, we can't do those tests. You would have to go to a reproductive endocrinologist.
[00:10:30] LeConte Dill: So this is early 2018, like spring, I had just turned 40 and now I'm like, okay, I'm 40, I'm over 40, even like a couple months over 40. Societal narratives and pressures, like, yeah, this is a thing.
[00:10:46] LeConte Dill: And then, okay. Reproductive endocrinologist, like, what is that? Who are they? I got referrals from my gynecologist and then I set up another meeting.
[00:10:55] Taja Lindley: I just want to acknowledge that when we're inside of these doctor's offices and they casually drop these words, it can be a lot to hold. You can't just say that and think oh, it's whatever, like it's routine for them, but it's not routine for the patient.
[00:11:12] Taja Lindley: So hearing those words can be really scary, you know? And I just want to highlight that for anybody who may be listening who's a healthcare provider that when we're on the other side, hearing certain terms can be really jarring you know, to hear about your body, about what might be a possibility.
[00:11:28] Taja Lindley: So tell us how that appointment goes and what followed after that.
[00:11:31] LeConte Dill: I pick this particular doctor, because in addition to her medical degree, she has a master's in public health, just like me. Even though I don't know exactly about her training, I at least knew like, okay, she has some attention, or she got some training around population health, about the health of communities and not just kind of individual one-on-one patient care.
[00:11:49] LeConte Dill: I appreciated the level of detail. I feel like she didn't talk down to me. She didn't know my background in every sense of the word, my background, including my educational background. Cause that definitely sometimes changes things when folks realize I'm a doctor too, not a medical doctor, but a researcher and that changes conversations.
[00:12:07] LeConte Dill: When she did the ultrasound, she turned the camera to me. And so she was pointing out the things in my body, like as a teaching mode. And so I really appreciated it that I'm like, oh, there's a follicle, that's a follicle. She did talk about being advanced maternal age. And showed a chart that I think they show everyone over the age of 35 that I think some people have pushed back against because the drastic dip down in the graph that talks about fertility reducing after the age of 35, 36.
[00:12:38] LeConte Dill: Um, some people feel like that percentage drop is not as drastic, like from 34 to 35, even though on the graph it looks like a drastic dip, it's like incremental percents. Um, she kind of explained these hormones and these letters and numbers that my friends were spewing out.
[00:12:56] LeConte Dill: Her office is also in the business of doing assissted reproductive technologies. So she was like, here are your levels and here's our offering. You can see the Administrative Assistant in the front and you can see billing in the back kind of thing.
[00:13:08] LeConte Dill: But at the time I felt very overwhelmed with information and again, inconclusive. So it wasn't like I have infertility and I have infertility because of XYZ.
[00:13:20] LeConte Dill: They weren't pushy, but I felt like I'm not ready. Like I'm not ready to talk to billing. I'm not ready to start this huge process right now. My husband and I were like, well, let's keep trying naturally.
[00:13:32] LeConte Dill: He also went to his doctor and got his sperm assessed, which oftentimes you don't hear of male partners doing that until it's asked. And so kudos to him, to my partner for kind of doing this proactively, like let's know your numbers too. Let's just have the fullest dataset.
[00:13:49] LeConte Dill: Spring summer 2018, we're like, let's just still try. Let's try naturally. And like the end of 2018, we're still not able to conceive. Every month when I get my cycle, I'm like depressed and like crying in the bathroom. And so I was like, okay, like, let's talk to billing.
[00:14:09] LeConte Dill: Uh, there's some other numbers we need to know like around the, like the financial cost. When people talk about IVF, just colloquially, it is a huge burden, particularly in this country. But I also think that there's a lot of unknowns and a lot of myths.
[00:14:22] LeConte Dill: When I did go back to the doctor's office, to the Administrative Assistant and the finance person, I had actually changed jobs and therefore changed insurance. And the, the secretary was like, why did you change jobs!? And I'm like, well, I got a better job. And she's like, yeah, but your insurance is actually worse. Um, because not all insurances cover um, assisted reproductive technology. And I know people that have stayed at particular jobs because of the coverage, um, for specifically for IVF.
[00:14:49] LeConte Dill: My husband works for the City of New York and they have amazing health insurance. And so I actually became covered under his insurance intentionally for this.
[00:14:58] Taja Lindley: Yeah. That highlights something that is really connected to this podcast, which is around how our labor, the work that we do is connected to when, how, and if we give birth.
[00:15:10] Taja Lindley: And so to hear how changing an employer changed your ability to navigate this labyrinth of a system, the United States medical industrial complex also known as the United States healthcare system, it's a thing like: Who are you insured by? What kind of insurance do you have? Are you in a relationship with someone and you all have a status, like a marital status, that allows you to be on their insurance so then you can be able to pursue the treatment and the technologies that you want to be able to access to support you with your fertility and your pregnancy goals.
[00:15:44] LeConte Dill: And I think also it's layers, because my profession as a professor. I think there's some like, oh, you're a professor. You have great insurance, right? Um, but my husband working for the City, working blue collar profession, amazing banging health insurance.
[00:16:01] Taja Lindley: Yeah, that's a really important distinction to pull out is just because people may have certain kinds of status, prestige, or certain kinds of jobs, that doesn't mean that the health insurance that accompanies it is even providing the kinds of things that you desire and deserve.
[00:16:15] Taja Lindley: Let's pause for a second. Let's go over the timeline. So 2018, you were going to your gynecologist. You got referred to a reproductive endocrinologist. Are we now in 2019? Or are we still in 2018?
[00:16:28] LeConte Dill: So at the end of 2018, like I have another visit, I talked to billing and we kind of start the like paperwork. Basically I'm waiting to see if I'm approved for like the January cohort and therefore the orientation at the, at the fertility clinic. So now I'm referred to like my reproductive endocrinologists as a part of this like bigger fertility clinic. So that all gets approved literally over the holiday season 2018. And we start in January 2019. I don't get pregnant with Worthy until July 2019.
[00:17:01] Taja Lindley: Okay. So walk us through January to July of 2019. What are the kind of procedures that you undergo? What are the conversations that you have? And what are some of the milestone experiences before you arrive at this pregnancy with your daughter Worthy?
[00:17:16] LeConte Dill: So January we are invited to that like orientation session where we like meet a coordinator and watch a video, and then we sign a bunch of forms, with a lot of like legalese and, medical terminology. Then we kind of also meet one-on-one with the coordinator to kind of talk about literally our schedules like we're pulling out calendars, like when is your cycle supposed to start? Okay. And I start, I thought I was following the calendar already during this whole several years, but I started following the calendar even more.
[00:17:45] LeConte Dill: So basically mid January 2019, I also am talking to my pharmacist even more and the insurance. And and also I'm like watching my email for like, okay, the FedEx driver said he was coming at nine it's it's, you know, it's 8:59. Where is he? Because I'm getting a huge box of medicine delivered to my apartment.
[00:18:08] LeConte Dill: So I received this huge box and am overwhelmed even more. Put stuff in the refrigerator, keep some stuff out, watch this video. And I is at this point that I realized like, I'm going to become a chemist and a nurse. I, you know, had to get so more familiar with these letters and numbers. But also like mixing things, titrating and pipetting.
[00:18:28] LeConte Dill: And also me and my partner, like, getting a little savvy on like sticking me, and like our routine.
[00:18:36] LeConte Dill: So we actually develop a ritual. I felt like his hand was a little shaky. And so I, we decided that he was going to be like the prep person, like get all the vials out, get the syringes, get the sharps container, get the gauze, all that out, get that prepped. And then I would stick myself. The first night of injections was I don't know, overwhelming. We felt like we didn't do the steps right. And the syringe almost broke. And then you also have to do it like in a little window of time. So it was just a lot. It actually became our routine and became like less daunting, less scary.
[00:19:14] LeConte Dill: You do about a week, week and a half of injections. And during this time you're also going to the center. Either every other day or, depending on your body, sometimes daily.
[00:19:27] LeConte Dill: I kinda just had to like, okay, I might need to keep Tuesday, Thursday and Friday clear, but if they call me to come in Wednesday, I gotta be ready. So it was a real weird balance of like watching the clock, watching the calendar and then also like letting go. And like, I'll just whatever, you know, whenever they tell me to come, I'll show up.
[00:19:47] LeConte Dill: So you're basically going where they check your blood uh, they do an ultrasound to see how your follicles are developing and then you go home and you wait for instructions. I typically like go in really early and go to work and then wait for instructions from the nurse. But again, this waiting. They might call you at three, they might call you at five, they might call you at noon. And the instructions are like a combination of medicine or injection to inject that evening or the next day. So you're waiting literally for like this daily, uh, script, of what, cocktail to take.
[00:20:19] Taja Lindley: Wow, but you did it, you freaking did that. You just breaking it down. I'm like, damn, how does one fit that into their life?
[00:20:27] LeConte Dill: With my husband's great insurance I actually was afforded, free weekly therapy. Um, and so That was going on weekly to help a little bit with balance.
[00:20:36] LeConte Dill: Shout out to one of my friends who had done the process. And I kind of asked her to be a bit of a mentor a few months before, because she's also a professor. And I was like, yeah, how does this? And so she talked about like going to the clinic early, um, so that you can then go right to the office.
[00:20:51] LeConte Dill: And she also mentioned like, you know, closing your office door because you either have to have these like conversations and like write down things, or you might need to close your door and like cry, or you might need to close your door and like put your head down a little bit, because I also became very fatigued at parts during the process. Uh, a fatigue like, I didn't feel like, I hadn't felt before, like I need to go to sleep right now, right now.
[00:21:12] LeConte Dill: So it was helpful to talk to another friend, colleague, professor, she's also sista, to like, okay, like what does this mean for like my day to day?
[00:21:22] LeConte Dill: But I also began to meet other people, usually through the DMs, through my DMS, other people that had gone through this particularly Black women. And we we don't always know that we're out here. Um, and so as I became more knowledgeable about my own body and about the process of IVF, I found other people that could like translate things. And vice-versa.
[00:21:43] LeConte Dill: Although it's winter in New York, I'm also like having like hot flashes because of the hormones. Like getting a bit bloated. And so I definitely remember like standing in front of my class and like I'm hot, like fanning myself in January. Work at times was a distraction and at times I was like, I don't know how I'm doing any of this, you know?
[00:22:04] LeConte Dill: Cause again, I'm like looking at the clock, I'm looking at waiting for phone calls. I'm having to get home by a certain time so that I could take these shots. And so I literally, And it's kind of funny or ironic because at the end of that semester, I actually got a teaching award. So shout out to my students who saw me and who saw what I do. But like I literally don't know how I held it down.
[00:22:28] Taja Lindley: So you're in the throws of this process. When do you experience your first pregnancy?
[00:22:33] LeConte Dill: Just to paint the picture. Once you do the injections and they say that you're ready, they basically retrieve, your eggs. It's called an egg retrieval process. And then the, the post-process of that goes all kinds of ways just based on people's positionality. Um, but for us, at the egg retrieval, um, my husband was also, giving sperm, in the clinic.
[00:22:53] LeConte Dill: And then they fertilize the egg, hopefully to become an embryo. And again, during this process, you're waiting for calls from the staff on this is how many eggs you have, these many got fertilized. These are how many embryos you have. And then, the embryos get transferred to you.
[00:23:11] LeConte Dill: The egg retrieval process, you also are going under anesthesia. The embryo transfer process, you are awake. They kind of are showing you the camera. So you literally see the embryo being inserted into your cervix.
[00:23:23] LeConte Dill: So to answer your question, I learned that I'm pregnant, uh, February 2019. I actually learned on Valentine's Day, which is also the day after my birthday.
[00:23:35] LeConte Dill: But two days later I learned that I was no longer pregnant. So it was a quick high and a very tumultuous low.
[00:23:45] LeConte Dill: um, I go in for blood work, two days after they tell me that I'm pregnant and then they call me that afternoon and they tell us that my HSG levels um, that they are rapidly declining and therefore I'm no longer pregnant.
[00:23:58] LeConte Dill: However, I need to come back to the clinic as part of IVF protocols for more ultrasounds and for more blood work to confirm. And they have to continue to do blood draws until my HSG levels are zero.
[00:24:13] LeConte Dill: So that means I'm going back to the clinic with other folks trying to conceive who may, you know, maybe conceiving and I'm going there for them to confirm that I'm not. And so that was just harrowing and just triggered like so much, um, for me and my husband and for us together.
[00:24:32] Taja Lindley: How did you all move through that early miscarriage? Like what kinds of support did you all lean on?
[00:24:37] LeConte Dill: The therapist was a great help for me. But crying, uh, yelling, like yelling, just being audible, but you know, also kind of like beefing with each other, um, figuring out how to strengthen our communication, but also, um, figuring out like our own rituals.
[00:24:55] LeConte Dill: And my poetry community. Shout out to Elma's Heart Circle --a group of amazing women who have been writing virtually together for four or five years,
[00:25:06] LeConte Dill: So it was during that year that I began writing about my journey to motherhood. And so they saw like the journey in poetry form. So that was very cathartic to get it out and to document the process. Like, journaling, particularly journaling my dreams helped a lot.
[00:25:25] LeConte Dill: And then like yeah, talking to the other IVF warriors, um, usually in the DMS who had gone- if they didn't go through miscarriage, had gone through different steps of the IVF journey.
[00:25:37] LeConte Dill: Starting the next cycle kind of was another strategy of coping or like our our reproductive endocrinologist was like, all right, let's start again. You know, like I thought she was going to be like, let's wait or let's look at, you know, look at the numbers. And she was like, no, we can start again.
[00:25:54] LeConte Dill: So also by this time I'm 41. And so I was kinda like, yeah, let's get it. Let's get it cracking.
[00:26:00] LeConte Dill: I got pregnant again in March of 2019. And about a week, week and a half after finding out that I was pregnant, um, I woke up from a nap, bleeding. And so like, I'm just like screaming and crying and like, it was in the evening.
[00:26:19] LeConte Dill: So like I called the doctor, but they were like, okay, come first thing in the morning. And they're doing the ultrasound. I remember the doctor saying like, like she's like looking at my uterus and she's like, I don't see anything there. And not in a callous way. She didn't say it in a callous way, but like, I remember like crumpling, like into her chest and like crying hysterically. And my husband was like in the waiting room. And like, you know, after I got dressed, I just remember like, kind of like almost running out of the waiting room. Like I don't, let's go like, let's get out of this building. And I remember like, crying in the middle of Manhattan.
[00:26:53] LeConte Dill: Yeah, so that was hard. And I didn't name it as grief until my long-term therapist Dr. Ma'at Lewis, I was checking back into her, like in addition to these like weekly therapy visits I had, and I was calling it a loss or it's not there anymore. I don't know I was using all these other words and like not calling it a miscarriage and not naming grief. And she just invited me to name my grief. And that was really freeing in a way.
[00:27:25] Taja Lindley: Wow. I'm glad that you had support and that you had practices and that you had rituals to support your container of moving through this process, because it sounds like there's a lot of highs, lows, meetings, blood work. There's a lot of activity that's unfolding. And I'm sure it had an impact on you, your husband and the relationship. And I'm glad that y'all had some support to navigate through that.
[00:27:48] Taja Lindley: Did you only experience two miscarriages or were there more additional attempts?
[00:27:52] Taja Lindley: There were only two. Okay. So the second one happened, it was around March of 2019. So then between March and July, what happens to bring Worthy into conception?
[00:28:03] LeConte Dill: Yes. So had a conversation with my reproductive endocrinologist. She strongly recommended that we actually test our embryos for chromosome abnormalities. Um, she had suggested this in the beginning, but one it's not covered by any insurance in the US. And two, the research is mixed on it. And so in talking to other folks that have done IVF, like some people have done it. Some people haven't. Some people over 40, like their doctors are like you have to do this, or you strongly should do this.
[00:28:34] LeConte Dill: So back in January, when we first started the process, we definitely were like, yeah, we want to get the eggs tested for chromosomal abnormalities. And then we went to billing and they're like, it's $5,000 and it's due right now. We were like, wait, what? And so that's when we were like, okay, let's look at the research. What are other folks saying? And we just felt like it was inconclusive. And so that's why with the first two, we hadn't done it, but after the two losses back to back, we're like, okay, we're going to spring for this.
[00:28:59] LeConte Dill: And it's interesting cause you actually you actually have to do two payments. Like you're paying your clinic and you're paying the testing lab, which are separate entities. You know, my bank was like, nah sis, like, why are you getting this much out in like one transaction. So my bank had put a hold on it, but for like that just brought up a lot of stuff, like being in line and like being told. And so I'm like navigating that shame and I'm like, no, I got that money. Um, I just got, you know, to get the lift of like my daily amount, whatever from the bank.
[00:29:31] LeConte Dill: So that was going on. I'm also having to wait for like to do another, you know, egg retrieval and then test the embryos and then wait for your cycle and then figure out how the embryo, you know, which ones are healthy. And so through all of that, one of our embryos was healthy.
[00:29:46] LeConte Dill: And then late July found out that we were pregnant and we heard the heartbeat for the first time. Or heard a heartbeat for the first time. We saw the embryo creating what became the placenta. Um, which also feels like art to me. And we kind of had this all on our refrigerator, visually and sonically in addition to spiritually, like felt life in a, in a different and more abundant way than the other times.
[00:30:12] LeConte Dill: And that became my daughter Worthy who turned 16 months yesterday. And she looks like the child I saw in my visions in 2014.
[00:30:23] Taja Lindley: Wow. So let's talk about pregnancy. How was your prenatal care? What were some sort of poignant moments and milestones during your pregnancy? And I'm curious about if you had like a birth plan and a doula.
[00:30:37] LeConte Dill: I'll just talk about the doula because, she became my doula before we became pregnant with Worthy. Um, Dr. Dana-Ain Davis, um, who was a friend and colleague of mine.
[00:30:46] LeConte Dill: I feel like she doula'ed me through the miscarriages, at least the second miscarriage, and just saw me and like held me, in ways that were so important. And like, don't always get talked about when you talk about this scope and the spectrum of being a doula. You know, during our last transfer and like every test and every call and every visit, she also was like there.
[00:31:05] LeConte Dill: Um, you know, she's done a lot of work and research, around fertility and Black women and, um, and pregnancy and birth. So we initially began talking about my journey, kind of like from a research perspective and like me being like a research participant, um, and her being researcher, but also like as Black women scholar and scholar activists and scholar artists, those lines between participant and researcher are blurred and like in a way that is very ethical and very humanizing and like makes sense.
[00:31:40] LeConte Dill: And so I remember after I gave birth and we were talking and I was like, oh, you have a lot of data now. And she's like, sis like, this is beyond data, like you are truly like a friend. Um, and so like, we do actually have some research work coming out together and she has a lot more around like just the bigger world of assisted reproductive technology, but we also have a very, very important friendship.
[00:32:03] LeConte Dill: When I actually gave birth, we actually ended up having also a second doula. So I'm just very privileged and blessed to have two doulas that supported us.
[00:32:11] LeConte Dill: I feel like I had really, really good prenatal care. I feel also just really blessed. I felt listened to, and heard, I felt affirmed and I didn't feel rushed. And so I just, felt good vibes.
[00:32:24] LeConte Dill: I think because it was an IVF conception, there were more visits than typical and a lot more ultrasounds than typical. Like with IVF babies, they're also checking the baby's like anatomy in like just more vigilant ways than I think typically. So, there was like a couple of like anatomy scans they're, checking cardiology, checking the heart, um, very closely. Um, so yeah.
[00:32:51] Taja Lindley: Is there anything else you wanted to say about your pregnancy experience and your prenatal care and your support before we go into your moment of birth?
[00:32:59] LeConte Dill: My husband's a DJ and, so music is a huge part of our lives. And, so we had the baby buds like taped to my belly. And so she was hearing music from the very beginning, which, you know, shows now in her love for drums and dancing and music and play.
[00:33:26] Taja Lindley: So let's talk about going into labor, how, and when did it happen? Did things go as expected. And um, how did you feel about your support, you know, during your process of laboring?
[00:33:39] LeConte Dill: um, In the very end of February, we had just had our baby shower a couple of weeks later, I had my regular prenatal visit. My blood pressure was high and my blood pressure typically is not high. And I had had a kind of contentious email discussion that was work-related the night before. So kind of, I went into the doctor, like trying to be grounded, like I was meditating in the morning, daily, during my pregnancy. Uh, tried to get grounded before, But like kind of went in to like, and told the doctor, like, you know, I was stressed out with work stuff yesterday. And so like, you know, kinda knew off the bat. And so she was like, okay, it is high, but like, let's like, wait like five minutes and like check again. And like, you know, I went deep into ritual and visualization: I'm calm, I'm at the beach. And my numbers went down, however, because of my age and IVF, and because I think a few months prior, like December, I had had, again, this kind of like, oh, it's elevated, but five minutes later it's down. But technically if you have two high, um, reads of your blood pressure, that's considered pre-eclampsia.
[00:34:46] LeConte Dill: And so they did further testing. They did a urine test and blood tests. And so they're like, just based on all the data, we actually might induce you in a couple of weeks.
[00:34:57] LeConte Dill: And you know, so at this time I go home and I'm like, okay, I might be induced in two weeks. That's a month before my due date. But, you know, we got two weeks to prepare, right? Like we can deal with that.
[00:35:09] LeConte Dill: And I got the call the next day and they're like, okay, we want you to come back for follow up, testing today. And we want you to bring your bag. And I was like, my bag? And I was like, oh my hospital bag. And they're like, yeah, depending on the results of the test, like, we might be inducing you today. And I wrote everything they said down. Cause I was kinda like, my wheels were spinning and like immediately kind of started crying because I felt alone even though I wasn't alone. But like at that moment I was alone in my living room getting the call.
[00:35:45] LeConte Dill: And then I remembered, okay, I'm not alone. My husband's at work. He can come home from work. Right. Dana just landed. She gonna come from JFK. Our other doula, Katie, is like right down the way. And I got on the phone with my mama and even my aunts joke, they were like, she was like the runaway granny, because I told her and I was like, I'm going to the hospital this afternoon. And then she was like, okay, bet. And like next thing I know Debra is in New York City by that evening.
[00:36:14] LeConte Dill: We had a dope childbirth education class, that it was taught by a dope Black woman. And they talk about, you know, interventions, medical interventions during one of the sessions. And I listened, but like, I know I didn't listen deeply because I'm like, oh, we're not doing any of that. Right. Like that's not on our birth plan. Like I'm healthy. Everything's okay. And like ended up doing like all the things.
[00:36:39] LeConte Dill: Because I was at 35 weeks, um, in order to ensure that her lungs were developed, like I had to have steroids shots, like as soon as I got to the hospital. They had to do one like that evening. And then there was like a, just a cascade of things. And they did respect the birth plan, but also like some of that stuff was like theoretical now for like what was going on.
[00:37:01] LeConte Dill: But the thing is like, my blood pressure actually remained normal, but my liver enzymes, which a lot of people don't talk about, those were steady on the rise. So the liver enzymes are kind of part of the diagnosis of preeclampsia so much so that my diagnosis became actually severe preeclampsia. My liver enzymes were, were rapidly increasing and they're like the only way to fix this is for you to give birth.
[00:37:25] LeConte Dill: um, One great thing because of my doula, Katie and like her social capital, in New York City, and reproductive justice field, she knew the nursing team. And so, I felt like they knew about me and my case even before I was admitted and especially like Black and brown nurses and white accomplice nurses who some of them even like switched their schedules so that they could be there like during the weekend when I became admitted.
[00:37:53] LeConte Dill: Um, it was a very funny and lovely story when they wheeled me from like the antepartum floor to labor and delivery, Dana was walking with me. And the nurses started applauding because they have read Dana's work and they have read Dana's book. And so I was like, okay, we're with celebrity, the nurses have started like a Black Mothers Matter Coalition at their hospital. So shout out to them. So they're like deeply committed to combating the Black maternal mortality crisis and to being committed to reproductive and birthing justice. And so I felt comforted by that.
[00:38:33] LeConte Dill: Um, I'm also seeing different doctors cause everybody's on call a different day. One of the doctors that I hadn't met yet, I was due to meet her like my 39th week, but didn't get there, um, a Black woman. We went to the same college, although years apart, and we're the same sorority. And I was like, all right, like sis got me. And I saw her like advocating for me because what I, and my team assessed is that, whoever makes decisions, were like, oh, she should have a C-section. She should have a C-section. But not necessarily based on like, me and the baby were not in crisis. Yes, my liver enzymes were increasing, but there was really no clinical reason for me to get a C-section. But that's what the doctor was being told. And she was like, no, like, I think she can do a vaginal birth. She thinks she can do a vaginal birth. Like, unless something seems unhealthy, like let's still, but it was like a fight.
[00:39:28] LeConte Dill: And so I saw that. And so I'm also kind of going into like sista mode and like public health researcher mode where like I see her being stressed in her workspace. And she's also pregnant. And so, um, she and the nurses were advocating for me.
[00:39:46] LeConte Dill: Had a very, like, not cool encounter with an anesthesiologist that, my veins are small and I had to get checked like now every hour for like all the things, like regular blood sticks, aren't working. And so they had to do an A line and they ended up doing a PICC line. And the anesthesiologist literally said, I don't want to come down here anymore. And why don't you just give her a C-section?
[00:40:10] LeConte Dill: I believe he got written up, because my team like called him out and in and around and wrote him up, but he said it like I was right there. It's not like he said it in hushed tones. And like he said it right over me as he's about to like stick me with some things. And so that was the main negative encounter.
[00:40:29] LeConte Dill: And so long story, short, or long story long. I, um, end up giving birth on March 2nd, 2020. That's like the fourth day of me being in the hospital. And even though it was like this crazy four days--
[00:40:45] LeConte Dill: oh, the anesthesiologist actually, this is important part. I had to get an epidural, not because of the pain, but because I was getting a foley bag inserted, and I was being induced and so they do an epidural and they ended up giving me too much, so much so that I could not feel below my waist until like a couple hours before I gave birth.
[00:41:10] LeConte Dill: And that wasn't a good, like, I don't feel anything. It was like, no, like I want to be in embodied communication with myself and with my baby. And so I don't know how long I was technically in contractions or in active labor, because I didn't feel it until it was time.
[00:41:29] LeConte Dill: And, the beautiful thing, at least for this part of the story is that, when I was fully dilated and the doctor was like, let's go, we had our playlist, cause again, hubby is a DJ and I only push for 30 minutes and Worthy came 30 minutes later.
[00:41:47] LeConte Dill: And she was healthy, even though she's technically, I guess, a late term preemie. She was six pounds, four ounces and healthy, and like didn't have to go to the NICU.
[00:41:57] LeConte Dill: And also this was happening right as COVID was touching down. So literally she was born on March 2nd. So like right before, like lockdown quarantine, but definitely the first COVID case was in New York City. Like but I'm just thankful that like my birth, you know, it was already going left, but it could have gone all the way left. Like I was able to have a full team of folks, right? Like two doulas, a mama, a husband, some collages, a mixtape. Like these nurses that are changing their schedules to be in the room. Like I wouldn't have been able to do that a week later, two weeks later, let alone a month later when she was due.
[00:42:36] Taja Lindley: Yeah, Worthy was like, yeah, I got to come out a little bit early. Cause I'm, I'm seeing some things that are coming down. And I feel like now is the time.
[00:42:45] Taja Lindley: So let's talk about your postpartum. What did aftercare look like for you? What kinds of support did you have and what is, you know, parenthood look like in this immediate postpartum period?
[00:42:55] LeConte Dill: So immediate postpartum in the hospital context, was not ideal. Um, and it's really interesting cause I'm in the same hospital in the same health system and the same bomb insurance. And it just seemed like night and day. I think just because of all the interventions, I didn't immediately go to the postpartum floor, I went back to like the antepartum room. And I was still hooked up to IVs. I still had the PICC line in.
[00:43:18] LeConte Dill: But a day afterwards, like two days from giving birth in the middle of the night, like around midnight, they're like, all right, your postpartum room is ready. But the problem is it's midnight. It's midnight now, like a day, day and a half after I gave birth and we're moving like our, everything. And, in a jacked up way. Like they made me walk with and push Worthy in the bassinet, in the hospital version of the bassinet. I think the nurse or the care team is pushing my IV unit. And then Berto, my husband is carrying like all of our stuff, and this is at midnight. And in retrospect, like one, that shouldn't have happened. But two, I wish I would have like protested a bit, like, no, I'm not moving. At least like, I'm not moving until like it's daylight or something, but it just, just felt like jarring.
[00:44:09] LeConte Dill: And then we're moving in a room where there's another mom and baby, like behind, you know, a curtain in a very small room and like two new moms with new babies who are also probably on different schedules. So when their baby's up, my baby's sleeping, when my baby's up, their baby sleep and we're separated by a sheet or a curtain.
[00:44:28] LeConte Dill: And immediately when we get in the room. Then the new team comes in to check my vitals, to check my blood pressure. And of course my blood pressure is high. Again, I have on this severe preeclampsia, like on my chart, although my blood pressure has been normal this whole five days. And my blood pressure is high, but I also walked literally around the floor pushing a bassinet. And so they're like, oh, your blood pressure's high. You're probably going to be sent home with medicine with high blood pressure medicine.
[00:44:59] LeConte Dill: So I'm getting more agitated. They didn't do the, like let's come back five minutes later, like while you're like getting settled. And then one of the staff, one of the nurses, begins to press on my breasts and she's like, you need to feed. And she's like catch the colostrum. And she's like pressing so hard. I'm also a new mother and a new breastfeeder. Yeah, I did breastfeeding class. That's mad abstract compared to the reality. And she's pressing on me hard, which physically hurts, but also, hormonally is jarring and I'm just learning what colostrum is. How am I going to catch it? I just moved to this room. And so I started crying. I started balling.
[00:45:41] LeConte Dill: I started what became a daily crying practice. I probably cried every day for the first month, but it started with these hospital triggers. And I really was like, I was texting Dana and the bomb nurses from the labor and delivery floor, like get me out of here. This postpartum floor, ain't it. Um, and the only reason we had to stay a little longer- like they just needed to find people to like remove the PICC line, like remove the IV stuff. And that took longer than- there was like no medical reason for us to stay.
[00:46:12] LeConte Dill: And so, that started the, um, postpartum journey.
[00:46:16] LeConte Dill: Thankfully though, like leaning back on my other resources once I got home was helpful. Um, so therapy, my mom did stay with us for almost a month, but also now we're in the height of COVID. So, you know, that's an anxiety, like, you know, she's an elder. Like, should she be here? Should she not? But maybe this is the safest space, just the four of us now in this cocoon together.
[00:46:37] LeConte Dill: And breastfeeding was really hard in the beginning. But I got a really bombed lactation consultant. And then breastfeeding became, really beautiful. And, um, we've just actually, ended our breastfeeding journey. So 16 months of breastfeeding just concluded and it was a beautiful journey.
[00:46:53] LeConte Dill: But yeah, since the last 16 months have been. Overall. Awesome. I think although COVID has been horrible, a great part of it for me as a new mom is that I didn't immediately have to go back to an office six weeks after giving birth, which I would have had to do. Like I didn't get three months at my job. I only got six weeks, so I would've had to go back to an office. We didn't have to put Worthy in daycare.
[00:47:19] LeConte Dill: My husband, you know, working for the City and being an essential worker did have to leave home but he saved up vacation time so that he had a month off with us. Um, but then eventually he had to go back into work in the throes of COVID. But I was able to work from home, and Worthy be here. And so I was able to see like all of her milestones and like not miss them or not have to see them, you know, in the replay.
[00:47:43] LeConte Dill: Um, and yeah, we just have been like holding it down and figuring out our own rhythms.
[00:47:50] Taja Lindley: What advice would you give to Black folks of reproductive age, especially those on the quote unquote older side of the spectrum, and for those who are considering IVF?
[00:47:59] LeConte Dill: I would just recommend, like, find your tribe. When I say like we're in the DMs, it's because there's so much like stigma and shame. You know, like in the eighties, um, there used to be jokes, like Black comedians that we like laugh at and love that used to talk about like test tube babies. The notion of IVF that started, I believe in 70, 1978. So like the same year I was born, was like this experiment, this test tube babies. It's like, this joke or this thing, that's like, this is not for Black folks, right?
[00:48:24] LeConte Dill: And so I guess I want folks to know that lots of people are using these technologies. But I know that even in the clinic encounters, like I would see other Black and brown folks and like, you know, give them the eye or give them the head nod, but there wasn't really space to connect.
[00:48:42] LeConte Dill: And so I guess I'm just wishing for more spaces of connection, even if they are in like secret hush hollow maroon spaces that everybody doesn't need to know about. Or there might be some spaces that things can be more amplified.
[00:48:56] LeConte Dill: But I just remember, even though, like I said, I wasn't alone, like particularly through my first two cycles feeling like so like no one knows what I'm going through. No one knows what I'm experiencing it. And then like the kind of depression that comes from that. We're not alone. I know like 15 people that I can name off top that I can talk about who are all Black and brown that are going through this or have gone through this. And that's beautiful. Like three years ago I knew one. Yeah.
[00:49:24] LeConte Dill: Yeah, so that's what I would wish that like we find our tribe and that we continue to build community fiercely.
[00:49:30] Taja Lindley: How would you like to see institutions, public conversations concerning birth to transform so that it can really include folks like you?
[00:49:40] LeConte Dill: So when a white doctor is asking, why am I crying when she talks about miscarriage or infertility or when a white, older nurse is like grabbing my arm and like forcefully, like trying to get a blood draw and actually calls me a problem when she was referring to not being able to get blood from a stick, when she calls me a problem, that that is a problem. And that problem is steeped in racism and other oppressions in this country.
[00:50:08] LeConte Dill: So I just, I want the U.S. medical industrial complex to continue to be called out. Um, like it is, I think there is a growing movement of that calling out and calling in. And I want more of that. I mean, there's just been a movement even over the last year of particularly clinicians of color leaving the systems. Like the system, even though I trained in it and I've been committed to it and I've been upholding the system, the system is racist and it's sexist and it's homophobic and I'm out. And I'm going to try to create my own systems. I think it's like a few brave people have been unapologetic about it, like on social media, but I like, I hope that becomes a movement.
[00:50:54] Taja Lindley: I give thanks for Dr. Dill's crunk feminist perspective, and for her generous sharing of her sacred story on this podcast. If you'd like to listen to the complete interview, which is much longer than this episode, I highly recommend you make your way over to Patreon.com/ TajaLindley. Your contribution gets you access to this and other full interviews from the season and supports the sustainability of this podcast, this project, and this artist. Hi. Hello. That's me.
[00:51:22] Taja Lindley: Now before we go, I want to reflect back some beautiful double entendre of labor moments in Dr. Dill's story.
[00:51:29] Taja Lindley: How her doula was her colleague and also was leading a research project that Dr. Dill participated in.
[00:51:34] Taja Lindley: How in the middle of her giving birth, she found the energy to feel empathy for Black providers getting unnecessarily stressed at work. And she too was dealing with similar dynamics at her job.
[00:51:44] Taja Lindley: How going to work while pregnant and trying to get pregnant is its own unique kind of labor. Managing hot flashes in the middle of winter while giving a lecture to students is no small feat.
[00:51:55] Taja Lindley: How a worldwide pandemic allowed Dr. Dill to have an extended maternity leave and to work from home so she could be a witness to her daughter's milestone moments.
[00:52:04] Taja Lindley: And how employment based insurance impacts access to healthcare procedures and technologies, which creates situations where folks have to consider their health desires and needs when thinking about where they work and why. Meanwhile, in my ideal world, people's quote unquote work would be aligned with their talents, their skills, their interests, their creativity and their purpose. But, unfortunately, in the economic and medical system we have today in the U.S., healthcare is a consideration of employment.
[00:52:32] Taja Lindley: So that's some things to chew on. Be sure to tune in to our next episode, a part two of this conversation about assisted reproductive technologies with another guest who will share her process of getting pregnant and her birth story. I promise you. You do not want to miss it.
[00:52:49] Taja Lindley: I give thanks for your time, for your attention, and for your listenership.
[00:52:53] Taja Lindley: If you are enjoying your experience, tell a friend and leave us a review wherever you get your podcasts or on our website.
[00:53:00] Taja Lindley: If you'd like to share your story or perspective with us, write us a message or leave us a voicemail at BlackWomensLabor .com.
[00:53:07] Taja Lindley: Find us on Instagram @BlackWomensLabor and sign up for our newsletter to receive project updates in your inbox.
[00:53:15] Taja Lindley: Speaking of our newsletter: if you've already signed up, then you've heard the good news. The podcast music is available for purchase. All sales go towards producing this podcast. Visit ColoredGirlsHustle. Bandcamp. com to learn more.
[00:53:29] Taja Lindley: This podcast is created and hosted by yours truly, Taja Lindley, also known as the HBIC.
[00:53:37] Taja Lindley: Audio engineering by Lilah Larson.
[00:53:39] Taja Lindley: Music by Emma Alabaster, who also served as the Pre-Production Associate Producer.
[00:53:44] Taja Lindley: Additional music production by Chip Belton.
[00:53:47] Taja Lindley: Vocals by Patience Sings.
[00:53:49] Taja Lindley: Mixing and mastering by Chip Belton.
[00:53:52] Taja Lindley: Lyrics by Taja Lindley and Emma Alabaster.
[00:53:55] Taja Lindley: Logo and graphic design templates by Homegirl HQ.
[00:53:59] Taja Lindley: This podcast is produced by Colored Girls Hustle.
[00:54:02] Patience Sings: Birthing new possibilities of rest. Birthing new possibilities of play. Birthing new possibilities of pleasure. Birthing new possibilities of purpose. Birthing new possibilities of love. Birthing new possibilities of presence.
Crunk Public Health Feminist, Associate Professor, Author, Scholar Activist, Researcher, Poet, Mother
Dr. LeConté Dill was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, California. She is a scholar, educator, and a poet in and out of classroom and community spaces.
LeConté holds degrees from Spelman College, UCLA, and UC Berkeley, and was a 2016 Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop Fellow. Currently, she is an Associate Professor in the Department of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University.
She listens to and shows up for urban Black girls and other youth of color and works to rigorously document their experiences of safety, resilience, resistance, and wellness. Her work has been published in a diverse array of spaces, such as Poetry Magazine, Mom Egg Review, Journal of Poetry Therapy, and The Feminist Wire.
She authored a chapter entitled "#CrunkPublicHealth: Decolonial Feminist Praxes of Cultivating Liberatory and Transdisciplinary Learning, Research, and Action Spaces" in the forthcoming Disrupting Colonial Pedagogies: Theories and Transgressions, edited by Jillian Ford and Nathalia Jaramillo (University of Illinois Press, Fall 2022)
Listen to her full length one-on-one interview on Patreon.com/TajaLindley
Interview length: 01:31:00