Part Two: The Old Fashion Gay Way
Are you curious about how to get pregnant when queer?
“Don't use a turkey baster!” Olivia Ford
Olivia started her path to parenthood before being partnered. After her intuition told her it was time to pursue pregnancy, she popped the question to her gay guy friend: how would you like to make a baby with me? After 10 unsuccessful tries, she and her boo (now wife) purchased semen during a BOGO sale at a sperm bank and got pregnant with the second vial.
Tune in to hear Olivia's nine year journey to Black queer motherhood including:
During the interview, Olivia mentions this piece from Linda Villarosa in The New York Times Magazine entitled: "Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis"
This episode is the second part of a two-part series featuring birth stories that relied on assisted reproductive technologies and it has been edited for clarity and length. To listen to the full interview, visit Patreon.com/TajaLindley.
Olivia Ford (she/her; they/their) has been engaged with HIV-related media since 2007. She is the editorial director for The Well Project, an online information, support, and advocacy resource serving a global audience of women living with HIV. She trained as a doula in 2004 and serves as a perinatal health advocate with Birthmark Doula Collective, a birth justice organization supporting pregnant and parenting people and their families in the New Orleans, Louisiana area. Olivia and her wife are the dazzled, exhausted co-mamas of a smart-mouthed toddler, Orian (pronounced like “Dorian” without the “D”).
Her full interview is available on Patreon (running time: 02:26:18)
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Creator, Host and HBIC: Taja Lindley
Audio Engineering by Lilah Larson
Music by Emma Alabaster who also served as the Pre-Production Associate Producer
Additional Music Production by Chip Belton
Vocals by Patience Sings
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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] Olivia Ford: I'd always felt very strongly that I wanted to have children.
[00:00:07] Olivia Ford: I knew that being pregnant was an experience that I wanted to have.
[00:00:10] Olivia Ford: I can actually remember the exact moment when I went from being someone who knew that I would eventually be a parent to being ready.
[00:00:20] Patience Sings: Black women the foundation. Life at the intersections. Source of divine creations. Now listen now converse.
[00:00:35] Olivia Ford: We're doing it the old fashion gay way
[00:00:38] Olivia Ford: He was, is living with HIV.
[00:00:40] Olivia Ford: And I was like, how would you like to have a baby with me?
[00:00:43] Olivia Ford: Every two week wait, my imagination would give birth to this baby.
[00:00:47] Patience Sings: Telling our own stories, birthing new possibilities. Telling our own stories, birthing new possibilities.
[00:01:02] 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.
[00:01:15] Taja Lindley: Welcome to the second and final part of our birth story series, where we're bearing witness to folks who have relied on reproductive technologies to support their desire to get pregnant. Today's episode features Olivia G. Ford's story, which begins with what she calls "the old fashion gay way." She began her path to parenthood as a single queer woman, working with a gay guy friend as her known donor.
[00:01:41] Taja Lindley: And, spoiler alert: that way didn't exactly create the outcome Olivia was going for, but it was a huge part of her non-linear journey to motherhood. An on-time reminder that with intention and enthusiasm we can get where we want to go but the process of getting there may not look the way we initially envisioned.
[00:02:01] Taja Lindley: This episode has been edited for clarity and for length, but if you want to hear all of the juicy, funny, and poignant details of Olivia's birth story, head on over to Patreon.com/ TajaLindley. Your contribution supports the podcast and gets you access to this and other full interviews from the season.
[00:02:24] Olivia Ford: My name is Olivia G. Ford. My pronouns, are she her or they their. I'm a writer, editor, sometimes communications consultant. I've worked primarily in HIV specific media and around sexual health and health justice issues since about 2007. Also, I'm a doula. I trained as a doula actually for the first time in 2004.
[00:02:46] Olivia Ford: I'm from Brooklyn originally, but I identify as kind of in a sense, Southern returned in that I have family roots in New Orleans. But I've also lived in the Bay Area. That's where I first trained as a doula and sort of became myself in a lot of ways. I spent my twenties there.
[00:02:59] Taja Lindley: Okay. So. Before you share your story of navigating assisted reproductive technologies, why did getting pregnant and having a child feel like an important experience for you to have?
[00:03:11] Olivia Ford: I'd always felt very strongly that I wanted to have children. I knew that being pregnant was an experience that I wanted to have. I just really felt as if it was, just a life experience kind of life, phenomenon that I wanted to be part of.
[00:03:26] Olivia Ford: And that I felt as if I had something to contribute to another being. I obviously, I'm not a finished product. I'm not done growing. I got to a point where I felt like, okay, I can sort of grow another person and I have something to offer them and contribute to them in terms of wisdom, grounding, perspective on life. I couldn't necessarily guarantee I'm going to be a fantastic parent, but I felt ready to experiment with myself as a parent, if that makes any sense.
[00:03:56] Taja Lindley: So before you got pregnant, what were you up to? What were your concerns and your dreams and how were you living in world?
[00:04:04] Olivia Ford: I lived in the Bay Area in California for most of my twenties. I had just moved back to Brooklyn at the time. I moved back when I was 27. Soon after moving back, I actually started working in the field that I've been in for the past, like going on 15 years, I started working in HIV specific media. I was an editor at an online HIV information and support resource.
[00:04:27] Olivia Ford: And the part of the reason I bring that up is just because that's sort of part of my journey sort of being in this field, in this community. But also that was like the most stable job that I had had.
[00:04:38] Olivia Ford: Like I had a full-time job. I was like back in the city where I was born, where my kind of like most present roots were, where I had a lot of family, where I had a lot of friends and loved ones. I was just sort of feeling very embraced back into a place that I had been. I sort of immediately felt very at home in this community and in this role.
[00:05:00] Olivia Ford: As if that piece around kind of right livelihood and sort of doing something with my skills and with my energy and time that could kind of support me in a material way and also be useful to, folks who I consider to be my folks and like a movement that I felt passionately about. Like, I was like, okay, done. You know what I mean? Like this piece feels like it's in a good place, you know?
[00:05:20] Olivia Ford: I can actually remember the exact moment when I went from being someone who knew that I would eventually be a parent. Like I would eventually have kids, to being ready. It was like a very random moment. I was actually, I think it was my first time returning to the Bay Area for a visit after I had lived there.
[00:05:38] Olivia Ford: I was like on a, the bus to like the Oakland airport. And I had seen like a mom who was probably around my age like late twenties got on with a toddler, and she sat behind me. I was kind of listening to them, like have their little interactions. I heard the baby giggling. And I had this thought, the thought just very clearly ran through my mind. "That could be you, you know, like you could have a baby too. You could be the person sort of charged with caring for another human being." I just felt in that moment, like I was ready for just for the entire package, including the sort of like the mundane every day things of, you know, kind of like shepherding a child through life.
[00:06:17] Olivia Ford: I had been sort of bringing the idea of parenting from thought into pre action. As I was starting to prepare to try, and when I was trying, I had started to go to The Center over on West 13th street for their like planning biological parenthood group.
[00:06:31] Olivia Ford: The LGBTQ Center in the West Village in Manhattan is a very large comprehensive queer, trans you know, just like it's a, it's a community center. It's probably probably one of the largest in the country. And they have every kind of like programming thing that you can think of in terms of becoming a parent, which is interesting. You know, like they've got planning, biological parenthood. They've got planning for adoption support groups. They've got, you know, like, are you like a queer woman who wants to like meet a gay man who also wants to have babies? It's like speed dating for getting pregnant or what have you. They've got that. like
[00:07:08] Taja Lindley: I love that.
[00:07:09] Olivia Ford: I kind of wanted to, I did not do that one, but I love that it exists.
[00:07:12] Olivia Ford: At the time they broke it down by like planning biological parenthood for women. So it was like people who were, you know, with uteruses who were trying to get pregnant. And then it was like planning biological parenthood for men. Like, what does it look like to go get somebody else pregnant? So that was how the, the support groups were sort of carved up. And I started going to that planning, biological parenthood for women group, not long after I moved back to New York.
[00:07:34] Olivia Ford: So I started going in like probably early 2008. I would just go to the groups and listen and ask questions and, you know, there'd be people at all steps of the process from trying, to thinking about trying, to been trying for years, to sometimes a pregnant person will come back and be like, thanks for all your help.
[00:07:52] Olivia Ford: So yeah, I had already been doing that when I had this moment where I was like, oh, actually now I'm ready. Like if I got pregnant tomorrow and had a baby, like nine months from now, I feel like I could make my life fit that. Then I went and got on the plane and, you know, went on with my life and continue to go to the groups and, you know, got my plan together. Yada, yada nine years later I had a baby.
[00:08:08] Taja Lindley: Wow. So you've been planning for a minute. I'm just curious when the tipping point came, when were you like, okay now I want to start putting this knowledge into practice?
[00:08:19] Olivia Ford: You know, I was sort of looking around in my life for, you know, I was thinking about, do I want to go with a sperm bank? Do I want to do a known donor? And I had, had like a whole kind of series of conversations with a dear, dear friend of mine who was going to be my donor. I guess we probably started having those conversations like about probably early that year. Early 2012.
[00:08:37] Taja Lindley: So do you mind sharing a little bit about who this friend was and what was this conversation that y'all had?
[00:08:42] Olivia Ford: I thought about that a lot. Like how to frame it to him. Cause I, kind of had my eye on him in this way. I mean, we had been friends for many years already. We were very close.
[00:08:51] Olivia Ford: This is a friend from the Bay Area, but he had moved to Brooklyn not long after I moved to Brooklyn, actually.
[00:08:56] Olivia Ford: And you know, I was sort of working up to asking him this question, I was like, what do I say?
[00:09:01] Olivia Ford: Like, it's like a proposal, right? How do I word it? Like, how do I propose to this person in this way? And I think I'm pretty sure I was in his kitchen and I was like, how would you like to have a baby with me?
[00:09:10] Olivia Ford: And he was like, he's like, what? But, you know, elaborate please. Because you know I think that some people, their journey with a donor is that it's like someone else who also really wants to have a baby. And I knew that that wasn't necessarily something that he was like really gung ho about wanting to do. But I had a sense that he would be a really, just a really wonderful genetic addition to a person's life, but also just, I thought he would just be a really beautiful presence. Though I made clear from the beginning that I wasn't expecting, him to co-parent per se.
[00:09:39] Olivia Ford: There were many more conversations. Like what would the kid call me? What would we tell them, about, my role, would I be like a dad?
[00:09:46] Olivia Ford: And this was one of the things that made me really excited to engage with him in this way is that I felt like he was someone that I could communicate with if things should change.
[00:09:55] Olivia Ford: Like once you have a kid, you're sort of, tied to the person in whatever way for better, or for worse for your whole life. Even if it's all, you know, it's super a hundred percent planned and all good and you're whatever you're in love or you're in agreement about what your engagement is going to be, shit changes. It can change no matter what. And I just felt as if this was someone that I could communicate with as things changed, if they did.
[00:10:17] Olivia Ford: One thing that interestingly, he was kind of leaning on me for information about is that he was, is living with HIV. It was becoming clear at that time, in terms of the kind of studies coming out, it was this sort of this very exciting development that when a person is on effective HIV treatment, they're undetectable, they can't actually transmit HIV through sex or through like, you know, sperm into body or semen into body.
[00:10:42] Olivia Ford: And at, around that same time, a drug called Truvada was being, was in the approval process as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. Which, you know, is a drug that a person who is not living with HIV can take in order to remain HIV negative. If they have, you know, if they have a partner who's living with HIV or if they have partners whose HIV status is unknown to them as a layer of HIV prevention to kind of stay HIV negative.
[00:11:08] Olivia Ford: When I first sort of said to him like, oh, you want to make a baby? He was like, oh wow. You know, but he was like, is that possible? Like in terms of my status, w what would that look like? Like, how would, you know, how would you stay HIV negative? He'd kind of like heard a little bit about the treatment as prevention studies that had come out. I just, you know, kind of told him about some of that and that, you know, it was not likely to impossible that I would, um, that I would become HIV positive through like putting his semen in my body basically.
[00:11:34] Olivia Ford: I know that some people with donors, like they have sex, and we did not even really have the conversation about doing that. It was just not something that was part of our relationship.
[00:11:43] Taja Lindley: So early-ish 2012, y'all have this conversation. Between the first conversation and y'all taking action, how much time has passed?
[00:11:52] Olivia Ford: I would say a good like, like half a year or so.
[00:11:55] Olivia Ford: My donor and I actually had a conflict, not about, you know, what we were doing, but we had like a miscommunication.
[00:12:01] Olivia Ford: Like that summer was really poppin it felt like this moving train. I was like, let's go. But there were ways that we kind of like had to pump the brakes and return to our core connection as people who are about to do something really intense together.
[00:12:13] Olivia Ford: And we were able to kind of reset and do that and resolve our, like really like resolve our conflicts in a really beautiful way. And I think probably strengthened our friendship as well and strengthen our ability to go forward and do something really kind of wacky and challenging together.
[00:12:28] Olivia Ford: And we did.
[00:12:29] Olivia Ford: I was also I actually had just broken up with somebody, like gotten out of a relationship that was like really repressive frankly. And was like discovering who I was out of that and I was like transitioning from like friend zone to like boo zone with the person who would become my wife.
[00:12:45] Olivia Ford: My then friend, girlfriend, partner, lover, you know, eventual wife and I were friends before we started dating. So if I remember correctly, I think I may have told her that I was gonna start trying to get pregnant. I definitely told her before we were dating.
[00:12:59] Olivia Ford: Like getting pregnant was not something that she had ever wanted for herself or planned to do herself. And just in terms of her age, my wife has a few years on me. She's 17 years older than I am. So at that time she was already like, even if I wanted to get pregnant, I wouldn't, that's not something that I could do, but she didn't even want to, so it wasn't something that she was considering.
[00:13:16] Olivia Ford: And then, you know, that was something that she was aware of as we started dating. No partner that I had during the period of time that I was trying was a person that I was trying to have a baby with until the person who would become my wife. I was going into this as like, as a single parent, as like a person who was going to do this as a single parent, I was going to do it on my, I mean with a village, but on my own.
[00:13:36] Olivia Ford: Yeah, so it was sort of already part of, you know, kind of part of our conversation as friends. She knew my donor. She really liked him. She just thought that it was really beautiful that we were planning this and doing this together. She was really supportive of this as a thing that I was doing. I've thought about it a lot since, and at the time it felt very natural and right.
[00:13:53] Olivia Ford: And still does, that the process of it becoming something that we're doing together was very organic and happened over time. Like it wasn't like we started dating and she was like, I'll be the baby mama too. Like, let's think, you know what I mean? Like, it wasn't like an accelerated process in that way.
[00:14:06] Olivia Ford: Like, she was definitely like we're dating and this is something that you're doing and I'm excited for you.
[00:14:11] Taja Lindley: So we're in late 2012, I believe. And you and your friend are moving through this process of baby-making. So for folks who are unfamiliar with assisted reproductive technologies, and how would it work to have a donor without having sex.
[00:14:29] Taja Lindley: What was the process that you all went through? What were some of the highlights of the steps that you took to co-create a child together?
[00:14:36] Olivia Ford: Highlights. More like hi-jinks I always say there's a lot of like physical comedy, like trying to get pregnant. Basically we used what I like to call the old fashion gay way. People talk about, oh, turkey baster. You don't actually use a turkey baster folks at home.
[00:14:51] Olivia Ford: It's way too wide. Just real talk: if you try to draw semen up into a turkey baster, it just splashes on the sides. So don't use a turkey baster.
[00:15:01] Taja Lindley: Are you speaking from experience or did you find this on a YouTube video?
[00:15:05] Olivia Ford: I think there probably is a YouTube video of it, but it became clear. Like I, you know, I'd read a lot of like queer parenting books that include like the process of getting pregnant.
[00:15:15] Taja Lindley: Okay.
[00:15:15] Olivia Ford: I remember in one of the like queer parents, like what are like lesbian pregnancy books, one of the things was: lesbians, you may not use to be used to seeing like amounts of semen. It's not much. Like, that was sort of what, you know, like you don't need that much. And it's not like it's like a gravy in a turkey amount of semen. Like it's just a little bit, so like the rule, like, so it's important to note like the hole is too big. It's way too wide. Is not a good conduit. It's like, it's just not a good tool.
[00:15:42] Olivia Ford: There's a number of different methods that exist and that we tried, but we started with using a needleless syringe. Like basically it's like a syringe that you would use to like give yourself a shot, but it doesn't have a needle on it. Oftentimes it's used to like feed infants. You know, it's like a very small syringe and you like, you know, you draw the semen up into it and then you put in your vagina and you go onto your cervix basically.
[00:16:05] Taja Lindley: Were the tools and the materials that you and your donor friend used: were these over the counter things, or were these things you had to get a prescription for? Were they expensive? Were they covered under your insurance?
[00:16:16] Olivia Ford: A needleless syringe is very cheap. They're just a couple of dollars, like a single digit number of dollars. You can get them at any drug store. They have different sizes.
[00:16:25] Olivia Ford: Like I had started out with a very, very small one and I ended up finding one that was slightly larger that worked better um, just in terms of my hands holding it. You know, again, it's semen, it's like a small amount. So it wasn't like I needed a bigger one because it was a large amount. It was just for my own, again, you figure out like sort of kinesthetically, like what works and what tools work best.
[00:16:44] Olivia Ford: But yeah, needleless syringe. I think some doctors who are supporting folks who are trying to conceive will give that stuff out. My provider did not even offer that. And I didn't even hear until later about people whose providers are like giving them this stuff.
[00:16:55] Olivia Ford: I just got the stuff myself, and again, I experimented with different cups, like for him to ejaculate into. We just experimented with different things. Like what would work best in terms of him in terms of like aiming and catching and also for like, cause you want to get all of it. Like, you don't want to have to transfer it to another receptacle because then you're losing precious semen. You'd really want to minimize any kind of transfer from like one container to another.
[00:17:22] Taja Lindley: So he would go and masturbate and produce a sample? And then you'd be waiting in the next room.
[00:17:26] Olivia Ford: Yeah. We did this 10 times over 10 cycles and we did anywhere from one to three times within a cycle.
[00:17:36] Taja Lindley: And how long is a cycle?
[00:17:37] Olivia Ford: Your fertile window is like five, six days. I got to learn a lot about my fertility and my own reproductive cycle, my own menstrual cycle. I had started charting. That's something else that was like such a huge part of my life at the time that I haven't even mentioned. Like, I think a good year before I started trying to get pregnant, I had gotten a basal body temperature thermometer, and I had started charting my morning temperature.
[00:17:59] Olivia Ford: Like you take your temperature in the morning, right before you do anything else. Basically the way that one's temperature fluctuates during their menstrual cycle, like their monthly cycle, is an indicator of the period that they're fertile.
[00:18:11] Olivia Ford: So you start to chart your temperature and be aware of your own cycle and know like when you're going to ovulate. And I started learning about cervical mucus changes, the mucus that comes out of your vagina, like changes, it's like more stretchy that also indicates that you're in a fertile. So like that stretchy mucus is like the mucus that is like come here sperm, like it's made your body makes it to let every month. Cause it could grab. Exactly! Totally! It's deep! It's like it's made to like draw in sperm.
[00:18:42] Olivia Ford: Like there's pictures of it under a microscope and it's like, it's made to like draw in and like trap sperm and just send them to the fallopian tube. To like send them down to like get you pregnant.
[00:18:51] Olivia Ford: I learned to sort of chart those signs. And I did it old school. Now there's a million apps that you can do this stuff on, but I did it on-- I have somewhere in my old journals, I have like reams of calendars. Just printed charts. Like I used to print them surreptitiously at my job and just chart every morning and with a pencil, you know, and like draw the line of like, oh, is my temperature going up?
[00:19:15] Olivia Ford: And this is something that doctors will try to refute people on. Like, they'll say, we'll tell you when you're ovulating, which is like one of those big pet peeves with assisted reproductive technology and the medical profession in general, that they're like, trust me, I'll tell you about your body with my tests. When there are so many things that we can know about our bodies that surpass that knowledge and help you get pregnant better, frankly.
[00:19:36] Olivia Ford: Because sometimes they'll say, oh, you know, when you've ovulated, then I'll do the insemination. I don't even know why this became an aspect of what fertility doctors do. Like you've got to get it in before you've ovulated. Like, if you've ovulated, you may have missed your window. Like the eggs already kind of like, oh, on its way. It needs like this sperm like be in there ready to like meet the egg when it comes out.
[00:19:54] Olivia Ford: And your body tells you when you're going to ovulate, like you get all these signs and you have that power to know that and be able to say like, this is the time. It's like very exciting to know, and it's very disheartening when providers sort of like disabuse people of that knowledge and they're like, oh no, don't worry about all that charting. It takes too much time. Just come in and I'll monitor you.
[00:20:14] Olivia Ford: They still, usually, if you're going through the clinic, which we also did eventually, they do that monitoring as a matter of course. There's also information that you come and you can come in equipped with, based on your knowledge of your own body, you know, if you kind of start paying attention in certain kinds of ways.
[00:20:28] Taja Lindley: So you said you and your donor did this 10 times. How long did that take?
[00:20:32] Olivia Ford: About two and a half years.
[00:20:34] Olivia Ford: Sometimes we did consecutive cycles, but sometimes just our like life got in the way, you know, or not got in the way, but we'd be like, oh, well we can't do this month or this is coming up or I'm traveling or you're traveling. I mean, I think there were some months where we just weren't feeling it. You know what I mean? Like, it just didn't work. It just didn't work out. And we were just like, okay, energetically, this doesn't feel right. Like, let's just, let's just like, hold off.
[00:20:55] Olivia Ford: Communication was like our big strategy. I never said be a monk. Don't have sex with other people. I mean, he's a gay man. I never said don't have sex with other men while I'm inseminating. Like, let me know if anything occurs in your sex life, that could lead to me.
[00:21:10] Olivia Ford: You being vulnerable to like other sexually transmitted infections that could easily be transmitted. Cause you know, things like PrEP and being on HIV treatment do not prevent other STIs. It's like, it's just like, it's real and we're not going through a clinic. So nobody's screening this, this is all the old fashion gay way.
[00:21:25] Olivia Ford: This is all us communicating, you telling me what's up and me trusting you and, and never having that be challenged, like I always was affirmed over and over again that I had reason to trust this person because if something came up where he's like, oh, you know, I need to like, go get tested for this STI. Like let's hold. Like we probably don't want to try this month until I get my test results. Just to make sure, I just want to like be transparent.
[00:21:48] Olivia Ford: But other than that, I would realize that I was like moving into my fertile window. I would call him. He would ask for like a days heads up. And for the reason of like, let me like clear my schedule and also this is good for people who are trying, like, it's a good idea to not to ejaculate for a good, like 24 to 48 hours before you're going to try to inseminate someone or get them pregnant. So that you get this buildup of active, active sperm.
[00:22:11] Olivia Ford: So, you know, I would want to tell them at least a day or two in advance so that he could like refrain from ejaculating until our moment, you know?
[00:22:19] Olivia Ford: And there are lots of things that we got increasingly more comfortable with over the years. Like the first time he was like, could you take a walk?
[00:22:25] Olivia Ford: It was at my apartment in Brooklyn. He's like, I think I'd feel more comfortable if you took a walk. And I was like, that's fine. He like went in the back, did what one needs to do in order to like, get excited, come, ejaculate, get a little sample together. And then he like, texted me. You can come back and I didn't go far.
[00:22:43] Olivia Ford: You know, there's kind of like different science around how long like a fresh sample will be good. It's really ideal to keep it warm, like keep it like a body temperature, warm, like, you know, you've like put it between your breasts or like put it between your knees or, you know, like, hold it somewhere where it's going to stay warm.
[00:22:58] Olivia Ford: And they say, if you do that, it can be a few hours, but we really never wanted to mess with like a few hours. You know, we really wanted to sort of, you know, do it as soon as possible, like inseminate as soon as possible after he had produced a sample.
[00:23:08] Olivia Ford: Yeah. The first time I like, I made like a cupcakes or something, like, it was sort of like a celebratory thing. I was like, you can have a cupcake when you come out, I'm going for a walk.
[00:23:16] Olivia Ford: Um, By the time we like had been in a couple of years, I would come over like right before he went out and he'd do it, he'd be like, I gotta go. Like we started doing it at his apartment. Like we just went through a lot of iterations of what we were doing.
[00:23:29] Olivia Ford: So, okay. I'm just going to quickly go through like, just like a standard process. You get your semen, you've got it in, you know, whatever receptacle you're going to use. Take your needleless syringe or, I mean, again, nuts and bolts, but for a while we used almost like a makeshift cervical cup. I used a menstrual cup and he would ejaculate into that and I would insert that. It was one like that you're supposed to dispose of after every time, like it's got a kind of a flexible round top and like, you know, almost looks like a diaphragm. Like it's got like a polyurethane like reservoir basically. You can like pinch it and insert it and it like covers your cervix. And that minimized, like the whole thing of like having to vacuum it all up, basically with this needleless syringe, like get all the little drops and spillage.
[00:24:15] Olivia Ford: Like talk about hi-jinks like I had once or twice, I had the horrifying experience of like it leaked back out now it's gone, you know what I mean? You know, like I inserted the sample, like leaks back out. It's now just on the rug, you know what I mean? Like, fuck, like we can't use it, you know, it's gone now this, this precious substance.
[00:24:32] Olivia Ford: But you know, so you, you insert it however, you're going to insert it and you know, kind of popular wisdom is you kind of like chill out, be still, put your hips up for anywhere from like half hour to an hour.
[00:24:43] Olivia Ford: The acupuncturist that I started seeing during that time was like, just go to bed. She was like, just be restful. Like just be in that space. Don't try to get up and do other stuff. You know what I mean? Like just like stay in that zone, stay in like a yin place. Don't even try to do anything for the rest of the night. Chill out, lay down, just keep the vibe chill.
[00:24:58] Olivia Ford: And yeah, I mean just physically, if your hips are up, gravity helps the sperm swim to the cervix and through the cervix. So I would do that, like, he would kind of leave the sample and again, like that first time I was like, it's a party, but by the end, you know, it was kind of like, bye, see ya, love you, you know, like you lay up and I'm going to go, we don't have to like have cupcakes or whatever.
[00:25:15] Olivia Ford: And then the two week wait starts, which anybody who is trying to get pregnant knows very well. The like, okay, the clock has started, you know, like, is my, temperature staying up? Cause that's the thing, like if you're pregnant, your basal body temperature in the morning will stay at an elevated level and start to actually, I think elevate even more and as part of your menstrual cycle, when you are no longer in a fertile window and you are not pregnant, your temperature goes back down.
[00:25:38] Olivia Ford: So it's one of those things that you watch. Like, is my temperature staying up? Is it still up or did it go down? Like below a certain level. And that's, you know, kind of like the roughly two week wait between you know, inseminating and knowing if you're pregnant.
[00:25:50] Olivia Ford: And again, we did that 10 times, um, nine times at home and we actually did go to a clinic once and do intrauterine insemination with his donor semen, which is a whole, which is another story- that's like "Olivia and her Donor Meet the, like, Reproductive Industry." Because we had been doing all of this at home and like taking cues and like some advice from medical literature, but not actually going to a clinic and like engaging with a clinic in that way.
[00:26:22] Olivia Ford: And it's just a whole other ball game and it's a very heteronormative ballgame. I mean, and then, you know, and it starts to get into what our insurance would cover. Like up until that point, you know, I'd really just done regular GYN visits, regular primary care provider visits, everything had been covered by my insurance.
[00:26:42] Olivia Ford: In terms of HIV research, the person having an undetectable viral load is really like protection enough. You don't have to take PrEP. But at the time all of these things were fairly new. And I was like, I'll take PrEP as another, like layer of prevention. And I was taking it, but it was covered by my insurance. I had rarely really had to like, pay for anything big, frankly, in the, in the couple of years.
[00:27:00] Olivia Ford: And then after, you know, after a number of times, a couple of years trying, and it wasn't working, I was like, let's get a little more technical. Let's basically what we were doing at home was intra-cervical insemination, at home insemination, you like put the semen up by the cervix and like, say, good luck sperm, get on your way to swim up into the uterus and like implant and make a baby. And it had not worked.
[00:27:22] Olivia Ford: So intrauterine insemination is, is more direct. There are some providers that will do it outside of a clinic setting. There are some midwives who do it, which is lovely.
[00:27:31] Olivia Ford: It can be done at home, but, you need like some there's additional, just like more high-tech tools that you need and support that you need to do it at home. And we didn't have that. So we went into this clinic. It was one that I was already aware of through my work as one that would work with couples, people trying to have a baby where one of the partners was living with HIV.
[00:27:50] Olivia Ford: There really weren't sort of very few, fertility clinics that would work with people living with HIV, period. And then as there were a few that would, they had very, very stringent guidelines for what procedures they would sanction and perform. And for the most part, it was, they would only do IVF. Like basically the goal was as little contact between a human who is not living with HIV and the semen of a human who is living with HIV as possible. They would only do in vitro fertilization with sperm washing to like, remove any potential, like HIV cells from the sperm.
[00:28:23] Olivia Ford: And then, you know, basically like harvesting eggs, you know, like create embryo off here in petri dish and then reinsert it. This is a very expensive and invasive procedure. I thought of as something that, in terms of my fertility, that I was not yet needing to graduate to, because it's an intervention that's often used if other things have not worked and we hadn't tried those other things, we hadn't had the opportunity.
[00:28:46] Olivia Ford: And I had heard tell that this clinic was starting to, in keeping with what we were learning about the science on HIV transmission and the very low to no likelihood that a person who's on successful treatment, who has an undetectable viral load, is going to transmit HIV. They were starting to kind of incorporate that into their practice and be less stringent about those particulars. Like basically they would do regular fertility interventions on a couple where one person was living with HIV, as opposed to this like mega intervention that is not always indicated for the person's level of need for that intervention, if that makes sense.
[00:29:21] Olivia Ford: So I knew about this clinic just through my work. I knew they were starting to do like intrauterine insemination with like women who are not living with HIV and their partners who were living with HIV. So I was like, let's go. But we still had to say, we are partners in order to be seen, you know, like we couldn't just be like, we're just two like swinging queer folks. We're not like life partners. We're just trying to have a baby together. Like you really have to kind of like be straight.
[00:29:43] Taja Lindley: Who makes that a requirement? Is that a law? Is that a hospital or clinical policy or health insurance policy or some combination?
[00:29:52] Olivia Ford: It's an FDA designation of whether you are partnered or whether the person you are with is a tissue donor. Even if you don't call them that.
[00:30:00] Olivia Ford: But basically if you're a partner with someone and you're having, and it's assumed that you're having sex, there's an assumed level of risk that this person is entering into where we are not liable for whatever happens, in terms of them acquiring a health condition.
[00:30:12] Olivia Ford: But if the person is not your sexual partner, then they are a tissue donor, and that falls under more stringent guidelines in terms of the FDA and what is allowed in terms of that clinic being able to continue to operate as a clinic. Because they're, you know, they would be seen as being in violation of like FDA standards for a tissue donor.
[00:30:32] Olivia Ford: If they just let you walk in off the street, quote, unquote, and be the two people who have decided to have a baby together and take that person's semen and inject it into the other person's body through intrauterine insemination. No matter what their knowledge is or your knowledge is about, and no matter what you've said you're accepting in terms of potential vulnerability, those kinds of interpersonal human processes don't enter into the, the frame in terms of like, what is allowed by, you know, like FDA regulations.
[00:30:58] Olivia Ford: So basically if I had gone in there and been like, we're just trying to have baby, you know, like we're doing it the old fashion gay way. I've been inseminating at home, it hasn't been working. Want to help us, like help us in our journey? We're already on this journey together, you know?
[00:31:11] Olivia Ford: They'd be like, well, you're a tissue donor. So give us a sample. You're going to quarantine it for six months. We're going to do all this testing. Right. Do all this, this and that. Like, basically you are separated as people who have decided to have a baby together and you become like donor and recipient, just no matter what.
[00:31:26] Olivia Ford: We never even tried that because I already knew that that was what would happen. And again, this is the kind of thing that it actually is in queer parenting and getting pregnant books. Like they talk about those kinds of designations. And the kinds of roadblocks that you can run into with a known donor.
[00:31:40] Olivia Ford: And really like a, like a system, you know, it's just biased against queer folks. It's biased against gay men. Gay men cannot donate sperm anyway, you know, like he could not have been an unknown donor. You can't get a gay man's sperm any other way. You can't go through like traditional channels.
[00:31:54] Olivia Ford: I wanted to stay away from having to engage with a system that's biased against my people, you know, I didn't want to have to bend. And I really reconciled it to myself, we reconciled to ourselves in that. I mean, when I was like, this is my partner, that was true to me. We were partners in trying to make this baby. And they never said, what kind of partner, life? You know? Like they never actually asked if like, you know, I mean, they were like, how long have you been trying? And we said, we've been trying for X amount of time. They didn't say were you having sex? I mean, there are so many things that are just assumed when you are assumed to be heterosexual, that we just went with it.
[00:32:27] Olivia Ford: So we never actually had to like say untrue things because we are partners in trying to do this. You know, and it's funny. Cause like, you know, when we went into meet the doctor, he was like, where did you meet? And, we, we told him where we met, you know what I mean? Like we told them like, yeah, hi-jinks talk about hi-jinks.
[00:32:44] Olivia Ford: So we did do that once and you know, through the clinic, we did that once together, after a couple of years that it just hadn't been working.
[00:32:52] Olivia Ford: We both had to go in for like the morning monitoring stuff and he had to like give a sample in the clinic at a separate time. Like they take it, they do like a process of washing it so that it's like, ready to like go into the uterus basically.
[00:33:04] Olivia Ford: And then I had to take, I think I took Clomid. Part of their process is like, you augment the process by taking fertility drugs. So I did that. It did not work. The second time we were kind of like getting back into doing it and we were going to go to do another go. The Clomid had caused me to have an ovarian cyst, so they wouldn't do the procedure again because of that.
[00:33:28] Olivia Ford: So we never did it again in the clinic. We actually did try one or two more times at home, even though, cause at the cyst doesn't necessarily stop you from getting pregnant, but it stops you from doing, it stops them from doing the procedure. You know, they're like, no, we can't do that. Until that- it'll probably clear up on its own, but we're not going to do it until that's cleared up.
[00:33:44] Olivia Ford: But we tried again, I think one or two more times at home and were not successful. At a certain point we lovingly parted as partners in baby-making.
[00:33:55] Olivia Ford: And he gave just so much to that process. I've sort of talked about it in terms of like, we tried 10 times, it didn't work, but every time was really hard. Like every time is devastating. Like you think that that's going to be the time.
[00:34:08] Olivia Ford: I remember all these times when I would get my period or my temperature would drop or, you know, it would just for whatever other way, it would be clear. Like I'm not pregnant again. Every two week wait, my imagination would give birth to this baby.
[00:34:23] Olivia Ford: It is a roller coaster ups, downs, joy pain, like just being so sure that this is the time this is going to be the, you know, like this is the month. Like I'm going to get pregnant. I can feel it. You know, like I feel different, you know, like I feel like there's a baby in there. Like, I feel like this is the time, and just being so hopeful and just being so sure. It is a reaming process. And I'm so grateful that I was engaged in it with someone who could hold that space, who was just really loving with me, was loving with himself.
[00:34:52] Olivia Ford: We were just really honest with each other. We could still, you know, kind of like laugh about it, even as it was really, it was challenging. It was challenging to not be successful. It was challenging to plan around our lives.
[00:35:03] Olivia Ford: It was just really hard at the time, but I'm grateful for that experience, you know, like I'm really grateful for having gone through that. I probably wouldn't have said that at the time, because I was just like, I just want to fucking get pregnant and have a baby.
[00:35:14] Olivia Ford: It just flies in the face of, I guess like meritocracy, like you, you can do all the things right. Like you can kind of like be the best at trying to get pregnant and it still doesn't work. Like you can do everything that every book, every expert, every piece of evidence, every sensation in your body, every piece of intuition that you have tells you to do. And it's still, it's just so counterintuitive. It's like, but I did all the things. Did I do something wrong? And the answer is like, no, probably not.
[00:35:41] Olivia Ford: I'll always wonder whether the next time we tried would have been the time that it would have taken, like it would have worked. And we would've gotten pregnant with a baby that was with this person that I knew that I loved that we had this agreement with, this pact we were in this journey together. Maybe the next time or the time after would have been the time that it would work, but it really was time to shift, shift gears, shift approaches.
[00:36:03] Olivia Ford: Like as queer folks, I feel like we're kind of like, even though there's a lot of people who are doing it, we're still kind of making the road by walking, you know? So people are like, tell me what you did. Like, tell me how you talk to your known donor. Like, did you have a legal agreement?
[00:36:13] Olivia Ford: We actually, I was in the process of writing an agreement that we would sign, kind of like formalizing that process. And many, many legal experts said, this is not a thing that will necessarily hold up in court. Basically, if your breakdown in communication is such that this person wants a level of relationship with the child that you don't want and you end up going to court about it. This is not a document that will hold up in court, but it is a statement of your original intentions. And it can remind you of that if things get bad. And I was really, that really resonated with me. And, and, is part of why I chose the person I did, because I felt like we could communicate no matter what.
[00:36:50] Olivia Ford: And I felt like if our desires changed, we can communicate about that and make a different arrangement. Like if he was like, oh my God, I feel like, actually I'm a dad. Let's talk about me having like actual custody. I would have been willing to talk about that. You know, like I would have been willing to talk about almost anything with this person.
[00:37:04] Taja Lindley: What year was this that you all decided to stop doing this together?
[00:37:09] Olivia Ford: Maybe late 2015. It was around the time that I moved full-time to New Orleans. It was definitely around that time that I was like, I'm making this move. Logistically, it would really be really difficult to continue. And also we've been doing it for awhile. Let's like, lovingly just like stop. Close out, you know, like just like have a loving, like close out, like, thank you so much for this journey.
[00:37:40] Olivia Ford: In terms of my continuing to try to get pregnant, you know, I had been with my partner now for several years. You know, and it felt right to, at this point, be like, well, what would you want in a donor? Like, what do you want this process to look like? Cause we had, we were basically still going on my playbook, which was, she was fine with. Like she was onboard and you know, it's like, okay, what's the, what are the alternatives?
[00:38:01] Olivia Ford: Like, what do you want this to look like? Do we pick out a donor who has like traits that are like yours? You know, or do we even, like we thought about maybe someone in her family, like a man in her family being a donor. We kind of kicked around those ideas and decided against it. Yeah, and we eventually, just went the quote unquote traditional reproductive technology way of starting to work with a fertility clinic in New Orleans and finding sperm through a sperm bank and purchasing it and trying that way. And the second time it worked.
[00:38:30] Olivia Ford: It's so funny if you, when you sign up with sperm banks and like get an account or whatever they do coupons, they have sales.
[00:38:38] Olivia Ford: It's like, they're like this month, like buy one, get one free, like buy one vial, get one free or like buy four, get one free. Or what have you. So like when I first signed up with this particular sperm bank, we went through all these like files at these different sperm banks. We chose this one.
[00:38:55] Olivia Ford: We found a like a fertility clinic that we were really happy with, in New Orleans and, we had picked out this donor and then, you know, I was kinda like, oh, whatever, I'll, you know, sooner or later we'll decide to buy the sperm. And then I got this coupon in my email and I was like, well, I gotta take advantage of this sale. So I bought two vials of semen and the second one, I got pregnant with it.
[00:39:18] Olivia Ford: One of our things that we were looking for and that you can filter for when you search for a donor was do they have past pregnancies and this one did.
[00:39:27] Olivia Ford: We wanted a donor who would be open to being known at a certain point in our child's life. So the donor that we ended up choosing is what is an open ID donor who was willing to have their identity revealed when the child is 18.
[00:39:40] Olivia Ford: We also wanted someone Black, which when you filter for that, the numbers drop way down because a lot of the donors are white, you know, like a lot, it's just, yeah, this is like a very, also a very white system.
[00:39:52] Olivia Ford: I feel like maybe part of my journey in the future that I have not gotten that deeply into in terms of sort of expanding the fertility industry to be more inclusive and to be more accessible to folks of color and Black folks and having more options for us.
[00:40:06] Olivia Ford: It's funny because I would say this to my acupuncturist, who is just like, she was my everything in a lot of ways during this time, like I just talked to her a lot about this process. She was probably the provider that I was most engaged with around like the nitty-gritty of the process. She was just very understanding. She was really amazing. And I feel like I was like, man, I need to do all this advocacy around like sperm donation and blah, blah, blah. And she's like, girl, just get pregnant.
[00:40:28] Olivia Ford: Like, she's like, don't go into this yang place of trying to burn the house down and like change the system, just concentrate on getting pregnant. And that was really like to get that permission as someone who's like, I need to just get in here and like change the system, you know? Like she, I mean, she was like, that's great. Like that's important. Like for now, concentrate on getting pregnant. I was like, okay.
[00:40:46] Olivia Ford: The first time we tried was the end of 2016 going into 2017.
[00:40:51] Olivia Ford: I found out I was not pregnant on Christmas 2016. After a long time of not trying at this point, I am now in my mid going on late thirties. And not only am I aware, but frigging pop culture, everything you read is being very clear that your fertility plummets. Like I was seeing myself go through that age process, regardless of what was actually happening in my own body. I was seeing myself in the context of statistics and being like, oh, I feel like I need to like, step up the methods.
[00:41:22] Olivia Ford: I found out I was pregnant on August 30th. 2017.
[00:41:26] Olivia Ford: I had been working with a fertility clinic in New Orleans. And I went and got tested there. That was sort of part of their process. Like you inseminate with them, you come back in two weeks and do a pregnancy test. I have all of this, you know, knowledge of my own body at my disposal.
[00:41:42] Olivia Ford: So I was aware that my temperature was not dropping, but that, you know, there, I had had points before where it just doesn't drop for a couple of days and then it does. But I was like, okay, I was cautiously optimistic, but still cautious.
[00:41:54] Olivia Ford: It was the first time I'd ever gotten results about whether or not I was pregnant from another person. Other times I had just peed on a stick. I like held off from doing like a home pregnancy test.
[00:42:02] Olivia Ford: I got the test. They told me around what time they were going to be calling. I tried not to like gear my entire day towards it, but I did.
[00:42:09] Olivia Ford: You know, I like worked not too far from home. I worked at like a coworking space and my wife worked at home and I was like, I was like, come by, like around lunchtime, they're going to call and you'll be there, like when they call, you know. And she actually got there, like a minute or two after they had called and told me I can still hear Jamie, the nurse practitioner who inseminated me successfully.
[00:42:27] Olivia Ford: I can still hear her voice in my head. And she's like, you got your test results. You are pregnant with her little Southern accent. And congratulations. I was like, aahhh. So August 30th.
[00:42:37] Taja Lindley: Wow. That's beautiful.
[00:42:39] Olivia Ford: I did end up peeing on a stick too, because I just wanted to see it. Like, I, I had taken so many pregnancy tests that were negative. Like I just wanted to like on the commercial for crying out loud and just like, you know, like that, that very kind of like, it's like this emblematic part of trying to get pregnant where you like, look at the stick and it like turns a color and you're like pregnant.
[00:42:57] Olivia Ford: I actually still have that on my altar, even though I realized that something that I have had my, that I peed on. But you put, you know, you like put a little cap on it. Anyway. So, the line's still though it's been like four years. Anyway, so that's how I found out.
[00:43:14] Taja Lindley: Love it. And I hope you took a picture for posterity sake as well. If okay. In case the day of her came that she had to throw out the object.
[00:43:23] Taja Lindley: Um,
[00:43:24] Olivia Ford: No, I totally took a picture. Because, you know, I was texting that picture it to all my people who had been like tracking the whole process. So I was like, girl, you know, like 12th time's a charm, so yeah.
[00:43:34] Taja Lindley: What were some of the milestones of your pregnancy experience?
[00:43:38] Olivia Ford: After many eventful years of trying to get pregnant, my pregnancy itself was really it was medically uneventful. I was just, everything was so new. Like I was less like joy and more just like, whoa, you know, like what, like all these things that I knew intellectually happened to people's bodies were now happening to me. I mean, I've attended people's labors, like for many years and births for many years and known pregnant people and sort of had like a higher than normal for like U.S. society knowledge of like the process as someone who had never gone through it. And it was like completely new, everything felt completely new, because it was happening to me.
[00:44:14] Olivia Ford: I decided after, you know, kind of thinking about, do I want to do midwives for my prenatal care as well as the birth? You know, there's, there's a couple of different options in New Orleans. There's no freestanding birthing center, which would have been like my gold standard. They're birthing centers within hospitals, which are basically just like a different room in a hospital, where you can birth with midwives.
[00:44:33] Olivia Ford: I ended up going with an OB, she was a Black woman. That was a huge part of it. All the midwives working in New Orleans at the time were white, all the ones working in like in the hospital setting at the time. We decided not to pursue home birth for the first labor and birth. I really liked my OB and it was significant to have a Black woman provider. And that bore out through the entire process, through my labor and birth, which she was present for, which was really nice.
[00:44:58] Olivia Ford: Which is much more of a standard thing in New Orleans than I remember it being in New York. Like in New York, everybody's so busy, the practices are huge. It's pretty much understood that the doctor that you're with or the midwife that you're with your entire pregnancy, it's highly likely they will not be at your birth.
[00:45:14] Olivia Ford: Hopefully you get to meet the other people in the practice. So throughout my pregnancy, I kept saying, well, when I'm going to go meet the other people in your practice. Like what if they end up being the person who was at my labor at my birth, like when do I get to meet them? And she was like, we don't really do that. I'm going to be there.
[00:45:27] Olivia Ford: There are a lot of things about my care that make me feel very glad that I went through this in New Orleans, as opposed to in New York, just in terms of my own personality and my needs from a provider. The slower pace of the, of the culture and of the city translates to the kind of care that you receive. And I really appreciated that in this time in my life.
[00:45:48] Olivia Ford: I have never felt, I don't think ever or very rarely in New York with a medical provider, like they were fully present. I always felt like they were already on their next thing. I always felt like if they were behaving as if they were present, that it was a very rigorous training that they are trying to behave as if they're present, but they're actually not. "Do you have any other questions?" With your hand on the door, opening it, as they are walking out the door. "Do you have any questions? Okay, bye."
[00:46:12] Olivia Ford: As someone who, you know, like knows how to self-advocate, I am very immersed in a world of people who put a lot of primacy on like, getting your voice heard in medical settings and at getting your questions answered no matter what. You know, I'm the first person to be like, oh, you're busy. Okay, well go ahead. And then I go home and I have eight questions that didn't get answered.
[00:46:31] Olivia Ford: The experience of having a provider go, "Do you have any questions?" And then just sitting there was pretty amazing. And that's what I experienced in my care in New Orleans.
[00:46:41] Taja Lindley: So did you secure a doula? Did you have a birth plan?
[00:46:45] Olivia Ford: I did secure a doula, interestingly through the doula collective through which I eventually became a perinatal health advocate.
[00:46:51] Olivia Ford: And I knew some folks already who were involved in the collective and found my doula through the collective. And she was awesome as well. Um, I think, I mean, I think everyone could benefit from having a doula, even if you have supportive partners, supportive mama, friends.
[00:47:06] Olivia Ford: Even though, you know, like my partner was super present, it was an awesome, I say this to her all the time, was such an awesome birth partner. And she was really apprehensive. Like she had never attended anybody's labor. So, you know, that piece was really new, but she was just like super amazing, super present. She was just great. And it was really great to have like, like our doula made that possible. It was really helpful both to have her expertise and also to have her to like help bring Tara in, you know. Tara is my wife.
[00:47:34] Olivia Ford: I mean, I may be a really good self advocate, but when you're giving birth is not the time when you want to be like, "Hey, I don't want that to happen." You need other people to like, facilitate that for you, facilitate the lifting of your voice, you know, and the guardianship of your needs and desires.
[00:47:48] Taja Lindley: So when did you go into labor? Walk us through sort of like the initiation and what was your experience? Did things go according to plan?
[00:47:59] Olivia Ford: There was a cover story of the New York Times Magazine, a brilliant piece written by Linda Villarosa about Black maternal health. Like the Black maternal health crisis essentially. The story that she told at the core of that really just like beautifully reported, amazing, just like groundbreaking piece was of a mother in New Orleans who had had just a really traumatic birth and ended up losing her child, basically due to like hospital neglect, essentially. That was the hospital. I was giving birth. This came out two weeks before I was giving birth.
[00:48:29] Olivia Ford: And the doula collective that was also profiled, you know, like the doula that was profiled is a friend of mine. She was a part of the doula collective that I had my doula through. So sort of in that context, you know, I was aware that, you know, all of the best laid plans, all the good OB, all the good nutrition, all the good, this, like I'm a Black woman giving birth in the U.S.. Like you control for any variable and our outcomes are devastating, no matter what variable you control for: education, anything. And I was already aware of that and I was very acutely aware of that. So we're going into the final weeks of my pregnancy, you know, taking in this story, like for all I know we gave birth in the same room. I don't know that for certain, but I actually New Orleans being a very small world. I've actually met the person.
[00:49:19] Olivia Ford: And, you know, like It was just sort of information to hold. There wasn't necessarily anything, anything that I could quote unquote do about that, you know? But that said, you know, I went into labor. I went into labor on a Wednesday morning.
[00:49:31] Olivia Ford: Side note, my OB, I had seen her earlier that week and she was like, I'm going to be traveling. Don't go into labor before Wednesday because I won't be here. And she actually she's like, she's like, trust me. This works. She puts her hands on my belly and she's like, "Okay, baby. I'm going to be out of town. Don't come until at least Wednesday. Cause I'll be back on Wednesday. Okay? Okay."
[00:49:51] Olivia Ford: Lo and behold, I go and I started having contractions at 1am on Wednesday. I was like, this baby was listening. So I had sort of like this intense contraction, this intense kind of wave pressure wave. And then I had another one, 10 minutes later.
[00:50:06] Olivia Ford: And I was trying to go to bed. Like I just laid down in bed and I had another one 10 minutes later and then I had another one, 10 minutes after that. And I was like, okay, that's a rhythm. I got up. And I went to the bathroom and I, there was like a little bit of like blood in my underwear. I had lost my mucus plug. So I was like, okay, that's two signs. Let's go to triage.
[00:50:23] Olivia Ford: So we get there at like 4:00 AM. We lived about 10 minutes away from where I delivered. So it was easy to get there.
[00:50:29] Olivia Ford: Um, the only time I had really actively negative experiences, like profoundly where I wanted to kick somebody in the face, was at that point in triage. With this young ass resident who, I mean, not, this is not an agist thing cause I also had some really amazing experiences with residents too. But I feel like she was just like... she was probably tired. She probably pulled a long shift. She was this white woman. She was just kind of like this, had this like, know it all vibe. And she was trying to like check my cervix and I was clenching up just because of like not feeling her. And she's like, you're a hard check. Like if you don't relax, I'm going to have to like - I can't remember what she threatened me with. She was just like, I'm going to have to like use some tool. I can't remember what the hell she said. It was just something where she's basically like threatening me to get me to like, relax.
[00:51:17] Olivia Ford: And I was just like, later for that. It was, it was just, it was shady. It was shitty, but you know, it was also at the end, it was like 7:00 AM. It was, and you know, I'm sure she is at the end of a long shift blahzay blahzay, but she saw, I'm sure she saw 500 people, but it kind of behooves you being in this line of work to just be able to put that on hold. If you can't get your fucking fist in my vagina, like there's a reason for it. You know what I mean? Like there's reasons and you're yelling at me is not helping.
[00:51:41] Olivia Ford: So anyway, we were there for a couple of hours. They monitor me. I was not very dilated. I texted my doula. I think I started and I wasn't dilated at all when we got there. And by the time I left at about 7/ 7:30 in the morning, I was one centimeter. Which is not a lot. So when I texted my doula, she was like, yay, maybe we'll see the baby in like a few days.
[00:51:59] Olivia Ford: And I was like, yeah, okay. We'll kind of like, take it easy at home. And you know, like, wait a few days, you know, just kind of like, see how things unfold. But by the time we got like, we stopped and got some breakfast when our way home, I was already at the point where I was like, these can, these, like these waves are uncomfortable.
[00:52:18] Olivia Ford: Like I can't talk through them anymore. Like, that's the sort of like the rules, you know what I mean? Like if you can talk while you're having a, like having a contraction, you know, you're probably pretty early in labor.
[00:52:27] Olivia Ford: So, um, you know, we just sort of spent the day at home, intermittently just managing these contractions, eating some snacks, going on my hands and knees doing my little position changes, getting my encouragement from my boo.
[00:52:43] Olivia Ford: And then at about 10, they just very quickly started coming really intensely and like one to two minutes apart, if that. And it's funny because I have been trying, I write way too long text messages. I had been trying to write an update text to my doula all day. Like I would start the text, then I would have a contraction.
[00:53:01] Olivia Ford: She hasn't heard from me since the morning. Until we call her at like 10:30. I'm like screaming. I'm like banging the like headboard against the wall. Like, you know, my wife was like, all right, well, I think we're going to like head to Touro now, it's where I delivered Touro Birthing Center, nominally, it's called a birthing center. It's not really a birthing center. So poor thing, I really should have been updating her all day sadly, but she was cool.
[00:53:25] Olivia Ford: I didn't have a contraction the whole time we were on our way to the hospital. I didn't have one while they were wheeling me in. And my doula was basically like, tender, you know, sort of very carefully being like, we're going to triage now, but based on what they say, what would you need to hear in order for you to feel like it's okay for you to stay? And what would you need to hear in order for us to advocate for you to just go back home?
[00:53:44] Olivia Ford: Because she was concerned that like, okay, everything has stopped, but they're gonna admit you. You get to the hospital and they're like, things are too slow. Let's do an intervention. It's harder to say no once you're there. If you possibly can, again, for those at home: labor at home, as long as possible, labor at home as long as possible be as far along as you possibly can be based on what is safe before you like go in, because you just are in, once you go into the hospital, you're in their world.
[00:54:10] Olivia Ford: Just that cascade of interventions can happen.
[00:54:12] Olivia Ford: Like we got to triage and I started having more contractions and it turned out I was seven centimeters. So I was like, okay, well let's just, let's just stick around. And, you know, it's funny cause it's like the next shift. Like it's basically the same time I was there the day before. So same nurses, a lot of the same nurses were there. They're like, oh, you're back. We didn't think we'd see you for a couple of days, you know.
[00:54:33] Olivia Ford: They admitted me, I got in a room with a tub that worked cause I really wanted to like, you know, have the tub as part of my, as part of my comfort though, one of my OB's boundaries was I don't give birth in the tub. She was like, I do not assist birth in the tub. If you want to sit in the tub, all you want, you can. But if you're going to deliver, I'm going to get you out of that tub before I deliver you or before the baby's born.
[00:54:52] Olivia Ford: And I was like, okay, in my mind, I was like, if that baby's coming to the tub, it's just going to come in the tub, get on board. But I ended up giving birth outside of the tub. I ended up, you know, like of my own volition, getting in the tub, enjoying it, having contractions, probably getting a nap in, there are pictures of me in the tub, napping and Tara's in the background napping, which I didn't remember happening at the time, but I have photographic proof that she, you know, was able to get a little rest.
[00:55:14] Olivia Ford: Came out of the tub. At that point, my OB came, I guess she came about an hour, hour and a half before I gave birth, which again was nice. Sometimes they just swoop in at the very last second. She had this cadre of Black residents like Black women residents who were like, I just felt like they were like my angels, you know, like it was, I just was like surrounded by Black women, mostly when I was giving birth. And that was super amazing too. And also not common either. And again, I don't know if it was like, Olivia is giving birth, let me call the Black residents and make sure that she's like surrounded by all this beautiful Blackness. I think it was really just more like who her cadre of residents is, you know? It was pretty amazing and beautiful and I felt really blessed about that.
[00:55:55] Olivia Ford: I just felt really, again, a lot of people have a lot of really negative experiences, particularly with this particular specific place of giving birth. I feel like a huge part of my doula's role was making sure that everything felt like my own idea. People would say things like well we're going to do this. Oh, well time to do this. And she would say, Olivia, did you hear that? Are you okay with that? Does that sound good? Like, does that sound like something would have happened? I'd be like, yeah, yeah, that's fine. But everything was filtered through whether or not it was okay with me. And that was huge.
[00:56:22] Taja Lindley: Yeah, that's one of my pet peeves around the healthcare system is the way-- I actually think it's really dehumanizing to treat people as objects. Like you're still working with a human being, even though it might be one of a dozen people giving birth on your shift and you've done it a million times, this person is still a person. You know, you got to introduce yourself, you got to ask questions, you got to have some good bedside manner. And you know, if it doesn't work, then it might be time for a new profession.
[00:56:52] Olivia Ford: I am with you. I am with you on this a thousand percent and also just the whole piece around labor and birth, in and of themselves are not a medical event and they are happening in a medical context that the system and the context requires that medical things occur and they like make them occur.
[00:57:10] Olivia Ford: And for the most part labor and birth - not a medical event. Just give it some space, you know. So I was really grateful for the holding of that space. And yeah, I mean, just, I generally, again, this could have gone many ways, but I had a really good experience.
[00:57:24] Taja Lindley: And I'm glad you had a, a predominantly good experience. Um, so Orian comes earthside.
[00:57:31] Olivia Ford: Yes she does on May 3rd, 2018.
[00:57:35] Taja Lindley: What is the immediate postpartum like?
[00:57:36] Olivia Ford: Well, immediately, I mean literally like within minutes, you know, she's born and it was just like this huge relief, you know? And, you know, I pushed for like maybe I guess, like an hour and a half or so, and, you know, here she comes and, you know, she's just got her like little, like I'm here, you know, like eyes open, just kinda like already likes looking super curious.
[00:57:58] Olivia Ford: You know, people say like, I immediately fell in love. That was not necessarily, my experience which is not that I didn't love her, but I just, what I felt most was like protection. Like I protect you. Like, I'm your protector.
[00:58:08] Olivia Ford: I hadn't slept for like two days. Soon after she was born, I was just like super duper exhausted. And I immediately, and this is one of those things that if I had it to do over, this is like an aspect of self-advocacy that I honestly had not thought of, which is that I was in a lot of pain from this tear. They just immediately gave me pain meds. And I got Pitocin after she was born to deliver the placenta. I was like, we got this whole effort, this whole fucking birth without any Pitocin. And now I have Pitocin? To interrupt, like my natural flow of oxytocin? Like, that was one thing that wasn't really questioned.
[00:58:40] Olivia Ford: They're like, okay, we've got the Pitocin on here now for the placenta. And I was just like, but by then she was born. Again, just one of those, you know, like, the, the system can sort of be very opportunistic and, you know, there's kind of like, oh, she's busy. Let me just like, do all these things.
[00:58:54] Taja Lindley: What are some words of advice you can give to folks who are considering following a similar path that you went down?
[00:59:01] Olivia Ford: I feel like if I have any kind of guidance is just to, just be open to the lessons of the time. Just let the process, whatever it is, like be a teacher. So being able to hold that balance of letting go and recognizing that it's impossible to control or kind of like predict the outcome of every move, but also having that thoughtfulness about your moves. And that certainly that's, that's a good warmup for parenting because that is like parenting is just adapting based on what this person, this new person like brings into your life.
[00:59:39] Olivia Ford: I'm just glad that you're having these conversations. I'm so excited to be part of it. I just, I love telling birth stories. I love telling them sort of through a queer lens and with queer folks and in a queer context, especially a Black queer context. We have babies in all kinds of ways. We raise them in all kinds of beautiful ways. I'm excited to be part of the conversation in this way.
[01:00:01] Olivia Ford: And I'm really excited that I got to talk to you. It's such a blessing and I'm so grateful for your work.
[01:00:12] Taja Lindley: Shout out to Olivia for her tenacity and determination to become a mother. 12 attempts ain't nothing to sneeze at. Okay?!
[01:00:19] Taja Lindley: There are so many ways that Olivia's story really highlights the double entendre of labor.
[01:00:25] Taja Lindley: First, her relationship with HIV. Her work in the field really supported her in navigating and self facilitating intra-cervical insemination at home with her known donor slash friend.
[01:00:37] Taja Lindley: She understood the research, the precautions to take, the medical technology available, and the sociopolitical climate of finding a clinic to support her process when she decided to do intrauterine insemination.
[01:00:49] Taja Lindley: This double entendre also shows up when Olivia was met with the limitations of the fertility industry. Namely, how Black folks are not properly represented and included in sperm banks, and how that prompted a desire within Olivia to do something about it. But thank goodness for the acupuncturist who reminded Olivia, that she ain't got to do it all. That she can just be trying to get pregnant. And that is enough. A message for all of us.
[01:01:15] Taja Lindley: Olivia's story is just so fascinating. She went from potential single parenthood to married and co-creating a baby with her partner now wife. And there are so many more poignant, funny and important moments of her journey that we just could not fit into this episode. But the good news is you can listen to her entire interview on Patreon.com/ TajaLindley where we talk more about the hi-jinks of baby-making, navigating Black queer Brooklyn, and so much more.
[01:01:43] Taja Lindley: Both birth stories in this season of the podcast started with an intuitive knowing of the right time. Both LeConte's and Olivia's journeys were non-linear and filled with grief and sadness and loss and disappointment, but they remained committed to the vision, even as it was filled with surprises, unanticipated, hiccups, and blessings. Staying the course: that even when things got hard and challenging, they still continued, they still tried, and they still listened to their inner knowing and their inner calling that this was the right time.
[01:02:16] Taja Lindley: I also noticed some other similarities between their stories: like learning more deeply about their bodies in their thirties, becoming more intimate with the calendar of their fertility cycle, and the frustrations of immediate postpartum care in hospitals.
[01:02:30] Taja Lindley: And I want to close by saying: I love birth stories because they remind me of the literal and metaphysical process of bringing someone or something into being from conception to postpartum. The organizing principles of creation.
[01:02:46] Taja Lindley: There are so many ways to create. And I hope everyone who listens to these stories feels inspired to create in all of the ways you feel called to do so. Follow your own path, create your own story, birth your possibilities. I'm rooting for you.
[01:03:02] Taja Lindley: I give thanks for your time, attention, and listenership.
[01:03:06] 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. And if you'd like to share your story or perspective with us, write us a message or leave us a voicemail at BlackWomens Labor.com.
[01:03:21] Taja Lindley: Find us on Instagram @BlackWomens Labor and sign up for our newsletter to receive project updates in your inbox.
[01:03:28] Taja Lindley: You can also support this podcast by dropping some coins in our PayPal or purchasing the podcast music on ColoredGirlsHustle .Bandcamp .com.
[01:03:38] Taja Lindley: The Black Women's Dept. of Labor is created and hosted by yours truly, Taja Lindley, also known as the HBIC.
[01:03:46] Taja Lindley: Audio engineering by Lilah Larson.
[01:03:48] Taja Lindley: Music by Emma Alabaster, who also served as the Pre-production Associate Producer.
[01:03:54] Taja Lindley: Additional music production by Chip Belton.
[01:03:56] Taja Lindley: Vocals by Patience Sings.
[01:03:59] Taja Lindley: Mixing and mastering by Chip Belton.
[01:04:02] Taja Lindley: Lyrics by Taja Lindley and Emma Alabaster.
[01:04:05] Taja Lindley: Logo and graphic design templates by Homegirl HQ.
[01:04:09] Taja Lindley: This podcast is produced by Colored Girls Hustle.
Editorial Director, Mama, Doula
Olivia G. Ford (she/her; they/their) has been engaged with HIV-related media since 2007. She is the editorial director for The Well Project, an online information, support, and advocacy resource serving a global audience of women living with HIV. She has previously held leadership positions with Positive Women's Network - USA and at TheBody/TheBodyPRO; and consulted with organizations such as Echoing Ida, HIV Justice Network, InPartnership, and the Sero Project. She also trained as a doula for the first time in 2004 and serves as a perinatal health advocate with Birthmark Doula Collective, a birth justice organization supporting pregnant and parenting people and their families in the New Orleans, Louisiana area. Her writing has appeared in Black AIDS Weekly, Positively Aware, POZ, Rewire, and TheBody/TheBodyPro, among other outlets. Olivia and her wife are the dazzled, exhausted co-mamas of a smart-mouthed toddler, Orian (pronounced like “Dorian” without the “D”).
Listen to her full length one-on-one interview on Patreon.com/TajaLindley
Interview length: 02:26:28