Leslie’s Birth Story
Single Mother By Choice with a Donor
Season 2, Episode 4: Single Mother By Choice with a Donor: Leslie’s Birth Story
Episode Description: Society puts a stigma on Black single mothers, stereotyping and devaluing them. But what happens when you become a single mother by choice and choose sperm donation as your pathway to parenthood? This week’s guest, Leslie, used an app, a cup and a Black male donor she met in person to get the baby she so wanted. In this insightful conversation, Leslie takes host Kimberly Seals Allers on a lesser-told journey of reaching Black motherhood in a less traditional way, but still ultimately finding her joy.
- Chanel Stryker-Boykin is the owner of In Joie’s Arms Birth Doula Services, LLC, and a Holistic Labor Support Specialist (Doula), Placenta Encapsulation Specialist, and a Community Childbirth and Lactation Educator in the Metro Atlanta area.
- Paul Ryan is the founder and CEO of Just A Baby, an app described as a “dating app for hopeful parents” where people desiring children can match with surrogates and sperm and egg donors for free.
- To learn more about artificial insemination, check out this article on Healthline.
- Black Sperm Donors is a Facebook group for sperm donors of African descent or recipients interested in receiving donations from or coparenting with them.
- Interested in having a doula and/or midwife for your pregnancy, birth or post-partum period? Here are resources for finding Black midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, and other perinatal specialists of color: Sista Midwife Directory, The Bridge, and National Black Doulas Association.
- Download Irth, the only app where you can find prenatal, birthing, postpartum and pediatric reviews of care from Black and brown birthing people. Leave a review today to help inform and protect others!
- Learn more about having a safe and empowered birth by downloading the free ebook: Birth with Irth: A Mini-Manual to Pregnancy and Childbirth for Black People
- For Black breastfeeding resources, visit Black Breastfeeding Week, Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA), and Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE).
- Get ready for the fifth anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) on April 11-17! Founded and led by Black Mamas matter Alliance, BMHW officially recognized by the White House is a week of awareness, activism, and community building.
- Catch up on episode extras from season 1 and 2 on BIRTHRIGHT’S YOUTUBE PAGE!
- Subscribe to be notified for new episode releases every Wednesday! Love Birthright? Leave a rating and review.
- Get full episode details and transcripts on www.BirthrightPodcast.com
- Follow Kimberly Seals Allers on Twitter on Instagram: @iamKSealsAllers
- Birthright is funded by the California Health Care Foundation and the Commonwealth Fund.
Kimberly Seals Allers 00:01
Welcome the Birthright, a podcast about joy and healing in black birth, where we share positive birth stories of those who have lived out their birthright and help heal those who have been denied it. My name is Kimberly Seals Allers, and I’m the founder of the Irth app, and your host. This is where we celebrate the ways we find joy in our birthing experiences. And ultimately, we claim our birthright.
Today’s birthing story takes us into single motherhood by choice and donor insemination and it involves an app, a turkey baster, and a cup. And we’ll even hear from a Black male sperm donor. But even more interestingly, we explore what it means for Black women, who statistically may be less likely to find a compatible partner within their prime reproductive years but for whom society made single motherhood a scarlet letter, a stereotype, a reason to devalue us and our children; and what it means to find joy entering motherhood solo but on your terms.
Leslie Fickling 00:27
Hi. My name is Leslie Fickling. I’m from Queens, New York. I currently live in Atlanta, Georgia. I have one child. She was born last year on Halloween. Her name is Shay Justice. And this is my birthright story.
Kimberly Seals Allers 00:43
You’re from Queens. I’m from Queens. I still live in Queens. So we just need to get this cleared up. I grew up in St. Albans. How about you?
Leslie Fickling 00:50
St. Albans 198 St. Murdock
Kimberly Seals Allers 00:56
Okay, 204th Street and 116th avenue. Two blocks from Andrew Jackson High School.
Leslie Frickling 01:01
Okay. Okay, neighbor.
Kimberly Seals Allers 01:06
So yeah. That’s right, neighbor. Okay. I always love to meet another Queen from Queens. So, Leslie tell us a little bit about the backstory of why you chose to go with a donor to get pregnant.
Leslie Fickling 01:26
Okay, let’s just say, I’m a workaholic. I love, love kids. You know, most of my family thought I would have kids many, many years ago, but I just always wanted to have the right partner, get married, you know, do everything the traditional way, you know. Society tells us, you know, watching our grandparents, this is the way we’re supposed to do things. And so I decided to wait until I had that partner and I was financially ready. However, I do have discoid lupus and the older I get my, my, sorry, my time is ticking, you know. So during the pandemic, I moved from Los Angeles from being a workaholic. Middle of the pandemic, I moved from Los Angeles to Atlanta to be close to my mom. And around that time, I was just like, you know, I have so many friends and family members who are single parents. Why not give it a shot? You know, so I did my research. I looked into IVF, I looked into sperm bank clinics, all of the things. And one thing I thought about I was like, if I’m putting all this money into finding a sperm donor, what am I going to have to provide for my child? So then I looked into—there’s actually an app called Just A Baby. It’s like Tinder. You swipe left, you swipe right. You can find your donor. It’s called Just A Baby.
Kimberly Seals Allers
You heard it right folks. There’s an app to help you find sperm donors, egg donors, surrogates, and anything you need from a human to make a baby. I spoke with the founder Paul Ryan about why he created Just A Baby.
Paul Ryan 03:38
I felt like it was unfair that society was pushing us down this particular path. Like if you want to have kids, then here’s the formula, you know, boy meets girl, ideally, get married, you know, then have a few kids. And I just felt like that was not for me. Like, I didn’t know what was for me. But, you know, maybe that would happen, but not necessarily, and certainly, probably not. So, but I thought, you know, why does that preclude me from having a family? Why can’t I meet someone and do things the way I want to do them, which you know, I didn’t even know what that is, but we’ll figure it out. I’m sure. So, Just A Baby was about removing the default path of, you know, boy meets girl get married. And we’re not against that, like there’s nothing wrong with boy meets girl. Get married. That’s fine. But it shouldn’t be the default. You know, it shouldn’t be the status quo and then everything other than that is kind of B grade, you know, like, alright, you didn’t get married. Okay, you didn’t make it. So you’re on plan B, you know. So I didn’t want it to be Plan B. I thought everything should just be Plan A. Level the playing field. So that’s what Just A Baby is about. It’s about bringing people together and letting them say, you know, I want to have a kid, you want to have a kid, okay, let’s meet each other. And then let’s talk about the various options and work it out. We’ll work it out without any template, you know, that society deems is, you know, the right way to do it. We’ll just work it out based on our own principles and our own moral judgment.
Leslie Fickling 05:54
And also, just on Facebook, they had different groups called at home insemination, USA sperm donation, and I was just doing my research and just looking through different gentlemen who was on there. You know, you had your questions on why do you want to donate your sperm? You know, what are you getting out of this? You know, as for, you know, they information as far as you know, all of the medical history as far as to their IQ. And this one guy I matched with. And the crazy thing is, I found him on the Facebook group on top of the app, Just A Baby. So, I was like okay, it must be meant, because we both swiped right on this app. And that’s where my journey began. Well, prior to that, you know, I definitely went to the gynecologist, checked to make sure everything was okay, good to go. I started taking tea, taking prenatal vitamins, you know, doing everything just to prepare my body. So then, the first round was in J… No. First round was in December, we tried. And we use this method called mosey baby. And mosey baby is the at home insemination. It’s basically a turkey baster. Pretty much. You have a cup. And he does it in a cup. I have a syringe. And yeah.
Kimberly Seals Allers 07:37
Ok, so, if you’re like me, you have a lot of questions. I mean a lot.. To be clear, donor insemination is not new. It is the oldest form of reproductive donation with the first recorded instance in the U.S. being performed back in the 1880s.
And in recent years, nearly half a million U.S. women have used donor insemination; which is up from past decades, according to recent research.
But the process itself is often shrouded in secrecy and quite frankly, very expensive. And certainly has not been a much-talked about pathway for Black women. But this is a very different way of thinking about donation—different from an anonymous donor where you only have a serial number and some identification details. This is real. This is human. So Leslie, you met in person and he gave you a donation?
Leslie Fickling 08:10
He was there the first time. The first round. Now, let me let me clarify, the first round, I used mosey baby in a disc cup. You know, there’s so many ways to insert semen these days, and you’d be really surprised. So you know, disc cup is what a female uses for you know, their period. And basically, the first time he ejaculated into the cup, I did that, you know. I put my legs in the air for like 45 minutes and kind of waited, and then we waited for a little bit. And the second time he ejaculated in a disc cup. And then when I deal with the disc cup is I inserted it inside of me, and I kept it inside of me for six hours. And that way, you know, the sperm can do what it do. And so, it didn’t. And, you know, I started looking, I was like, what’s going on? Is it me? Am I fertile? What’s happening? And it actually, everything I was looking at research and is, you know is like one, I haven’t had sex with a man in I don’t know, God, how long and I didn’t have sex with him. But also, I never had sperm inside of me. So it was just a lot of stuff that my body was just like, uh I don’t know, this. This is not, I don’t know what’s going on. So the first try didn’t happen at all. So I reached out to him, and I was like, Hey, can we give it another try? So he was like, of course. At this rate, he wanted to be friends with me. He was just like, I think you’re a cool person. You know, we have so much in common and I was like, I don’t know if we’re gonna be friends, because technically you’re anonymous. You know, like, yep, we have all your paperwork. But mainly your name is blocked out, but it’s all verified. But I can’t be friends with somebody who essentially I can’t even tell my child that you’re her father. You know, and that’s not that’s not the route I was going. I definitely wanted an anonymous donor because I wanted to do this on my own. So, you know, my child, know mommy really wanted a baby. And that’s how you came. So that was the first time. And on top of that, you know—and the only thing I paid for was his gas and his hotel expenses. You know, he didn’t charge me for sperm, or any of that sort, you know, nice gentlemen, you kno. I took him out to dinner.
Paul Ryan 10:36
On the context of screening donors, and what protections users have…look, Just A Baby is a social app. We get people signing up from all over the world, every single day, hundreds or 1000s of people signing up every day. There’s no way that we can screen them. Even if we did, in some way, shape or form. There’s no guarantees in this world. Right. So like on dating apps, like on any online meeting, or if you go to the pub, and you meet someone at the bar, like it’s on you to use your common sense and be street smart. We steer away from trying to say, Oh, we’ve verified this guy, he’s all good. He’s good to go. Like, it’s not up to us to go and make that judgment call. That is on the individual. What we do is we remove people from the app who get reported for being creepy or, you know, untoward. So we investigate if somebody reports somebody else. And there’s a big report button on every person’s profile, we can see the chat history that they’ve had, and we go through, we have a look. And if it looks like somebody who’s been, you know, uncool, then we’ll ban their account. Then we encourage people—we’ve also got ID verification. So we use a third party ID verifying service so people can upload their IDs, and it goes and checks them out with computer algorithms and checks that it’s all hunky dory. But again, that doesn’t tell you the person’s not a psychopath. So if you want to avoid having a baby with a psychopath, my personal recommendation is you get to know who the person is that you’re going to make a baby with. You know, as well as possible, like, my, this is personal. I don’t want to preach how people should do it. It’s entirely up to them. But that’s what I would do. You know, I would want to meet the person a lot. I’d want to meet them a lot personally.
Leslie Fickling 12:59
With with him, when I asked him that question, he was just like, he was doing it for money. And he was like, I needed more income. So he started sending his sperm to the banks. However, the banks would let him go because he started doing it independently. And when he started doing it independently, he realized us, his sisters, he was like, it’s not a lot of African American men donating sperm. Okay. So he started he was like, it’s not a lot of us, you know, donating sperm, and it’s a lot of us who’s looking for that, right? African American men, you know, IQ, good looking, you know, average height or tall. So he started doing it from the kindness of his heart. And that was my biggest question, especially when he said, first, he was doing it for money. And it’s like okay, you went from doing it for money to you know, now you’re doing it from the kindness of your heart. Why are you doing that? Um, but again, he, he was he, I mean, still, to this day, we converse, from time to time, he’ll shoot me a text or email. And I’m like, his number one referral. So people else is using him as a donor. He’s like, Hey, can this person reach out to you Leslie? I’m like, of course, send them my email. So I have a business email, as well. So they’ll email me and these are more so single moms, you know, he deals with other lesbian couples, but however, it’s like, you know, it’s two of them. So it’s like that the trust factor. It’s not a big fear. Because, you know, it’s two people versus with me, it’s like you stepping out on faith. You know, you don’t know this guy. You don’t know if these records are true. You really just like, Okay, God, it’s in your hands. And that’s kind of where I was, you know?
Kimberly Seals Allers:
Definitely in God’s hands. And yes the experts are clear that Black women simply do not have the same breadth of options in the donor world as white women do.. So we reached out to find a Black male sperm donor to give us more details about his experience-—including the motivations and context. He agreed to speak to me without attribution.
Well, it initially started with donating at a company, they’d compensate fairly well. And I was just looking to make some extra cash on the side. But when I started talking to some of my friends who were members of the LGBTQ+ community, and they were describing how it’s very difficult to find Black donors, and the expenses associated with that, I decided to start donating privately. So for my private donations, I don’t request a compensation. I really just requested the recipients and that’s the persons who received the donation, just usually compensate me for travel time or gas, if I have to incur any transportation costs. I see a need for Black women and persons who want to become pregnant. And it’s not easy for them. And it doesn’t really take any skin off my back to help them out. So that I mean, just being altruistic works for me. The only issue is that reliable, successful donors who have a solid track record, who have good reviews, who aren’t, you know, don’t have any red flags. And I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but we’re rare. And because I went through a bank before, you know, I have a whole bunch of paperwork that details my genetic testing that, you know, I’m kind of pedigree. So the number of Black male donors out there who I guess are certified to the degree that I am is, I only know one other one, and he’s in like, Oregon. So me, just not donating, would stop a lot of, would just reduce the pool of, I guess, you know, higher quality donors by a lot. And then that’s, you know, something that we as donors collectively reflect on and talk about, you know, we just, you know, there’s a lot of guys trying to get into the, into the donation thing, and they’ll be happy with one or two, and then they’ll leave or there’ll be weird and people don’t want to deal with them. I’m not actually that tall, right? Obviously a lot of Black recipients they seem to want taller, lighter skins, you know, you know, Hazel, blue eyes, whatever, but still, like, you know, Black very mixed looking features. I look mixed. My eyes are brown and I’m shorter. But I make up personally, I make it for that with, you know, my looks. I’ve been told a lot that I’m handsome, I guess I guess so whatever. I’m physically fit. I’m intelligent. So a lot. And I’m, you know, you can hear my voice. I’m not and not to, not to bash my Brothers who vernacular sits mostly in a AAEV. But I don’t sound like someone who’s from the hood, or would make a child that presents certain negative stereotypes to say, and getting that out of the way. I also have all this paperwork. I’m diligent about testing. I’m very professional in my manner that I approach recipients and that information gets around it’s not, you know, women talk the same as men do. So you know, even if someone isn’t going to become my recipient, if they’ve had a positive interaction with me, they’ll make a recommendation for someone who I might better fit the preferences or needs.
Kimberly Seals Allers
As a man who is fathering children, how do you develop the donor mindset? I mean that detachment that seems to be necessary, especially when the anonymity is removed and you have likely even met in-person?
Well, I already have my own children. And I think that’s why it’s a lot easier for me to kind of be a bit more detached. A lot of what I’ve noticed in the donor community is that men who typically don’t have kids already are avoided, simply because, you know, his paternal instincts kick in once they find out they’ve got a kid out there. Me personally, I don’t consider children conceived through donation as my own. They’re the children of my recipients, right? I’m not going to be involved in their lives. To me, it’s no different than if I were to donate through a bank. It’s just, it’s cheaper for the recipient, and they’re going to meet me up front as opposed to potentially you know, 18-19 years down the line.
Kimberly Seals Allers 19:58
So Leslie, you had pregnancy and childbirth on your own terms. How does that feel?
Leslie Fickling 20:05
Amazing. It couldn’t happen at a better time. I know we’re in a pandemic. But as a 34 year old, I’ve been working since I was fresh out of high school, 18. And, you know, society has allowed us to be this robot, and have to wait until we get married or have to wait until we have this partner where it’s like, no, scratch what how grandparents did 30-40 years ago, you know, this is 2020 to where, you know, we have pronouns. So you know, technology is so different these days. And I feel like I waited. It was a reason why I got pregnant now than before. And I love motherhood. I love everything about it. I wanted a boy, God gave me a girl. And I was like, You know what, I always prayed for that perfect woman. And he gave it to me in a different form. I was just gonna say I never knew the definition of true love until I met her.
Kimberly Seals Allers 21:17
That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. So Leslie, I want to go back because you had a few tries. So take us to the moment that you found out that you were pregnant. Where were you? How did that happen? How did you feel?
Leslie Fickling 21:34
Yeah, so the second time around, you know, first off, I recommend do not Google and read and think that your body is like everybody else’s. I, you know, after we tried the last time, the second time we tried, I use mosey baby again. But then I also did natural insemination, which we all know what natural is. I had sex. So we did both.
Kimberly Seals Allers: Okay. Wait, what?
So it’s something of a point of contention within the, you know, within the groups. Because, you know, naturally, the way that you extract sperm from a male body is via orgasm, right? So, you know, the majority of recipients, in my experience, want AI, and everything is and that’s for their own reasons, whether they’re single, whether they’re a couple, whether they’re, you know, LGBTQ+, whether there’s, you know, their heterosexual, you know, different recipients have their different reasons, but the majority typically want AI. Now, there are women who do want an AI right off the bat, well, not just women, but persons who want to get pregnant, they want an AI right off the bat, there are some who try it after unsuccessful AI, there’s people who try AI after unsuccessful NI. It really doesn’t, I’m not gonna say there’s no rhyme or reason. But it’s really up to the recipient, I don’t personally offer my opinion on the method, I leave that up to the recipient. For me, and, you know, it’s, I’m not the one who draws the lines the recipient does. There are ways they call it partial insemination, where the donor, you know, stimulates himself very close to the point of, you know, orgasm, and then you know, hits the last couple of strokes inside the recipient. For me, it’s really the boundaries are set by the recipient. I’m not, you know, I am personally willing to do most of whatever, you know, is acceptable to the recipient, for them to do. And, like I said, it’s their body, gonna be their kid, it’s going to be up to them. I’m not going to do something that they’re not comfortable with. So, you know, that’s a conversation that, you know, I like to have beforehand, like, what specifically do you want me to do, and then because, you know, because it’s natural, right? You’ve got to, and we’re just speaking like adults here, no woman needs to be or person wants to get pregnant needs to be you know, self lubricated at that point, they need to be aroused to a degree just you know, for normal conception, softening of the cervix, etc, etc, etc. You know, that’s something that they need to figure out on their own. If you want my help, whatever, I’m not going to say yes or no, just tell me what you want me to do. And then when there’s couples involved, sometimes they take care of each other a little bit beforehand. It’s it. Me personally, I leave that up to the recipient. I don’t say yes or no to recipients based off of, you know, is this someone that I would you know, talk to or whatever on my, in my, in my private life, it’s, if it’s a person who wants an NI, then they get an AI, it’s a person who wants AI, then they get AI. That’s basically it. It’s, like said, it’s, it’s their process, they’re in control, I’m just, I’m providing the genetics, by whichever vehicle they’re most comfortable with.
Leslie Fickling 25:42
Once you’re ovulating, and you insert, you have that 14, that two week wait, which essentially, that’s when like, you get pregnant after the 14 days, either pregnant or you have your period. So during that time, I was like, my body’s not changing, nothing’s going on, you know, I was prepared to, you know, do research on IVF. And seeing at this rate, you know, it’s my body, it’s not the guy, you know, he’s already doing this for others, you know, so it’s definitely me. So the 14th day hadn’t felt a thing, you know, my boobs weren’t sensitive, nothing. Don’t do this kids. I had a bottle of wine. I was depressed. I was like, I just, I’m not pregnant anymore. So I had a bottle of wine. And when I started it, I bought the most expensive clearblue pregnancy test. I was like, I’m not gonna use this until I know I’m pregnant. Well, after having a bottle of wine, I pulled that bad boy out. And I was like, I’m gonna just take it. Like, I know, I’m not pregnant, I don’t feel pregnant, nothing has changed. mentally, emotionally, anything. I took, I took the test. And it came back positive. And I was at my mom’s house, and I was a little tipsy. And I showed my mom. And I said, Mom, what does this mean? And she goes, baby, you pregnant. I said, would the wine have to do anything with taking this test? Like, what a mess anything up? Because I’m a little tipsy and she’s like, No, no, honey, you’re pregnant. I said, really? So I’m still like in a state of shock. I’m like, I don’t believe this. Let me run to the store, get a few more pregnancy tests. And then let me sleep or let me sleep this alcohol out. And I’ll take it in the morning. Well, I went to the grocery store, got a few more tests, slept on it. And the next morning, all of them came back positive. So yeah, I found that I was pregnant the first week of February. And I still was in a state of shock. So I immediately you know, I called the hospital and, you know, made my six week appointment just to see, you know, where I was at. I know since I was tracking everything I knew it was like day one or whatever the case may be where I had to wait like five or six more weeks before I get my first appointment in. My pregnancy was amazing. I had literally zero to no morning sickness. I decided to get a doula. Again, doing so many research, but also I decided to get a doula who was amazing. What can I say?I was eating healthy. I had my shakes every morning. You know, I ate avocado spinach smoothies. From time to time, I did have a McDonalds chicken sandwich here and there. But I made sure I did some exercise and I had a chiropractor who would come every two weeks to align my body. I did walking, I was also doing delivery at the time. So I was a delivery driver. So that itself was exercising, you know, lifting, walking, eight hours out the day. I think the only big thing that surprised me was the amount of time you have to use the bathroom. Even still to this day. I’m like, Alright, let me go use the bathroom because I don’t know what may happen.
Being that I do have discoid lupus, I did have to go see the doctor every other Friday, so they can check on her heartbeat. No issues, no fluid around her heart.
Kimberly Seals Allers 30:10
Can you briefly explain what discoid lupus is?
Leslie Fickling 30:17
Yeah, so discoid lupus, it affects your skin. So I’m sensitive to the sun, you know, my allergy is really bad. So depending on certain lotions and soap, I have to get everything that’s sensitive. Also, if I was to get a cold, I wouldn’t get a normal cold that would get like a bacteria infection. So it’s more of, instead of more internal, it’s more skin. You know, I would probably get like a butterfly mark on my face, or different patches of hives. So yeah, it’s you know, knock on wood is not as intense as systematic lupus. It’s just more of like, allergic to everything. Yes, I was definitely high risk, I was high risk due to the basically they had to check on Shay’s heart rate every other week to make sure no fluid got into the animatic. Sorry, I’m pronouncing this wrong. Like the fluids into the sac, so amniotic fluids. So they had to check her heart rate and make sure no fluids got it to the sac. And no issues whatsoever. I would say around 36 weeks, my blood pressure was up and down. So they started being worried about that, I’d choose not to I was like, Look, I want to go as far as I can, you know, I don’t want to get induced unless you’re telling me you know, you need to get induced. You know, like for you to say it’s either you or your baby, that’s why you need to get induced. So I waited. However, I mean, I gave birth to her 40 weeks and two days. I did get induced during that time. But it was I was ready. It was more of my call. It wasn’t nothing that was medically wrong with me. I really wanted a home birth, I want to do in a bathtub, at home with candles lit and a little r&b and hip hop and family, you know, just surrounded by family. I couldn’t do that, because I was high risk. But however I did do everything else that was on my list. I was definitely able to have my air pods. I was walking around. You know, my Doula was with me, my elder sister was in the room. I was able to drink, you know, chew ice, drink water, you know, all the things. I asked a lot of questions. I think from the beginning, I had to put my foot down. You know, I wasn’t that, you know, patient that came in and was like doc you tell me what you want to do. And it was like, No, this is my birth plan. Can you please go over this? Even down to getting vaccinated. You know, shockingly, the doctor or the nurses, they automatically say you should get the shot or you may die. And it’s like, can we do research first? Can I say I am going to get my shot but I want to wait to until after I give birth to my child, you know, why do we have to automatically go to you’re going to die? You know, it’s like it’s just scare tactic where it’s like, you know, being a pregnant woman you know, you’re vulnerable. So it’s like you listen to the doctors. And that’s why I’m very gracious of having a doula and I promote, like, if people can’t even afford to get a doula, put it on your registry, you know, ask for the family to chime in. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s very necessary for a single parent, even if you’re not single, just to have that other person who can speak for you as well. And have this knowledge of been in you know, been doing this for years. You know, as a first time mom, I only know what I see. And most of my family, they’re like old school. So they’re like, Oh, this is all new. I’m like, Yeah, you know, we don’t put whiskey on the gum anymore because they’re teething you know, they have toys and other things for that. So yeah, so I definitely just stood my ground.
Kimberly Seals Allers 34:56
Okay. So tell me a little bit about how you came to know about doulas?
Leslie Fickling 35:00
I didn’t. I knew about a midwife because I was doing my research for at home birth. And with the midwives, once I discover I couldn’t do it at home, you know, they it was like, you know, Google was like, oh, what’s the difference between midwife and doula? And I, you know, clicked on it. And I was like, Well, what is the difference? What is a doula? And basically, that’s when I knew the difference between midwife and doula. And I started doing my research on what questions should I ask doula, what does doula do? And then I started doing my research on basically like, is there centers in Atlanta where I like go and find a doula like how next was, how do I find it? So of course, I went to social media and asked the question like, Oh, I’m looking forward a doula, could anybody help me? And so many friends sent me reference. And the crazy thing about my doula is she was referred to me from a friend on top of me already looking at her through the Atlanta doula collection. So I was getting quite a few DMS on people sending me referrals of people in Atlanta, and she was one of the referrals. And I was already looking at her on Atlanta Doula Collective, so I was like okay, this this, between that and this, I was like, Okay, let me really invest in her. So I did a few interviews. She was the second one. And I just loved everything about her energy. She was very firm. You know, I asked questions. You know, why she wanted to be a doula. You know, how many kids she had, things of that sort. And I was like, okay, and then on top of all of that, she went to high school with my nephew, so she like knew my family already. And I’m the type of person I was like, Okay, these are signs. You know, God is showing me signs, the universe is showing me signs. So it was like, although I have other interviews, you are my doula and even she said she was like no, don’t do that. Remove me from your head when you go to these other interviews, and choose one at the end. Like she even said that and I was just like, Okay, you my doula but I’ma still have these other interviews.
Kimberly Seals Allers
Did you know that less than 15 minutes of your time can help make black birth safer for us all? Irth as in the word birth, but we dropped the b for bias, is the first of its kind nonprofit rating and recommendation platform for black and brown women and birthing people to find and leave reviews of their OBGYNs, birthing hospitals and pediatricians. My name is Kimberly Seals Allers, and I created the Irth app because I wish I had it when I gave birth. I learned the hard way that reading the doctor and hospital reviews at mainstream sites, which were overwhelmingly from white parents, was just not helpful to me as a black single mother at the time. Irth is by us and for us. In less than 15 minutes, you can complete the structured review of your birthing experience. Also, tell us about your prenatal, postpartum and newborn care, so we can inform and protect each other. We turn Irth anonymous reviews into meaningful data to work directly with hospitals, payers and providers to improve our care now. When it comes to safe, respectful and dignified care, we got us. Download the free Irth app now and leave your reviews. Follow @TheIrthApp on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Chanel Stryker Boykin 38:41
My name is Chanel. I am a doula here in the metro Atlanta area. I consider myself a community, lactation and childbirth educator. I’m also an evidence based instructor. So yeah, that’s me. I’m also a birth assistant and a midwifery student. Okay, so I met Leslie, I was actually connected to her through a classmate of mine. And she shared her information with me Leslie was looking for a doula on social media. She put out a post and my classmates shared her information. And then it was also a coincidence, because she had looked into the Atlanta Doula Collective. I’m a member of that collective. And she saw me and she wanted to talk to me. We then found out that her nephew and I were good friends in high school. And so we kind of had that connection that way. And yeah, our initial meeting was like, we knew each other for years and years. She’s an amazing person. Yeah. Definitely her bravery, right in entering that realm alone without a partner, right, was inspiring to me. I was raised by a single mother. So if I’m completely honest, it wasn’t necessarily like shocking, right? And I always tell people that although I’m happily married, right, or whatever happily married is, I’m married, and I have three children. And I’ve been married for a long time. I always saw myself as a mother first. And it could have been my experiences. It could have been the fact that this was my calling from my life, right? So being a mother to me, and wanting to do that without someone was not, it wasn’t foreign. It wasn’t anything that I questioned, wondering, Well, why would she want to do this? How is she going to do this, that those weren’t questions that I asked myself. I did again, think that it was just a very brave thing to do. I know that anyone who desires to be a mother and I’m not saying that, if you don’t desire that you won’t be a great mother. I just know that because she was so committed to what she wanted to do that she was going to do so well and it was going to help to shape the experience for her.
Leslie Fickling 40:00
So much resource. And one thing I like about a lot about Atlanta Doula Collective is it’s like so much word of mouth, you know, it’s different events that they have, you know, they had a baby shower event where I was able to get breast pump, you know, different birth things. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what I what I got. But that was one event I went to. I even met another mother, because, you know, I came in the heart of the pandemic, so everything was essentially shut down, but not really shut down in Atlanta. Um, so many options for hospitals. My daughter, Shay was born in Emory. But a lot of people was talking about Northside Hospital where that’s like the baby factory where everyone would go and have their babies. My sister live outside Atlanta, City Hall, Douglasville where, you know, she was mentioning that hospitals, so it was a lot of options. The reason why I chose Emory hospital is because my baby sister gave birth to my niece there. And then with her second child, she named my second child Emory. So I was like, okay, Emory must be she must—Emory. I’m talking Emory as Emory is a girl. Emory is a hospital. But what I was going to say was Emory must have did a really good job for my sister to name her second child after a hospital. And I think the biggest thing is, is having majority of my family, my nieces, my nephew, my mom, you know, my sibling. So I already had that village. And that’s the biggest thing is to have the village, no matter if it’s family, friends, you know, and, you know, doing this on my own…Well, I’m not doing this on my own because I have my village. But being single, you know, that was the biggest thing. And I mean, between being from New York, I lived in Miami, Los Angeles, and now in Atlanta, you know, it was, I just know it was, it’s a tap of the button to find things, you know, as my mother always said, as any older parent must say, closed mouth doesn’t get fed. So you got to ask those questions, you got to do your research, you got to step out. And you know, look, and that’s kind of even what I did of finding my donor, you know, asking questions, doing my research, looking at those Facebook groups, you know, going in those Facebook groups and be like, hey, is there any other, you know, resource to find other donors, you know, so then, yeah, being in the city, being in a big city, being in Atlanta, is awesome.
Kimberly Seals Allers 42:44
Leslie, talk to me about your provider and how you found him or her, and what that relationship was like for you.
Leslie Fickling 42:50
Yes, of course. So with Emory, and this is the reason why I actually chose Emory, Emory is a hospital where you don’t just have one provider, they have a hub of doctors that you see during your pregnancy. So that way, you know, because you never know when you’re going into labor. So you probably most likely have dealt with one of the doctors. So instead of having just one sole doctor, who knows that person could be on vacation or any of that sort, you know, you have a hub of doctors. So that was the reason why I chose Emory. And, again, I really feel my experience has been nothing but positive, and nothing but positive signs and God because I, one of my doctors, she literally was the best. When I first went to my doctor’s, the first two I was like, I was like, I’m not really feeling it. You know, the first one. I was just like, Okay, I’m so excited that I’m pregnant. You know, I didn’t feel that excitement. So I was like, okay, um, you know, like, as I said, each visit, you have a different doctor. So the next one, I was like, Okay, same experience. So that was in one location. With Emory, it’s actually all over Atlanta. So you can even actually choose what location you want to go to other doctors. So I started going to the one in Decatur and loved it. Soon as I walked in, even down to the nurses, the front desk, everyone was just awesome. So I started going to that one. And then I started this one doc that I saw was Dr. Williams. Kamala Williams or something like that. And I was just like, you’re my doctor. I was like, I hope you’re available. I was like, I’m not even I was like you you’re gonna deliver my baby or you want to be there something of that sort. So she’s like, okay, she’s like, you know, it’s really whoever’s on call or who’s working that day. Fast forward to October 31st, she was the one that morning. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I was like, look at God, I was like, I’m delivering this baby before you get off at 7pm. And she’s like, I’ve never seen that before but okay. So, I was squatting, running, doing all the things. I was like, I’m delivering it with you. And I didn’t deliver with her, but she was there through the whole day. And then that evening, I delivered with another doctor who I hadn’t met. And I didn’t remember her. I saw her maybe when I was like 37 weeks. And when I saw her when I saw her that time, when I was 37 weeks, she was like, Oh my gosh, good seeing you. I haven’t seen you since she was like 14 weeks. I remember you having a baby girl, her name is gonna be Shay. And I’m just looking at his doctor. And I was like, Whoa, I was like, I do not remember you. But you know, you remember our whole conversation. To make a long story short, she was the one who delivered me. And I love that it was both of them. In the daytime, it was the doctor who I really wanted to deliver. But then I got delivered with the other doctor who was more passionate about birth plans, she was more passionate about listening to the mother. And she was very calm. So I love everything about delivering with Emory because I was able to see so many doctors and two, well one of my favorite doctors were there. And then there was another doctor who I had known end up delivering would be amazing as well.
Chanel Stryker Boykin 46:44
So I think that that’s like the biggest thing with having a joyful birthing experience in the hospital. And recognizing that, you know, the hospital is an intervention, once you get to the hospital, that’s your first intervention, you’re in someone else’s space at that time. And so, you know, again, having the knowledge to know what things to accept, and what things to decline and how to navigate that space is really important as well.
Kimberly Seals Allers 47:17
So take us to that moment of delivery. Tell us what those last 20 minutes of pushing were like for you, and that moment when you got to see your daughter for the first time.
Leslie Fickling 47:32
I remember looking up at the two lights that they shined down and I saw two angels. To the right, I saw a female, to the left, I saw a male, both African American, the male had a fade. The female had a high bun. And they were just looking at me. Yeah, she had a high bun. Yep. And, you know, I just kept looking and I was just like, every time you know, practice breathing, and I push and I was just like I can’t do this. And I would look up at them. And I would see them talking to each other. And I would yell at the doctors and my doula and my sister and I was like, Do y’all see these angels looking at me? And they just looked at me like, I don’t know if they thought I was crazy or what but they just kept saying, yeah, baby, okay, yeah. Okay. And I was just like, Okay, God, push. So I’m pushing. And I was like, I can’t do this. And I would look up, and they would just be talking to me. And I’m just like, okay, that’s them telling me you could do it just push you can do it. So I’m just like, my whole time. I just kept looking up at the lights. At one point, I looked at my doula and I was just like, you don’t see the angels like you. Somebody got to see them with me. And then my Doula was just like I see them. I know what you mean. And then my sister I saw her look at the lights and then she was like, Oh, I see them too. But in my mind, I was just like, I think God is telling me this to calm me down. I think doing a little bit of Hypnobirthing, and staying calm and having a doula. I wasn’t. At one point, I was like, oh, angels. I’m gonna die. And then I immediately was like, no, like, this is a positive experience. This is a moment where I am creating life. And that’s what kept me calm. And I think that’s why I didn’t truly freak out of not having an epidural and pushing. I pushed for an hour and a half. And I just think continuously looking up at—an hour and a half. Yeah, I know. And I think if it wasn’t for those angels above, I don’t think I would have been able to push for how I had. Because even at one point, I just kept saying, It’s burning. It’s burning. Like, maybe I was like, I think my daughter has a head full of hair. And she does because it was burning. And, you know, I would push when the contraction come. And then, you know, when it wasn’t, I was just like, Oh, I didn’t, and then I was like, oh, one’s coming again, it’s coming again. And it didn’t really get truly intense until she came out. And then when she came, I was like, ah, like, it was just like, and my doctor warned me, she was like, You’re gonna feel an intense burning that you’ve been feeling. But it’s going to be 10 times worse. And that’s when she was coming out at that hour and a half, and I was just like, holy shit. It’s burning. It’s burning. And she popped out. And then it was just like, oh, I’m fully relieved. She came and they put her on my chest. And then even with that, on my birth plan, I wanted her on me. We had a moment, I wanted to cut her cord, I cut her cord, and everything was perfect. And it was so calm, where I started hemorrhaging. And my doctor was so calm, you know, I could see it in my doula face and in my sister’s face, something’s happening, but they were calm as well, too. And I was just such on this high life and surrounded, you know, just having God by my side. I was like, Whatever’s happening, it’s going to get fixed. And I was still on the table for about 45 minutes, they had to find where I was bleeding. And then once my doctor found out where I was bleeding. And I looked at her and I was like, what’s what’s going on? Is everything okay? And she’s like, everything’s okay. She was like, you’re just bleeding, I just need to locate where you’re bleeding from. And she, if it wasn’t for the angels, and that doctor who remembered me from 14 weeks, I think I would have had probably a negative experience. But she was calm, she made me calm. And she found where was bleeding. I think it was like maybe a couple more ounces and I may have needed a blood transfusion. But everything worked out. And my daughter was wide awake. She was looking, you know, she latched immediately. And that whole night, we just had that full experience. I didn’t even go to sleep. She didn’t go to sleep. We just kept looking at each other. It was it was beautiful.
Kimberly Seals Allers: Wow. That’s just so beautiful. Chanel, did you see the angels in the lights?
Chanel Stryker Boykin 53:00
I did not see the angels in the light. However, I always tell mothers, that and it’s not to be scary or anything, birth is such a transitional experience. Right? And it is the closest a woman gets to death in in life. Right? And so she very well may have seen angels in the light she could have, you know, because you enter and I won’t get all birthy on y’all. But you do enter an alternate brain state when you are in the transition period is what we call it when you’re pushing. So yes, she probably was somewhere else. We were in that room. And she may not—her spirit may not have been there. Right. And so she was seeing whatever was waiting for her on the other side because you do have to go and meet that baby to bring them back. So I believe her but I didn’t see them. Yeah, um, I will be honest and say that like, like I said, Leslie had an ideal situation. Which is very rare if I’m completely honest, even in Atlanta and most of my birthing experiences in the hospital. Atlanta, Georgia’s birth, maternal mortality rate is, I think, in comparison to Syria. And so it just looks like a lot of systemic things in place that aren’t because it’s so it’s always so mind boggling to me that from hospital to hospital, no matter the competency, like you know how great they say they are. It’s like the same thing, right, like over and over again. And like I said, even though even us here right in the metro that has the access, we are still really struggling in these hospitals. And so that’s why you have the uptake. About 29% of births. I think there was a 29% increase of home births that occurred in Georgia during the pandemic from 2020 to 2021. So, you know, I have to fight for my client to be heard when she’s in pain in Atlanta, Georgia, in Thomaston, or in Jefferson County, of course, they don’t care that she’s in pain, right? You don’t even feel pain. So that that is I can, I can only imagine. And I would, I would love. That’s why I want to know more about what’s happening there. Right? Because I can, I can’t even fathom right, like I can’t even begin to fathom because it is, it is painful to watch happen here. It and like I said, it is not just one particular hospital, right? It is something that like you watch kind of the same thing happens over and over again everywhere. And it’s like, you’re these people are taught this way. And it’s and I want to be completely transparent and say that it’s not just white providers. This is a systematic thing, right? They’re all doing things the same way. And so there’s, again, I am always I’m an educator at heart, I love to learn, I’m always gonna go to ignorance, right? And so that the lack of education, they don’t know. It’s not even so much that what I’m seeing, at first, I used to get so burnt up, like with the fight, and I’m like, this is intentional. And then I realized, I was like, No, everybody can’t have the same intent, right? Like this, this just doesn’t make sense. It is systematic.
Kimberly Seals Allers 56:38
Well, one thing was clear. Research was certainly your thing. How did you maintain your joy even knowing what the research says about Black women and their birthing experiences and their outcomes?
Leslie Fickling 57:16
I’ve did research and even in some zoom meetings, you know, there were some people who heard like their friend had this experience. Or they had this experience. And the biggest thing is, is blocking out all the noise. And I say that, I know it’s easier said than done. Because I freaked out twice. I freaked out twice. And when I freaked out, I was just like, this is just what’s going to happen. Because, you know, I have autoimmune, you know, I am a black woman, maybe because fear is going to take over. But I think the biggest thing was just just letting go and letting God. I mean, I don’t know how religion you are. But that was the biggest thing. And I did a little bit of Hypnobirthing, you know, I took a few classes, and also listen on YouTube. So I’ve meditated. And during those times, I just kept telling myself to breathe. You know, like, I was just like, Okay, this is not going to happen. It’s not going to happen to you. It’s not going to happen to you. And I just kept saying that. And even during the times when I was giving birth, and I was just saying I can’t I can’t. My doula will look at me, and then I’ll be like, Okay, I can I can. So it’s just, you know, changing those words up, you know, every day I read an affirmation, so I just, for the most part, stayed positive, you know. Definitely listen, you know, be in knowledge and the the key factor is having good knowledge. You know, just hearing experience about someone had the epidural, you know, and this happened to another person, if you’re knowledgeable, you know, if I was to get an epidural of course, I would ask those questions. You know, how many times you put in an epidural? You know, just those questions. So I think that’s one of the reasons why I had a big positive experience and why I stayed so called is because I did so much research, and I had my Doula on my side who was sending me research too. It was like she was giving me homework like every week. On top of me doing my own research.
Chanel Stryker Boykin 59:40
Yes, I do give homework. Like I said, I told her you got to resolve this thing that you have going on. You know, I have a Google Classroom for my clients. And I’m like, go in there and read this. You want to know about this? I can tell you, but my lay words are not better than what the evidence says. So go read the evidence about it to make your informed decision because as a doula I personally, and I don’t think anyone else should make decisions for anyone, right. That’s where the empowerment comes from. I don’t get the, what’s the word, the privilege of empowering somebody else? Right. That’s for them to do for themselves. And I think it definitely shapes the experience so much more, and makes it that much more dynamic when they do it for themselves, right. So yeah, I definitely do. I give homework and I’m like, you go read this, you go learn about it, because I know all the things about birth. But you got to learn it too for yourself. Like I could just tell you, but I want you to know, for yourself. Yeah. Education is first and foremost. For me. The more you know about your body, about the birthing experience, about your rights as a birther. You know, when you understand what is normal, what’s abnormal, what your baselines are, it definitely helps to make you feel more empowered. And when you have that knowledge, and your providers know that you have that knowledge, even though that shouldn’t be the case, right. But when your providers know that you have that knowledge, I like to tell my clients, it makes them a little less apt to play in your face, right? Should I say or to treat you with a certain, a certain kind of way, right? Because it’s like, oh, she, she knows better, right? Like she understands. And so I like to put education first. And I will be honest, and say, I am sure that Leslie’s experience was shaped by her eagerness to know everything. If I sent her something, she was there, if I, you know, shared any information. She was there. She had any questions, no matter how silly she thought it was, she asked. And so it was really good. And she did her research as well, like as far as her birthing team. And it’s very rare to find in the hospital. They were really good. Yeah, I remember that. I think her doctor’s name was Dr. Kirsch. And she was an amazing doctor. Leslie listened to her body. And they in turn listened to her because she was listening to her body. So definitely education. We focus heavily on mindfulness. Because your mental state is extremely important, as far as how you’re going to birth. So I tried to make sure that anything that’s going on, or past traumatic experiences or any trauma that you’ve experienced in your pregnancies, we don’t, we definitely don’t push it down. We don’t push it away. We don’t shy away from it, we find ways to heal from it. So whether it’s a—and I remember, right before Leslie gave birth, she was having a little contention with a family member. And I remember telling her like, you have got to resolve that before D-day comes. Because if you don’t resolve that problem, if you don’t, if you feel you need to apologize, or you need an apology, or whatever it is, you have to do that because this could really show up in labor, and she did it. And so I feel like it was very helpful in the birth outcome that she had.
Kimberly Seals Allers 1:03:36
Wow. I love a doula who gives homework Um, Leslie, is there anything else about your birth experience that you want to share?
Leslie Fickling 1:03:54
The biggest thing I would say is to all women who had kids, who are trying to have kids, who feel like when I was that person that needed a partner, don’t sell yourself short and just go for if you want to have a kid, just do your research and stay positive. And try to block out all the negativity, you know, stay if you stay true to yourself and stay positive and know what you want, you will get it you know, God will give it to you, the universe will give to you when you’re ready. And I think that’s the biggest thing. You know.
Kimberly Seals Allers:
I know everyone will rightly think of taking on single parenting by choice as stressful, unconventional, and I know it is, but as someone who has personally had relationship drama during and after my own pregnancy, I can also see the freedom of being very clear and knowing very clearly that you are on your own.
Chanel Stryker Boykin 1:04:41
I completely and 100% agree with that. And I remember my Doula experience kind of started with a friend back in about 2013. And she got pregnant under circumstances that were not the best. And I remember saying that kind of thing to her, like, you know, if you want to be a mother to this child do that, right? But do that with knowing that you’re not gonna have this support and be okay with that now, and be okay with it and just accept the fact that you’re mothering this child because you want to not because you’re doing it for the family or for any other reason, you know, and like you said, I do feel like there’s a lot of freedom in that it can make for a very peaceful situation. I’m not saying that it’s always easy, right. And I’m not saying that things aren’t going to arise. But, and that’s just in general, you know, your mindset is very important. And it can help to combat a lot of those postpartum things that single mothers experience, if you are centering joy in that experience, regardless of who’s with you or what it looks like.
And it’s something that other black donors I’ve spoken to have talked about. It is a discussion that occurs, you know, in barber shops about how just the black family functions in general. I will say this, I think that if, if you’re, if I would say that donating and having a donor child is preferable than being in a relationship, and having that relationship fail, and, you know, getting the, and having a child out of that relationship and having the associated contentions that can come along with that. I think it’s cleaner, I’m not necessarily going to say that it’s ideal. But nothing in life is ideal, right? If donors said that they didn’t want to donate, then people who wanted to have children would find a way to have kids. And it would potentially end up, you know, causing contention because maybe you get into, you know, you get into a relationship because you want to have a child, but you don’t necessarily want to be with the person that you got the relationship with. And now you’ve got your kid and you’re like, Okay, I don’t need to be with this person anymore. I, as a donor, I kind of can be that stopgap, right. You can have your kid, you get to be a parent. And you don’t have to worry about you know, when, you know, your child’s asking, like, Hey, where’s my dad? Well, your dad was a donor, you know, our family is, you know, me and whoever else is in your family. So yeah, I definitely think and it’s not just just black women, but women in general as, as more women become more financially independent, the marriage rate in the United States. And in, you know, the Occident West in general, is declining. It’s becoming more prevalent, I’ve actually had recipients in the UK, and other countries hit me up as well. I haven’t done any international donations yet. But I know, in the white community, there are some donors who regularly travel overseas. So it’s definitely becoming a more prevalent option.
Kimberly Seals Allers 1:08:25
Yes and we know that Black mothers have been so stigmatized. Particularly as single mothers, we were blamed for all the societal ills and, -we can go back to the Moynihan Report, you know, we’ve been typecast as, you know, the most kind of worst type of home environment for a child to grow up in, right. And we all know that’s just not true. And so for you to choose to be a single black mother, and to invest time and effort and resources in doing so is truly a remarkable, brave and very different path. Tell me, where do you see yourself in the spectrum of black motherhood and who we are and what is said about us as it relates to single black mothers?
Leslie Fickling 1:09:13
I honestly, I want to continue to telling them my story, and I want to get my story out there for black mothers who just feel like they have to wait, you know, I want to get get it out there that there are apps like Just A Baby, you know, there are mothers who choose to get pregnant as single mothers versus like the stereotype as like, oh, like, you got knocked up by the one night stand. You know, I want to be that positive role model to be like, you can do this, you know, you can choose your own village, you know, and I want to just continue to be that positive advocate for other women. And I guess it started with you you know, this is really my first time telling my story to someone else beside, you know, friends or family, if I go out to eat, or you know, something of that sort. You know, so to be on, you know, a podcast and tell my story, I want more people to listen and know that you can do it, you don’t have to wait. Or you don’t have to spend $3-4,000 for a vial of sperm, there’s actually if you step out on faith, and kind of put your guard down just a little bit, they have apps and Facebook groups where you can actually find a sperm donor and pay $200 for either shipping or 200 bucks to like, get them to where you at with gas or a flight. So yeah.
Kimberly Seals Allers:
And you know, we must acknowledge there are equally damaging and equally false stereotypes about Black men too–papa was a rolling stone comes to mind. As a Black male donor how do you view those tensions and issues?
That’s a really big, that’s a really big point of contention. I think before we could address that as an issue where black men are, you know, have these all, all these bad stereotypes and blah, blah, blah. The first thing we have to look at is there’s white donors too and white donors, you know, white men in general don’t have that same, the same negative aura of, you know, just planting their seed everywhere as black men do. So if we’re looking at someone who’s being a donor, then we, you know, you got to compare it to white donors. And if it’s just donation, then it’s just donation. You can’t put somebody’s race into the mix, when they’re donating. In a broader sense, if we were going to say that reduce the nature of that stereotype, when it comes to just regular black men who aren’t necessarily donating, we’d really have to look at how the legal system treats fatherhood. And how the legal system treats black men. You know, that’s, that’s, that’s the only that’s, the only answer. How the legal system treats marriage, black people get married at the lowest rate of any of the ethnic groups within the United States. I’ve seen the statistics, I think it’s something like 30% of black women will ever get married in their lives. And the next lowest I think is, is white women, it’s about near 50 or 60%. So, you know, a lot of those have historical. There’s historical reasons why black men were pushed out of their homes. When it came to the reception of welfare, if there was a man in the home, then, you know, they’d get less welfare and the same thing would be applied to white families. So when it comes to just fathering you know, that’s a separate legal social discussion. But when it comes to donating, you know, there’s white donors, and there’s way more white donors than there are black ones. So if you’re going to say, Oh, it’s just a bunch of black dudes spreading their seed, well, a bunch of white guys doing it, too. And there’s a whole industry that’s regulated by the FDA for donation. And overwhelmingly black men are low, but they are not proportional participants. So I don’t think that donating in any way, should obviously you know, people are gonna make their own opinions. But I don’t think that donating should enhance any negative stereotypes about black men and black fatherhood. If we want to fix the problem, we really have to look at the legal system first, before we did anything else.
Kimberly Seals Allers 1:14:04
All valid points. Leslie, any regrets?
Leslie Fickling 1:14:14
No, no regrets at all. I think that, I think well, I take that back. I think the only regret was why did I wait so long to get pregnant? Where I, you know, I was afraid to do it on my own. But again, I don’t really I guess that’s not really a regret because also I felt like, there was a reason why I had my child at this day and age. So I guess that’s in between, because also, I am a, I am saying I am a single parent, you know, and who knows, I’m not going to block my child in the future to be like, Hey, Mom, do you notice about my father and if If I could actually reach out to him and be like, Hey, I know you do this for a living. But is it possible my child could essentially just meet you or know that you were her donor, you know from that angle. I would love to keep that door open. And again, that’s the story itself. You know, like, where it’s anonymous donor versus like, some people think they see what they sperm donor, it’s like a kid picture. You know, I got a whole full picture and I look at it, I’m like, Damn, you look like him, but ignore it, ignore it.
Kimberly Seals Allers 1:15:34
Leslie, as a Black person who motherhood on their own terms, invested time, research and resources into becoming a mother, despite the stigma—I want to close our episode by asking, what is our birthright?
Leslie Fickling 1:15:58
How birthright is giving birth to beautiful babies. Our birthright is having a voice, standing proud and continue to letting us grow. That’s our birthright.
Kimberly Seals Allers 1:16:27
Season Two of Birthright is funded by the California Health Care Foundation and the Commonwealth Fund. Birthright is produced by Motor City Woman Studios in Detroit with Kimberly Seals Allers as executive producer, and Alexa Imani Spencer as researcher and assistant producer. Our music is by Dantrel Robinson and we dedicate this season in his memory. And don’t forget to subscribe to Birthright wherever you get your podcasts. Give us a rating and review if you like what you hear. Find episode notes and learn more at www.BirthrightPodcast.com. And don’t forget to like and follow the Birthright podcast YouTube page for exclusive videos and extras. Follow at @iAmKSealsAllers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and please support our Patreon account. Together, we are reclaiming our birthright, one story at a time.
Leslie Fickling is a 34-year-old mother based in Atlanta, Ga. currently working in logistics as an operations supervisor for an international shipping company.