Grier Lauren Post Bernard was born on June 28, 2016, but I feel our birth story starts a couple of days before that. During my pregnancy, I had attended a few births of second-time moms that had gone really fast and, as I approached the end of my pregnancy, I felt so worried that my labor was going to be so short that I wouldn’t get to enjoy it. Hannah was an amazing doula (and friend!) and encouraged me to do all of the things that I worried about missing during my labor as self-care now. It was such good advice and I did exactly that. I took long candlelit baths, read birth affirmations, listened to guided meditation and really basked in the love of my husband and family.
The week leading up to Grier’s birth I really felt like I could have a baby at any minute! Grier was moving her little head against my cervix and pushing with her legs. I visited friends in Maryland and felt like I was on the verge of having to jump in the car and drive home the entire time. We had a few nights in a row that I was either having contractions before going to bed or awakened by contractions but they went away in the morning. I got so nervous every time they started! I could feel a rush of adrenaline and I’d start shaking. It felt like my brain would not let my body go into labor. We had two blissful nights of absolutely peaceful sleep and when I awoke at 6am the following morning I rolled over and felt a little gush of amniotic fluid. So strange that this time I wasn’t nervous at all. I instantly knew what it was and was so excited knowing I’d be meeting our precious baby that day!
We had the sweetest morning! Aaron and I snuggled in bed chatting about the new little person we would meet and how lucky we were to have had two full nights of sleep. Around seven Demory joined us for a snuggle and I let Debbie (our fabulous midwife) and Hannah know that my water had broken but that labor hadn’t really started up yet. We all agreed that a walk to La Taza for taquitos would be perfect and hopefully get labor started. Demory was really excited to wear her “Big Sis” shirt and we went downstairs and knocked on the door of the room my parents were staying in. Dems was thrilled to tell them that we’d be “meeting our baby today”!
During our walk I was having some very mild contractions but was able to walk and talk through them. When we got home Demory got her little stroller and bear and the three (four including baby Grier) of us went for another walk. A few different friends happened to drive by and stop to chat while we were walking. Naturally they each mentioned something along the lines of “any time now, right?” and I was so tickled to answer, “yes, now”! Debbie came around 9am and checked babe’s heart rate and my vitals. All was well but because I had a positive group B strep test, we agreed that if things hadn’t picked up by lunchtime I’d take some herbs.
My parents took Demory out and Aaron and I stayed home to labor and enjoy the quiet house. We watched an episode of Orange is the New Black and I paced around the house and walked up and down the stairs. Around noon the contractions started getting more frequent and intense enough that I had to stop and breathe through them but if I stopped walking they slowed down a lot. I guess I’d say this was maybe the very start of active labor though I still thought it was pretty early! I got into a sweet pattern where I’d walk up the stairs and into the nursery. I’d hold the rail of the crib for a contraction and then walk back down the stairs where I’d hold the back of the couch for a contraction. I was standing pretty upright with contractions and that surprised me since, in my previous labor, that would have seemed impossible. Another thing that was very different from my previous labor was that I didn’t necessarily want to be touched. Not that I minded it but I didn’t find that I needed it. I remember telling myself many times “it’s gonna get a lot worse.” I was kneeling on the couch with my chest and head resting on the birth ball and had a couple of really strong contractions where I was feeling and lot of pressure. I texted Debbie at 2pm letting her know that I was “feeling a lot of pressure”. She asked if I was ready for her to come and I replied with a very hesitant “I think yes”. I also texted Hannah something like “Debbie is on her way so you’re welcome whenever. No hurry!” This makes me laugh, I was so certain that I was having them come too early! Debbie had been at Gwen’s house for a postpartum visit and must have moved pretty quickly (thank goodness!). It was 2:30pm when she arrived. I do remember feeling a bit relieved when I looked out the window and saw her unloading her supplies so, perhaps on some level, I did realize that I was getting close. I think it was around the same time that I directed my dad and Aaron to set up the birth tub.
Upon Debbie’s arrival I was still able to chat with her and smile and talk about the beautiful little statue she had brought from Gwen. I had a couple of big contractions while standing and I was tucking my pelvis under. Debbie told me to ground down and let everything sink down. I heard Debbie say “this will be soon” or something along those lines. She later said she could hear the “catch” in my groans even then. Norma and Hannah arrived and I gave hugs feeling so happy our team was complete!
I was so thankful that Dad and Aaron had already set up the birth tub because as soon as it was full I got in. And then the contractions just didn’t stop! It felt like it went from sweet and fine to crazy intensity just rolling through me over and over again with barely a moment to breathe. I had been right. It did get way worse! I remember Norma saying something encouraging and then saying “but she knows that” and Hannah saying something followed by “but she knows that too”. That made me laugh but it was true. I did know that my amazingly capable body and strong, precious babe and I were a good team and that we could do it together! I didn’t doubt it for a second!
I was kneeling and was very surprised when I started pushing. I just couldn’t believe that things had moved so quickly! My dad had taken Demory outside to play in the kiddie pool (where I was later told she was pretending to birth a baby) and he brought her in just in time. I was so happy to have her there and could hear my parents gently talking her through what was happening. She seemed comfortable and engaged. She was holding a cloth on my head and rubbing my hair. Having our first baby and my parents there with Aaron and I felt so special.
I honestly am unsure of how long I pushed. I think it could have only been 15 minutes or so. The coolest part was that I could feel my babe pushing too! I could feel her using her strong legs and pushing down. Together we worked and she was born into many welcoming hands in the water in our dining room in our home at 3:34pm. I’m told that Aaron helped catch her, I know Debbie’s hands were down there and I think I helped a little too but it was all so fast it’s a bit hazy.
I was overwhelmed and amazed to have our baby in my arms, so wide eyed, alert and looking around, peaceful and calm, just taking it all in. I had wanted to discover her sex myself so had asked that no one say anything until I had seen. Aaron did see as soon as babe was out and finally said, with tears in his eyes, “Do you see what it is?!”. I looked and saw she was a girl but didn’t believe it. Everyone confirmed that what I was seeing was, indeed, a sweet little vulva. We were both thrilled to have another daughter!
It was incredibly powerful and efficient and beautiful and amazing and hard! I immediately said “that was way harder than last time” and I’m pretty sure since everyone had been there both times and they all remembered the 10 hours of active labor followed by four hours of pushing my little asynclitic babe while walking the stairs and lunging that no one believed me! Looking back on it now, they were definitely right. I also think I told them many times that “my a**hole hurts”. They were like “yeah momma, you just had a baby!” It was a perfect combination of sweet and special and crazy and intense and awesome.