Laurel Gourrier, co-host of the podcast Birth Stories in Color, reflects on how her hospital birth experience— even though it was long and hard— often felt like a big party, thanks to the support of her partner, parents, and in-laws. She tells Adriana Lozada how their care and the constant communication of her wishes created a safe and joyful space in which she could birth, even leading her parents to open their home for the birth of her second child.
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Related Birthful episodes:
- Straight Talk about the Effects of Electronic Fetal Monitoring on You and Your Baby
- Why Your Due Date Is Also an Intervention
- All About Inductions
- The Induction Process
- Pleasure in Birth
- Big Babies and Shoulder Dystocia
- The Birth Stories in Color website
- Listen to the episode The Heart Work of Birth, where Adriana shares her birth story!
- Birth Stories in Color – A Community of Support for Black Birth Stories post, Lamaze “Giving Birth with Confidence” blog
[Birth Stories] Why It Was Still a Party Despite the 30 Hours of Persistent Back Pain
Adriana Lozada: Hello, Mighty Parent or Parent-To-Be! Welcome to Birthful. I’m Adriana Lozada, and as we forge on with our Care Provider series, I’m excited to bring you a story that showcases how to birth in community within a hospital setting— because the truth is that you can receive care from many people during your birth, not just from your medical team. So the words “care provider” include a multitude beyond your doctor or your midwife.
Now, if your wishes are that your extended family be part of your birth, there are clearly some really important conversations that need to take place way ahead of those first contractions, and each person has to figure out the work they need to do ahead of time in order to show up how you need them to.
So to help model what that would look like, today I will be talking to the amazing Laurel Gourrier. Laurel is a co-host of the Birth Stories in Color podcast, as well as a birthworker, and reproductive justice advocate.
Now, Laurel’s ever-present search for joy is evident in her storytelling. You’ll notice how she and her team bring mindfulness to their decisions as they navigate a really long birth with continuous back labor and many course changes. And because holding on to joy had been a key part of Laurel’s birth plan, to be honest, at many points, her labor seems like a big party.
I also want you to know that I have had the immense pleasure of sharing my own birth story on Birth Stories in Color, so make sure you listen to that as well when you can.
You’re listening to Birthful. Here to inform your intuition.
Adriana: Welcome, Laurel, to the show. I am so very excited to have you here and hear your story. Why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and how you identify?
Laurel Gourrier: Yes. Well, thank you for having me! I’m so excited to be here. I love to travel. So I’ve been lots of places, have lived lots of places. I am a mom of two. I have a five year old daughter, three year old son. I’m also a wife. I do birth work, full-spectrum— however you land, whatever your support need is, I am there to help you, help guide you, help support you. I love birth storytelling in all shapes and forms, so I also host a birth storytelling podcast with a doula sister and friend. And then I recently have started doing birth photography, I’m absolutely obsessed with the way that birth shows up.
Adriana: Well, and let’s make sure we mention the name of your podcast!
Laurel: Yes. Birth Stories in Color.
Adriana: Birth Stories in Color— which, if I’m gonna let everybody know I did it, I shared my birth story (that I don’t often share) on Birth Stories in Color. So you can check out that episode as well, if you want to, yeah.
So, take us back… Your daughter is now… you told me before that she is five. Take us back to that time when you were just pregnant or figuring out what you wanted for your birth wishes: What were you hoping to have? And how did you prepare?
Laurel: Yeah. So in the beginning, when I… when we first found out we were pregnant, both my husband and I really felt like everybody’s, like, comments to us were very… were centered on the pain aspect of birth, on the negative parts of birth. And I remember one day, like, we were both sitting around and I was like, “I don’t know…” like, “I’m loving this. I’m very excited about this. And I just don’t feel like what I’m feeling is matching what everybody is telling me.” Like, I know those things will show up, but it just… They’re not sinking. So from there, we really were intentional about how we talked about the experience, how we absorbed what others were saying.
And I just knew from the beginning that “I know that I want this birth to be centered in like peace and joy. And I really want to connect with this birth and be very in tune to it.” And so that’s what I did! Like, I set intentions about that. I read everything that I could get my hands on. I was obsessed with watching birth videos on YouTube just trying to grasp any sort of, like, positive outlook about the birth experience. And so, yeah, that was the intention from the beginning, of really setting out to have a birth that just felt like ours and felt like how we envisioned it.
Adriana: And I love the centering of the process in peace, joy, and connection, instead of centering in the pain. That’s such a— like, even that shift is so radical. That’s a stronger preparation than as many books as you can read.
Adriana: That’s gonna set the tone for everything. I love it.
Laurel: Right. Exactly.
Adriana: So then were you a birthworker?
Laurel: No. So I… My background is in special education, specifically those on the Autism spectrum. And so I kind of, in my head, I was like, “Well, in my work, when we talk about really being vulnerable… I feel like this is going to be one of those things where I have to be very vulnerable and very in tune with my emotions.”
And so I knew that there were people who did that, like, who helped you with that. And so… And then I found out that, like, the actual name for it was a “doula.” And so we did a lot of research about doulas, but we were just not in a position to hire one. But no, I was not a birthworker yet. But I was very in tune to birth work at that time.
Adriana: Mhm, it’s so funny because I can still relate to the “having a birth without a doula and then becoming a doula,” right? What were we thinking? Did you regret afterwards not having a doula or…?
Laurel: I wouldn’t even say regret, but I know that I, when I reflect back on the birth, I’m always like a doula would’ve been beneficial. I mean, my birth team was stacked. I had my parents, my husband, my in-laws were also there, and one of my best friends who also helped document the birth. So I was like, “I feel prepared.” Like, I’ve got my people. But yes, a doula would have still been very helpful for sure.
Adriana: You had a party in that room!
Laurel: I had a party.
Adriana: So how did it all begin? How did that party start?
Laurel: Yeah, so I was 41 and five days, 41+5. I had midwives at the hospital. I had contemplated home birth, but we lived in an apartment and I was like, “Mhm, I don’t know how people do that. That’s different. So let’s just do a hospital with midwives.” So I found a great midwifery practice and around 40 weeks, there was discussions about, “Okay, what are we gonna do to help naturally bring on things?”
And baby girl was just not coming. I tried all the things. And I do remember, getting close to 41 weeks, my midwife was like, “Well, why don’t we try, y’know, doing a membrane sweep?” And I was like, “Okay, fine.” Did that. And that was the moment where I really was like, “Yeah, I don’t actually know anything about the anatomy of my body.” I just remember being like, “Where are you going during this cervical check?”
Adriana: Where are these membranes?
Laurel: Yeah! Where are these membranes? But from that, we did find out that I was one centimeter, but we did decide from that point on that I should probably be scheduled for an induction, which that wasn’t what I wanted, but I also knew that we were moving into a space where it was probably time to, like, support her coming with some help. And I, again, from that point started to get into a mindset of like, “What do I want this induction to look like?” So she was scheduled, like I said, I was 41+5, scheduled induction.
My parents came in— we were living in D.C. at the time— so my parents came in that morning. I was scheduled to go in that night. My in-laws had come in the day before. And I remember, like, my husband had to go to work that morning. So I was at the house by myself, took a long shower, and I remember just, like, sitting on the couch and being like, “Wow, tonight everything changes.” And just able to kind of sit in my own reflection about what was going to happen, trying to, like, prepare myself mentally for what this induction might look like.
And then my parents came over and I remember my dad being like, “We should have a champagne before we go to the hospital.”
And I’m like, “Dad!”
Adriana: He was ready to party!
Laurel: Ready to party. I’m like “Dad, no.” So we all drive to the hospital… And I had also informed my best friend that we were going in that night, so she was coming in from New York on the train. And, y’know, they had said, “Oh your room, like, come at 8 p.m. You’ll be ready at 8 p.m.”
So I get there and they’re like, “We don’t have any rooms.” And then I, like, felt myself kind of, like, shut down at that point, ’cause I was very prepared for, like, “You’re gonna go in. It’s gonna be time.” It’s like everything going in order, so then it did take some shifting. And I remember being really upset also because two of the midwives who were on-call were two of the midwives who I hadn’t met.
So I just felt like, “Oh no! Things are already starting to derail here.” Like, this is not okay. But we sat in the hallway while we waited and played cards and my family did a really good job of, like, keeping me distracted, and really trying to center me back in like, “This is just part of how things shift.” Like, it’s okay. So we finally get my room, I think, like, it was an hour/hour and a half. We go in, get me set up, and they started me with Cervidil. And I remember my midwife saying, like, We’ll see how this goes. Sometimes some people’s bodies react very quickly to it. And some people, y’know, after the full 12 hours of waiting, nothing.” I was one of those people who “nothing.”
So, 12 hours go by. My parents were staying at a hotel, so they went back. My in-laws and my best friend went back to our house, ’cause we also had a dog at the time, to take care of him. And Frankie and I kind of got some rest, and I didn’t… I had no cramps, nothing, like I was just chilling for the full 12 hours.
Adriana: And I want people to hear that because you think, “Oh, inductions will just get going with this.” And actually, if you’re jumpstarting your body from zero, it can take a long time. It can take days.
Adriana: And also the fact that you’re having an induction, like there’s so much uncertainty attached to it. Anyways, there’s this idea that, “Oh, we’ll know what will happen with induction: we go in, have a baby.” and already it’s like, “Oh, but we don’t have a room. Oh…” There’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of mental game with the inductions.
Laurel: Yes. Yes, and I do think that kind of happened for all of us. I think my parents, especially, and my in-laws thought like, “Yeah, you go into induction, you have the induction and it’ll be quick.” And when the midwife first said, like, “It might be 12 hours,” we all were like, “Wait, what? Okay…”
And it was nice to have that time when everybody had left for Frankie and I, to, like, again, get ourselves in a headspace of “This might take some time, and that’s okay. This birth plan has shifted already a couple of ways. How are we gonna roll with that?” So, yeah.
Adriana: So how did you roll with that?
Laurel: 12 hours hit. They did the cervical check. No change. And I felt myself, like, freak out a little bit, because I also knew from there we were going to have to introduce Pitocin, which I knew was going to intensify things. And it was something that I was hoping not to have. My midwife definitely caught onto that, ’cause I remember her being like, “We don’t have to, like, start it right now. Eat some pizza,” ’cause my father-in-law had bought pizza for the nurses, for everybody. So everybody was eating pizza. So she was like “Eat some pizza, take another shower, get settled, and we’ll start the Pitocin nice and slow. And we’ll just see how your body responds and we’ll go from there.”
And I will say that my midwives were wonderful. I had an amazing birth team. I’m very, very fortunate and grateful that it worked out in that way. They were just so in tune with my family— like, we had five people in a room. You weren’t supposed to have five people, but they were like, “Whatever!” like they just rolled with it. “You do you!” Which was so wonderful. But yes, we started the Pitocin and immediately my body was like, “Oh, okay. This is what we’re doing.”
Adriana: And I wanna say, even though your cervix hadn’t dilated, there must have been some change in those 12 hours for them to move from a prostaglandin to soften and ripen and get your cervix ready to Pitocin, which is focused on dilation. So, your cervix did change; we just obsess on dilation. But there’s so many other things that maybe would’ve been helpful to focus you in the moment and say, “There isn’t no ‘no change.'”
Adriana: It’s just, “This is what changed. And now it’s time for this other thing…”
Laurel: Right. And I love that you say that because in that moment, not knowing all the things that I do know, I can’t even remember if they said those things to me, because I knew in my head that dilation was all that you were supposed to do (well assumed that that was, like, the thing that you focus on). So I don’t even know if maybe she said those other things, but I was so dialed in of, like, “You mean I didn’t dilate past anything else?” Like, “What do you mean?” So, yes. I love that you bring that up, that there are other factors that we’re looking for, that your body is making change.
Adriana: And often people have to ask about them because it’s not just… We all, nurses, everybody focuses just on the dilation and as a birth worker, I’m sure you’ve had the situation where I ask the provider, “Can you tell me also about station and softening and give me more information? Don’t just give me dilation.”
Laurel: Right. Exactly.
So, things started to get pretty intense. I know that, like, I was trying to move around the room because I was on, now on Pitocin, I was having to be monitored. And I just remember, I hated the monitors. I know a lot of people say that, and they were just annoying. And the only position that really felt good was I either was on the ball on the side of the bed, kind of like curled over, or on hands-and-knees, kind of on the floor in the bed.
But every time I did that, the monitor would, like, lose [her]. So there was this back-and-forth of, like, getting repositioned on to monitor, having them monitor walking to the bathroom, working through contractions. It was just, like, this cycle. And I remember being like, “I’m just over these monitors,” like please someone figure out how to monitor her without me being on the monitor.
But I will say again, like, my birth team was great in supporting me. Like, my mom. And when I say, like, “supporting me,” like, all of these people were in the room. And I think a lot of times people are very surprised that I had my in-laws and my parents. And I want to say that there was a conversation that was had with all of them about what it would look like.
I was very open, of “If you’re going to be in that space, I need your energy to match mine. If you are unable to help or support, or you feel like it’s too much, I need you to leave, because I cannot have that. I need you to be on the same page as me. I will be naked. So you handle that as you like. I want you to be present, but this is what I’m expecting for your presence.” And they all understood that.
And there were moments, like, when I would come out of the birth ball, like I could see, like, my dad maybe would have turned, because I think maybe it was too much. Or I know that my mother-in-law at some points had, like, walked out, ’cause she was crying. So I know that they all were doing that, and I’m grateful that they did honor that request from me, ’cause I did need them.
But it was intense, and I had a lot of back labor, so I don’t even really remember what front contractions feel like. All of my pain and discomfort was in my back. And I tried to describe it to somebody once. And I was like, “It felt like after every contraction, like my back, my spine was, like, breaking and then reforming for, like, one second… and then re-breaking.”
And I just… Nothing was helping. Like, there’s a moment, I know, like, the midwife came in and she’s doing, like, counterpressure on me, like, trying to support me. And I’m just like, “It does… Nothing is helping me. This is exhausting.” And a new nurse came in and was like, “Well, why don’t you try nitrous oxide?” because my birth plan did not include having an epidural. I wanted to go as long as possible without one. So I was like, “Sure. Yeah. Let’s… I will do anything at this point. Let’s try the nitrous oxide first.” I hated the nitrous oxide. Like, the first moment of putting it on my face, I was like, “This is making me feel like I’m gonna throw up. I don’t wanna do this. Let’s not do this.”
Laurel: So I’m, like, fighting them to just, like… I’m like, “Just remove the nitrous oxide. I don’t wanna deal with that.” But I’m also, at this point, starting to, like, have those shakes, the transitional shakes. I’m starting to… I’m throwing up a bit more.
I’m starting to have that feeling of “I’m out of control in this moment.” And I know around this time too, my midwife had offered, “Well, why don’t we see where you are?” And I said, “Okay, sure. Let’s do that.” I don’t think that she was even able… I just… The contractions were just so painful that I couldn’t even lay still.
And I know she tried and I was like, “I just want you out. Please don’t,” and she respected that wish and we just left it at that. But that was also the moment where I was like, “Okay, this feels excruciating and something has to change.” And I knew that at that time there was going to be a midwife shift.
So both midwives had come in, my new nurse had come in and they asked “What do you want to do in this moment?” And I remember my husband, like, I’m leaning over the bed, I’m hanging onto him. And he kind of just, like, looks me in my eyes and he’s like, “Let’s shut out everybody else. What do you want to do?” And he’s, like, crying, I’m crying and at that moment, I mean, he was very much like, “I know that you… what your birth plan said, but like, what do you need in this moment?” And I said at that point, like, “Okay, I think, I think it’s time to move forward with an epidural.” And at that point it had been about 30 hours that I had been… since starting the induction that I had been moving through.
I was just tired. Like, I was exhausted and I think everybody knew at that point that I needed something to just let my body settle. But they were, of course, waiting for me to come to that realization without being pushy, which I appreciated, but I also needed for him to tap in and be like, “It’s you. That’s it. Nobody else. It’s you.”
So I got the epidural placed and immediately knocked out. Like, I don’t even think… I think I was asleep before they could even see if it, like, fully took. I don’t even know, but I do remember, before falling asleep, my husband— ’cause he had, y’know, everybody kind of had been up, but mostly him— he, like, looks at me and he says “Is it okay if I go to sleep too?”
Adriana: Aww, that’s so sweet.
Laurel: And I’m like, “Yes!”
Adriana: And it seems like he was so supportive. And so I love the visual of you guys looking into each other’s eyes and also realizing, like, having that… Reading the space, knowing that something needed to change, not just you feeling that something needed to change, but everybody… And then turning to you to say, “What do you need?” Because again, with an induction, the goal is to get contractions to be in a pattern of every two to three minutes lasting a minute or longer. So that’s a transition-like pattern, but they want to get to that as soon as possible. So sometimes you end up having this transition-like pattern, not just for transition, but for hours before. So that’s a disconnect, for sure. And if on top of that you were having persistent back labor, I can’t even! I mean, I can, ’cause that’s what I had— the persistent back labor we’ve talked about this— but because I know how it feels like, “Ahh, it’s too much…”
Laurel: It was all-consuming. Like, I just felt like my entire body was working so hard and there was no break. No break ever. Like, there was no pause. There was no time for me to catch my breath. And so I was exhausted by that time. So I fell asleep! I think everybody got some rest, and I woke up maybe an hour or two after, like, refreshed. I’m like, “Hi, everyone! We’re here.” The midwives came in and said, y’know, “How do you feel about us doing a check, kind of seeing where you are?” And I was like, “Sure, let’s do that.” And they did a check and they were like, “Yeah, it’s time. If you’re ready to— if you’re feeling, y’know, some of those urges, that pressure— like, let’s go for it.”
Adriana: Were you feeling the desire to push?
Laurel: I wasn’t feeling the desire to push, but I definitely… like, I would say that they did, like, a fair job on my epidural, because at that point I could still feel not necessarily any type of pain, but I could feel that pressure. I wasn’t feeling, like, the pressure to push, but I could feel the pressure during contractions, so I knew when they were coming. So I was like, “Yeah, let’s go for it.” And I just remember giggling like, “Wow, okay, baby.” Like, we’re doing this. And so they got me a mirror, ’cause I definitely wanted to be able to see.
And so my husband’s holding my left leg. My mother-in-law is holding my right leg. My dad’s, like, sitting behind me. My father-in-law is kind of, like, off to the side and my mom is holding both of my sisters on FaceTime like in front. So again, party— like, community birth here.
Laurel: And so we start pushing and, I mean, yeah, I could feel the pressure. So I was pushing with the pressure. Something that I don’t remember— and that I have been told— but there was a point where, like, I was pushing and they kind of had me stopped, and in that moment I didn’t pick up on any of this, but my daughter did have shoulder dystocia. So the way that it has been told to me is like, during that moment, they were actually, like, pushing down on my stomach. And, y’know, my support people were saying they were kind of freaking out, but I’m like “I have no idea that anything is going on,” which, y’know, I appreciate that they kind of kept me in the zone to be focused.
But she came out! We did not know if we were having a boy or girl. We love surprises! So we were very much like, “Let’s just when this baby is born.” And so we had said that I would be the one to kind of, like, let the room know. So they pulled her up, put her on my chest and I just remember, like, crying, like, “It’s a girl! It’s a little girl!”
So everybody’s crying. She’s, like, sitting on my chest. They let her sit there for a second and then took her, because of the shoulder dystocia, just to make sure that everything was okay. But she was fine. She was beautiful. She was fine. Eight pounds, nine ounces. They made sure she was good and then brought her back over to me and we just hung out.
Adriana: Ugh. So good, so good. And from what I’m hearing, the shoulder dystocia wasn’t really a big thing. It was just, like, it happened and then they quickly resolved it.
Laurel: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, the only way that I knew that, I mean, they told me, of course, after she was back on my chest. But hearing kind of the, like, small intensity of it came from when everybody was reflecting back on the experience…
Adriana: Laborland is a thing.
Laurel: It is a thing
Adriana: Deeper brain-altered states.
You don’t… Yeah.
Laurel: Yes, for sure.
Adriana: Oh, did you tear?
Laurel: No, no tears.
Adriana: I want people to hear that: Eight pounds, nine ounces, no tears!
Laurel: No tears!
Adriana: It doesn’t… It’s not the size of the baby.
Adriana: What was the most surprising thing for you out of this experience?
Laurel: That I birthed a whole human!
I think that… I mean, like, in all honesty that really did blow my mind. I’m an athlete (well, was an athlete, I’m no longer an athlete, I was an athlete), and so I know part of my prep, I always kept saying like, “This is kind of going to be like when, y’know, like, you train for a big game, like you train.”
That’s kind of, like, what my prep looked like, like, physically, body-wise. And how I, like, was like, “Okay, this is the type of breathing I’ll need to use.” Of course, it is completely different, but like you said, that I was able to tap into this other source of myself that I had no idea was possible.
Like even with how— because it was painful, like, I’m very honest with people about that experience— like, that birth was painful and that birth did take a lot from me. I still feel the same joy. Like, I just feel joyous about it, because I know that I did that. My body did that. And I’m so proud about that! An eight pound, nine ounce full human I birthed.
Adriana: You sure did! All types of births are fabulous.
Like, it’s not what happens during the birth. And we say this all the time; I know you do too. It’s not what happens during the birth. It’s that you feel supported, heard, validated, respected, that it centered… that it’s honoring your wishes. That makes the difference.
Laurel: Mhm, absolutely. Absolutely.
Adriana: So then, and we wanted to focus on your first birth, the birth of your daughter, but you have a son and that was a homebirth. What made you switch from hospital to home?
Laurel: Yeah. So after having my daughter— and I remember, like, sharing, because again, we were the first in our group— like, sharing about birth, and I’m a very open person in general, so I was very honest with everyone about the whole experience. People just were very surprised by the joy that I was able to share out of that, because I could have easily been like, the pain, it was horrible! And duh-da-duh-da-duh. I was honest with, yes, there was pain involved. But there also was, like… that pain had purpose. I was able to really tap into my body in a way that I had never done before ever. And I mean, I learned so much about my body and myself, but after like, y’know, reflecting with the midwives in postpartum, like, reflecting with friends when it came time, like when I was pregnant with my son, two big things were… maybe three, let me see as I speak them out.
We moved to a new state, and in moving to Columbus, Ohio, I learned about what childbirth was around here. And I was like, “I don’t feel comfortable being in a hospital. I don’t think that I’m going to get the same experience that I had at the other hospital and that just doesn’t feel safe for me.”
And I also had learned a lot in between that time, about maternal outcomes, and especially what that looked like for black mothers. And I just… I didn’t feel like that would be a safe choice. I had also, at that point, connected with a midwife, a homebirth midwife who I love. So I knew that I would be able to get the support I needed. And I also knew for my previous birth and how I connected with birth, that homebirth just felt more in sync for me. Yeah, it just felt more in sync with where I was at in the process. And again, like I had said, I was thinking about homebirth with my daughter, but I think because of placement, it just didn’t make sense, but it definitely made sense at this point that, “Yeah,” like “Let’s do this!”
Adriana: And it makes such a difference when you… Again, it’s about informing your intuition, right? You had connected with a midwife. You built that trust. You have seen homebirths, you’d seen the variations of what happens in a hospital with different providers, or different hospitals, at home, like, all these different places. It really broadens your spectrum of what is possible. And then you had all these choices.
Laurel: Yeah. And I will say the interesting thing was… So, we moved to Columbus. Where my husband teaches is, like, an hour outside of Columbus. And I also knew that if I did a homebirth there, if, if at any point there was a need for a transfer, it would be at a hospital that I wasn’t comfortable with.
So I said, “Alright, let’s see if my parents will be okay with us having a homebirth at their home.” So there was this other layer of informing them that there was an option— that this was an option, sorry— and that this was still the same. For them, it was about safety. They were like “Are home[births] safe?” They had never… they didn’t know homebirths were a thing.
They were like, “Is this going to be safe?” And I’m like, “For us— it’s safer for us. It makes sense for us.” And so they got to be a part of all my midwifery appointments. They got to see that in real life. And they got to witness a homebirth, ’cause again, I think I just have community births— like, everybody’s just there. That’s how I roll!
And so they got to be a part of that. And so now they get to share out to others about— like, my parents, I remember, like, when people would ask them, “So where…?” y’know, like “What hospital is Laurel having the baby at?” my mom was like, “We’re actually having the baby in our basement,” and I’d be like, “Well, can you rephrase?”
Adriana: Is this the same person that wanted to pop a champagne right before even going to…?
Laurel: Right. My dad. So I’m like, “Okay, love that you’re excited, but let’s just say ‘homebirth.’ It sounds a little creepy, just ‘in the basement.'”
Adriana: But that’s so good. And yeah, you just continue the party wherever you go for all of this! I love the support, and making it communal, making… bringing your parents into this, because it’s a lot of responsibility, let’s be honest. Like, when you say “I’m gonna have a homebirth,” you have to take on a different role in how you approach your birth, which is totally doable, but you just, y’know, have to be honest with yourself.
And I feel it’s fantastic that you had that support from your whole community and your parents. And because people who have a homebirth, you hear so often that they’re getting so much pushback from their family and they almost have to keep it a secret from their family. And it is so joyous to hear the flip side, of something completely different, of community buy-in into—
Laurel: Exactly. Exactly. And then for the people… Like, there were some people who we just didn’t share it with, because we knew there was going to be that pushback. And I was like, “I don’t need that.” And again, having honest conversations with my parents about this, I was like, “You are at any point allowed to say ‘No.’ If you’re afraid, if there’s fear, we all need to share that out now, because we cannot have fear as a part of this.” And I remember, like, having that conversation, my mom was like, “Well, what are you afraid of?” and I was like, “I’m actually not afraid of birth. I have no fear.” Like, I know I’m capable. I was like, “My only fear is that, if necessary, there would be a transfer,” but I also feel fully-supported by my care provider, by my doula, by you all, that, if that was a choice that needed to be made, I would be okay.
But as far as the birth? I got this. So I think them hearing me talk about fear, allowing them to express their fear around it, made it easier for them to be like, “Okay, this feels like we can do this.”
Adriana: Do you feel that the fact that they were part of your journey in the birth— like, they were so, such an integral part, and you had already had that conversation way back of “This is how you show up for me in this space”— that work was already done, and then now you just took it to a next level? You’re like, “Okay, now let’s do this guys.”
Laurel: Exactly. And so I would send them, like, “Okay, you watched this birth video, like, this is what it might look like…” I started giving them things to read, and then at my appointments, they were then able to talk to my midwife and be able to see and have those conversations. Whereas, like, y’know, in the hospital, you don’t get to do that. They don’t get to see that other side. And I think the reason that community birth is so important to me is 1) because I just… I need my community. I very much thrive off of that. I also know the change that it can have, like, my siblings were also present, and so now, as they’re talking about expanding their families, they’re like, “Okay, well, how do we, like, prepare for a homebirth? How do we know if that’s, like, an option?” So that there is this continued conversation of there’s so many different types of births. You just have to do what feels right for you.
Adriana: Is there anything that you wanted to make sure we got to, that we haven’t?
Laurel: I mean, I guess just sitting back on and, like, reiterating the honest conversations around your birth space, and that also includes your partner. I knew I wanted a homebirth from the beginning, but, like, I still had to talk to my partner about that. “How do you feel about this? How do you think you’re able to show up to support me?” And don’t… And not even just, like, on the level of “I’ll do whatever you want, because I love you.” Like, no, I need to actually know how you’re feeling about it so that if those things start to arise during the birth, we can address that. Or you know that you have the space to remove yourself if those things come up for you, because I need you to be at your best on that day. So just having those conversations about the people you want to support or the people you don’t want to support, or just what you want that space to feel like is really, really important.
Adriana: Mhm! Thank you, Laurel, so much for sharing your stories and for sharing what an interdependent community way of birthing can look like, whether it’s in the hospital or at home, because I think that’s what we need… More of that interdependence, of “We’re in this together,” because clearly it creates so many deeper bonds and safeguards against trauma.
Laurel: Yes. Yep. Yep. Absolutely. I’m just honored that I was able to have that experience twice. And I love my people for showing up!
Adriana: Thank you so very much!
Laurel: Thank you!
That was Laurel Gourrier, a wife, mother, doula, and family and reproductive justice advocate. Alongside Danielle Jackson, Laurel co-hosts the Birth Stories in Color podcast, which embraces storytelling as a way to amplify the lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, and multiracial individuals. Laurel has shared the full story of her son’s homebirth on Birth Stories in Color so if you want to listen to that as well, we’ve placed a link to it on the show notes. Also, since we spoke, Laurel has had a second homebirth to welcome her third baby. It was a fast labor, with her midwives walking in the door at the same time Laurel was catching her own daughter. A big congratulations to Laurel and the whole family… ‘cause you know it had to be a party.
You can find Laurel on Instagram @birthstoriesincolor and you can connect with us @birthfulpodcast.
In fact, if you are not driving, it would be so lovely if you would take a screenshot of this episode and post it to your stories sharing what your biggest takeaway was from the episode. Make sure to tag @birthfulpodcast so we can see it and amplify it.
You can find the in-depth show notes and transcript of this episode at birthful.com, where you can also learn more about my birth and postpartum preparation classes and download your free postpartum preparation plan.
Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada, with production assistance from Aysia Platte. This episode was produced in part by LWC Studios: Paulina Velasco, Jen Chien, Cedric Wilson, and Kojin Tashiro.
Thank you so much for listening to and sharing Birthful. Be sure to follow us on Goodpods, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and everywhere you listen.
Come back for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Stories] Why It Was Still a Party Despite the 30 Hours of Persistent Back Pain.” Birthful, Birthful. October 26, 2022. Birthful.com.
About Laurel Gourrier
Laurel is a reproductive justice and family advocate. With a master’s degree in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Laurel began her journey of supporting families as a special education teacher/family advocate, specifically serving Autistic children. The birth of her first child led her to begin her work as a doula. Laurel provides families with information and tools to help them feel empowered by their own birthing experiences, as well as holding space as an ally to birth inclusivity through a reproductive justice lens. The core value of uplifting autonomy is the root of her practice.
She currently supports families in Columbus, Ohio as a birth/postpartum doula and co-host of the podcast Birth Stories in Color (BSiC). She and her co-host Danielle were led to create a platform honoring the art of storytelling and the voices of families of color.
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