Labour.

Without a doubt, it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Our first year of parenting was a doozy.  You’d think, if I could survive the daily vomiting, growth restrictions, nonexistent sleep, mealtime stresses, picky eating, a month at Sick Kids and two heart surgeries - I could handle a few hours (maybe days) of labour.

…Nope!

You’d think that after having a natural birth with my second daughter, I would be totally ready and confident about having another.

…Wrong!

From the moment I found out we were pregnant with a third baby, I went on an emotional rollercoaster for the next 9 months.

Danielle Binns pregnant

I was elated...I loved big families and being pregnant.  And we were about to have a family of 3 littles!

I was in shock…I didn’t think it would happen so quickly, or at all being someone who had PCOS years ago.

And I was freaking right out...another baby meant another labour, which meant another contraction - yikes!

What was I afraid of?  Good question.

Everything that could or would not happen.  I was full of fear - fear of something happening to the baby, something happening to me, etc.  Plus I continually heard from other parents and specialists that third babies were “wild cards”.  So no matter my history, nor despite being active and taking care of myself throughout the pregnancy (and most of my life)…this birth was going to be unpredictable.

I had 3 very different birth experiences - from hospital, to home, to birth centre.

It’s through these experiences that I learned the 3 things that make me a better parent. I know they can help you too.

  1. Be good to yourself - we forget that we are supposed to put our own oxygen mask before our families.  It’s not selfish to prioritize our own health by eating well, moving enough, and taking ‘me time’ as much as possible.
  2. Surround yourself with support - ask for help with the problems we cannot solve quickly (whether it’s how to master our labour, or how to help our kids eat better, or how to boost our health and energy).
  3. Don’t worry unless you really have to - there’s always something to be concerned about, from the moment we get pregnant.  Let’s do what we can, within our control (be it hypnobirthing, or speaking with a nutritionist), but let’s not sweat the small stuff or create problems that don’t exist.

And now, let’s take a ride back through history as I share how my three babes came into this world.

 

My 3 Birth Stories

 

Sienna’s Birth Story - Hospital

I had grand visions of having a home birth with my first child.  However, mother nature had other plans - not just for our birth experience but also our baby.

When our first little one wasn’t growing optimally we were sent for ultrasounds in my 37th week of pregnancy.  A week later (which was also my birthday) we were also told our baby had a heart defect that would require surgery.

We were devastated and in shock.

Being a high risk baby, we were transferred from midwives to hospital care.  I was induced over the next 5 days with little uninterrupted sleep. I was also going crazy not being permitted to leave the hospital (they wanted to keep a close eye on me).

Then after lots of poking, prodding, water breaking, inducing, and other unknown devices, my labour was finally moving.  But I unfortunately, wasn’t going anywhere other than the hospital bed until this baby arrived.

As a result of the drugs, my contractions were artificially elevated and INTENSE.  The nurses also gave me a heads up that the baby was under stress and a c-section may be required.  So when my midwife recommended an epidural I did not hesitate.  I could hardly keep still while the anesthesiologist did his thing, but afterwards…utter relief.  I felt nothing from that point onwards.

As I was relaxing, unknowingly having contractions, and chatting with a friend who visited, I was checked again.  Low and behold I was 10 cm and the baby’s head was on the way out!?

But wait!  I couldn’t have this baby without my husband.

I had sent him to the Eaton Centre to buy reading material for the long labour I was anticipating…oops.  It’s a good thing Keith is a former track athlete or he would have missed the birth of his first child!  Within minutes of sprinting back to the hospital, and after a few pushes, our 4.5 pound baby girl was out and in my arms.

We had a rough and tough road ahead, but at that moment I thought about nothing else. 

Except this precious and special little girl who was finally here.

All in all, her birth wasn’t so bad.  Heck, I could have sneezed and she would have likely popped out!  It was the days, weeks and years which followed that were going to be our real challenge.

Naomi’s Birth Story - Home

Two years later we were pregnant with baby girl #2 and I could not wait to meet her!

This time there was no birth plan.  I just wanted to go with the flow and see where that put us.

The day she came was perfect - more so than I could have imagined.  I wandered around the neighbourhood, went for slow walks with friends, and spent time playing with Sienna while contractions were on and off.  I was incredibly calm and all smiles…

Until sh&% got real!

Active labour kicked in around 4pm and I managed to keep smiling until my amazing sister-in-law took Sienna to the park.  That’s when Keith, my two midwives and I moved to the nursery.  There a smiling mom-to-be was struggling through each contraction on all fours.  I panted quickly despite everyone reminding me to slow down my breathing.  At that time I didn’t realize how much the breath mattered.

I can now laugh at my rather odd attempts to deal with the discomfort, which included Keith digging his fingers into my scalp.  At the time, creating pain elsewhere helped take my mind off the contractions themselves (so now I was experiencing pain x 2!?). I spent most of the time in between contractions anticipating the next one.

Then it was time to move to the birthing stool which I had never seen before!  The horseshoe shaped apparatus looked intimidating AND uncomfortable.  I tried to resist getting onto the stool, but I was told they help open the pelvis 30% more vs. laying down.  So down I went, and the pushing began.

It was the most physically and mentally challenging thing I’ve ever done.

Let’s just say they call it the ‘ring of fire’ for a very very good reason. Even though the pushing itself is short…seconds in some cases…it was one of the main reasons I feared having another child.  And in my case I was only on the stool for about 15 minutes.

Then at 6:20pm on May 14th (one day before her due date) our second daughter Naomi made an appearance.  As I held her, I no longer noticed that uncomfortable stool, nor anything going on around me.  I felt like I was in a dream.  What a powerful ride and how lucky was I to experience it and now have a precious baby girl in my arms.

Natural home birth Danielle Binns

Baby birth

I should have known but it was a shock to my system…

…Going from Sienna’s birth, where I couldn’t feel a thing…to Naomi’s birth two years later, where I could feel e.v.e.r.y.thing (yet that was one main reason why I wanted a natural birth!).

Looking back, the home birth was truly amazing - being in the comfort of my own home, not being confined to a bed, being able to roll into my own bed with the baby after the birth, witnessing what my body could do, and being able to FEEL.  Although the pain scarred me and scared me, I wanted to experience it again.

Mackenzie’s Birth Story - Toronto Birth Centre

Then came baby #3 and I was truly freaked out (did I mention that already?).

Danielle Binns natural birth story

It was November 8th (a week past my due date) and I had just visited my midwives for a stretch and sweep.  That’s when ‘stuff’ started happening and I gave my husband the heads up.  Yet, that night I woke up at 2am to an empty space beside me. Turns out Keith was catching up on Star Trek despite knowing the inevitable.  While I was struggling through early contractions, he got the message and got some sleep.

The contractions were spread out by 10-15 minutes at this point, but it wasn’t long enough to fall asleep.  So I spent the next few hours hanging out with my hypnobirthing recordings and listening to birthing affirmations…over and over and over.  When 5am rolled around I found myself watching the sunrise with a cold bottle on my belly, and sitting on the toilet (TMI?).  I knew many women who found the toilet helpful during labour because it opens up the pelvic area.  So I hung out there for a while hoping to give everyone else as much sleep as possible.

By 6am contractions that were 5 minutes apart and I couldn’t play solo any longer.  While the ‘surges’ were difficult, the intensity seemed much more bearable than with my previous labours (was this the hypnobirthing at work?!).  I was breathing slowly, relaxing between them, not anticipating the next.

By 6:30am Keith was up and ready, my midwife was en route, and my sister-in-law was here to watch the girls.  I was 9 cms at that point and according to my midwife, we were going to have this baby here in our home.  But I wasn’t prepared to wake up the rest of the family as the labour progressed.  So off to the birth centre we went….

When I saw my midwife running to her car I knew there was no messing around.

This babe was coming…fast!

Thankfully we are less than 10 minutes away and I didn’t have to suffer through many contractions in the car.  Once we arrived I was hardly mobile.  Instead I was rolled into the centre in a wheelchair, might I add with one shoe on (I didn’t realize my flip flop had slipped off in the car and it was clearly the least of my worries!).

Here’s the proof… (photo taken after Mackenzie was born, hence the smiles and disheveled appearance)

Natural birth story, Toronto birth centre

When we toured the centre weeks prior, I was gung-ho on getting the yellow room - it had a great vibe and layout.  But today I didn’t give a hoot what colour the wall was!

I just wanted to have this baby.

My midwives ran around the room while I hovered over the bed, trying to maintain my breathing.  Finally it was time to get into the high-walled tub, albeit very awkwardly.

I was grateful for some of my favourite songs playing in the background while I transitioned to the final stage of this labour.  My least and most favourite - pushing. AHHHH!  It’s the the most uncomfortable part, yet yields the most incredible reward of all.

After a few pushes our THIRD little girl was in my arms and I was in awe.  Within seconds of looking at that little face, I was thinking “you are already totally worth it“.  All the fears, all the discomfort, the preparation and waiting.  You were worth it Mackenzie Rey Binns.

 

Knowing that her birth was a ‘wild card’ and could go on for hours, days, forever unnecessarily contributed to my fears.  Thankfully though everything turned out just fine…actually better than I imagined.

Of course, all 3 of my births were special in their own way.   However, my last experience I would not change thanks to my “Natural Birth Survival Kit“.  I will share this in a few days…stay tuned!

The takeaway…

Parenting is unpredictable. And so are our little ones.

From the moment the egg gets fertilized to the minute they turn 16 and beyond  - life is a surprise. As parents, we can have a vision of how our birth will go, or who our kid will grow up to be.  But in the end, despite our expectations and our plans, they will show up and turn out in their own way.

Well thank goodness for that because their uniqueness is exactly what we love, right?  It’s why we take on the challenge (and face our fears) of bringing a child into this world.

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