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By Gabrielle. Painting by the amazing Karina Bania, titled, Point of Balance

I’m so drawn to the lovely, quiet way Erin compares her drastically different births to artwork: both beautiful, but one with a few more brushstrokes that only come with experience. So many of us try to gather up all the information we can possibly carry before a big life-changing undertaking – it’s comforting, right? – only to discover that our experience didn’t remotely follow the books and methods and tried and true advice. Sometimes you’ve just got to feel it for yourself.

You’re going to love Erin’s story. I just know you will. There’s anticipation, disappointment, a second  chance, a sudden twist of fate that will make you gasp, a brilliant suggestion to spend the night before delivery at a sweet hotel, and a very happy ending. Oh, I hope I didn’t spoil it for you! Here are all the good parts of Erin’s story! Enjoy!

Life certainly changes once you have kids. My life prior to our two children, Benjamin and Kaia, was completely different; so much so, that if I were to paint two pictures of my life before and after, one would not believe that the girl standing in the middle of those two paintings was, in fact, the same person.

In my single years before kids, I really took full advantage of every opportunity that came my way. I was enrolled in University studying my love of art and design, and traveling overseas to exotic places while working full-time as a model.

After meeting my husband, Mark, who was also an avid traveller, our passion for exploring the world continued. From the ancient temples in Angkor Wat to the artistic streets of Montmartre, we felt at home until our first child Benjamin came along. And then our home quickly went from the hustle and bustle of the big city to the quiet countryside. Catching cabs in painted lips and stilettos was replaced with building forts in unbrushed hair and pajamas…and although both pictures are completely different, both are so beautiful in their own way.

Similar to these two different lifestyles, were two different experiences that I had with childbirth. I wish I could say the same – that both of my birth experiences were beautiful in their own way – but, sadly, I cannot…

I’d like to start by mentioning my experience with pregnancy and birth the first time around. After becoming pregnant with our first child, Benjamin, I took an interest in everything baby related and found myself caught up in researching everything under the sun about babies. The specific subject of childbirth was repeatedly typed in my Google search bar, and after lots of online reading and talking to moms who went the natural route, I decided I wanted the same.

To prepare for my natural birth experience, I took Hypnobirthing classes, read natural birth books, and wrote a thorough birth plan that excluded any drugs, unnecessary baby monitoring, cervical checks, and so forth. I felt totally prepared and just SO eager for this day of greatness to arrive. Then finally, our time came and went, and I was left feeling traumatized. I never had that natural birth experience that I so wanted, but the trauma that I felt wasn’t because of this. What I didn’t realize at the time that was even more important to me than a natural birth was the type of treatment I received during the whole process.

To summarize my experience, I felt like a cow that had been poked, prodded, and then later left alone feeling violated and stripped of my dignity. I know this sounds extreme, but this is exactly how I felt and I was affected by it for a very long time. It wasn’t until I had a great experience this time around with our second child, Kaia, where those feelings were lifted and I was healed.

I guess you could say the list of events leading up to the Kaia’s birth really began on February first in 2015. It was Super Bowl Sunday and I was two days shy of 42 weeks.

It was around 9:00 pm when Mark and I decided to begin our hour-long trek into the city. At this point, I’d been experiencing steady contractions for the past seven hours that were neither progressing nor dwindling away. A big snow storm was expected to hit our area later that night, and although I was feeling doubtful (after my previous week of false labour episodes) about these contractions progressing, we figured it’d be best to beat the storm and stay the night at a hotel in case it did turn into anything.

We were driving down Main Street in our small town, and already there was a thick layer of snow on the ground. I began going through my checklist of hospital bag items in my head, when I suddenly remembered Mark’s conference call that was scheduled the next day. I turned to him and asked if he had his work computer. Just to be sure we pulled over for what seemed like no more than ten seconds to check the trunk of the car. Yep, it was there!

Main Street soon turned into a dark side road, and driving conditions suddenly became dangerous. I could tell Mark was getting nervous at this point. There were no streetlights to show us the way, little direction in the snow covered roads, and a few crazy drivers underestimating the dangers of the storm.

Before we could even grasp what was happening, we spotted a car in the distance spinning towards us at high speed, eventually coming to a stop in our lane. All in all, everyone was okay and left the scene unscathed, but then it dawned on us: if we didn’t pull over to check the trunk of the car, where would we be? That night, I felt a strong presence of my Nanny Eileen – she was our angel watching us from up above – and after that moment more than ever before, I couldn’t wait to meet our baby girl who would carry on her name. Kaia Eileen.

Once we arrived at our hotel later that night, my contractions stopped. I thought I’d be upset at the fact, but really, I was more relieved that Mark and I had this opportunity to spend a quiet evening together before things were about to get a little crazy with our family.

It wasn’t until breakfast the following morning, when my contractions decided to make an appearance once again. It was around 10:00 am when the first one hit and I remember thinking, this one feels a bit different. It’s funny how quickly you forget – regardless of how many babies you’ve had – what real labour feels like.

We had a list of appointments to get to that day, and even though I was pretty confident that I was in the early stages of labour, we decided to go with the flow and see what would happen.

Surely enough, my contractions progressed steadily throughout the day. It was at our last appointment while waiting in line, where I started to feel uncomfortable in a public setting. I gave Mark the look that we needed to get out of there ASAP, and soon after we left to find a hotel near the hospital – our planned place to labour at.

It was around 3:00 pm when we found a cute little boutique hotel called bE SixFifty, which happened to be only a block away from the hospital. While I settled into my cozy labour nest, Mark went out to pick up lunch – two tasty burritos – and my birth ball from the car. At this point, I felt a sense of relief as I was finally able to labour in peace and comfort.

We hung out, ate burritos, talked, and laughed in between contractions. Less than two hours passed when I felt it was time to make the call to my midwife. I was in active labour.

Once we settled into the delivery room at around 5:00 pm, everything seemed to unfold so quickly. One minute, I was taking bites of my burrito and chatting on my birth ball in between contractions. The next, I was slow dancing with Mark and groaning my way through each wave of intensity. After a few of these almost unbearable contractions, my water suddenly broke and everything after that became a blur.

I went from 7cm to 10cm in a matter of minutes, and was suddenly on the hospital bed with three people trying to hold me in place as my body was vigorously trying to get this baby out. Within 10 minutes, I was holding our sweet baby in my arms, and I remember feeling so proud of what my body had just accomplished, and so grateful for the amount of support I had in the delivery room that day.

It was 6:24pm when Kaia Eileen Simmons was born. She was 10lb 2oz and perfect in every way. I was so happy to see her latch right away. She’s been eating like a champ ever since; her brother may just have to put up a fight for the last chip in the bowl!

I wish every mother could experience childbirth the way I had that day. There is a lot to be said about keeping your voice and dignity when you are most vulnerable.

On another note, regardless of our experiences with giving birth to a baby – how one painted picture can be completely different to the next – the outcome for the most part is the same, and each so beautiful in their own way.

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Thank you, Erin! You are so kind in your wish that every mother could share in an idyllic childbirth like the one you enjoyed. And there is a lot to be said about retaining your dignity and desires when you’re most vulnerable. I often think that our voice is one of the most powerful and treasured tools we can possess. I’m so glad you found yours and found comfort in your “second painting!”

This story offers a lot of inspiration for those who endured a not-so-perfect birth that didn’t follow every plan you dreamed it would, and those who hesitate to do it all again for fear of the same outcome. Erin did it! And I’m certain a lot of readers out there did, too! And if any of you would ever like to share your expertise, we are all ears.

P.S. – Find all the stories in this series here. Do you have a story about birth, pregnancy, adoption or infertility? Send your story to me, will you please?