The Mixed Blessing of a Quick Birth
I have been blessed with two beautiful, healthy, uncomplicated births. I feel very lucky and am very grateful for this. These births were also quite quick. The first was just under four hours and the second was just under two hours. And these times are from start to finish – from fast asleep in my bed with no concrete signs of impending labor to a baby crying on my chest. When people hear this they usually gush about how very lucky I am and how jealous they are, relaying their own marathon labor.
I know I'm very lucky, but I don't think it's so much because my births were speedy as because I had healthy and uncomplicated births. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade my experience for an excessively long or intervention-filled birth – or any other birth, for that matter. But I do think that in a perfect world I would have had a bit more time.
I don't want this to come across as all "Woe is me!" – but I would like to present for your consideration a list of reasons why precipitous births can present their own challenges.
1. Fast and Furious.
With a very fast labor it feels like you have been thrown into the deep end of the pool. There is no opportunity to get your sea legs with a gradual ramping up of intensity. It hits you like a truck. It's the same amount of work most people take twice as long (or more!) to do compressed into a couple VERY intense hours.
2. Timing and Logistics
There is a very real possibility you might not make it to the hospital/birth center. Thankfully, the second time around I was expecting a quick birth, so we got out the door at the first sign of a contraction – and we still cut it too close for comfort. My daughter was born seven minutes after we arrived at the birth center. Thankfully my sister and brother-in-law were at our home when we had to leave, because if we'd had to wait for someone to come take care of my son we never would have made it. We had considered having a home birth, but since it wasn't covered by insurance, we just couldn't afford it.
3. Bye-Bye Birth Plan
Everyone warns you not to bank on your birth plan happening to the letter, but of course everyone has a vision for their birth and if the reality doesn't match up there can be some disappointment. Thankfully, in my case, all the medical/intervention plans worked out. But I did have a birth mix, cooler of snacks, massage oil and comfy socks that never saw the outside of my birth bag. Not a tragedy, certainly, but I did have to reconcile the vision with the reality. Some dear friends of mine had to trade their planned birth center birth for a parking lot and three-day hospital stay.
4. Psyched Out
During my first birth I didn't realize how quick it was going to be. I thought I had hours and hours ahead of me – and this freaked me out because I was already functioning at maximum capacity and knew there was no way I could keep this up for much longer. Little did I know, I was practically at the finish line. If you think transition is early labor it can really mess with your confidence in your ability to birth naturally.
5. As If Transition Wasn't Uncomfortable Enough
I do not recommend going through transition in a car. With a seat belt on. And red lights. During my second birth I had the unique experience of wanting to punch through the roof, vomit out the window and claw for my partner's attention/support while she was trying to concentrate on the road.
6. Didn't Plan For a Natural Birth? Too Bad!
Thankfully I had wanted a natural birth and had read, taken classes and mentally prepared for it. I can't imagine having planned on a epidural only to have to face a natural birth without any preparation.
7. No, Really! It's Time!
When I called the midwife during my first birth she tried to talk me out of coming into the birth center. Just go back to bed or take a hot shower and relax," she told me. I assured her that I should really come in. She hesitantly said I could drive over, "But when I check you I will most likely be sending you home again, so don't call your doula or family until after you arrive." She was so hesitant that I was second-guessing myself, too (see number 4). Of course, when I arrived she had to eat her words – but my doula and family almost missed the birth! The second time around I made sure to let the midwives know to expect a quick birth and that I planned on coming in at the first sign of labor – thank goodness!
Quick births can still be wonderful births – mine certainly were. Still, the next time someone shares with you that they had a precipitous labor, rather than dismissing it as easy, give them a pat on the back for a job well done.
Sandra Telep is a West Philadelphia mom of two. This post is adapted from her blog, West Philly Mama.