A lot of parents are concerned about what it might be like if they go into labor suddenly, and baby comes faster than expected! For some, this is a source of anxiety not knowing, and others dream about a quick labor and delivery, thinking it would somehow be easier.
The truth is, when labor happens fast, it can sometimes be accompanied by very overwhelming feelings, physically and emotionally, just like it can in a very long labor! Fast labors aren't any easier than long labors, but they are different, the way that a sprint is different from a marathon. The trick is, you don't know which event you are preparing for until you've already started the race.
Today on the blog, one of our previous birth doula clients who gave birth in Cincinnati graciously shares her experience having a fast labor with her second baby.
Can you briefly share your recent birth story?
Simon's due date was October 16th, 2016. I had frequent braxton hicks contractions for almost all of the second and third trimesters, but was never very dilated or effaced at any of my appointments. We ended up scheduling an induction for October 26th, which would have been 41w3d.
On the 25th I woke up and had some very light pink discharge - something I hadn't experienced yet in the pregnancy. I felt totally fine, however, and went about my day, heading to brunch and then to a physical therapy appointment at 1PM that afternoon.
On my way home I stopped at Target, and while I was there I started to feel a little funny and could tell I was having some contractions as I walked around. When I got home I put my feet up and realized that my contractions were not puttering out like they always had. I started timing them around 4PM and realized that although they were not painful, they were 7-8 minutes apart, and had decreased to 5-6 minutes apart by around 5PM. At this point I still wasn't fully convinced that I was in labor, but I phoned my OB anyway and also texted my doula, Kate, to give her a heads up.
My husband and I ended up leaving for the hospital about 5:45PM and the contractions quickly became more painful and closer together on the drive there. We arrived at the hospital and were taken to a room just before 7PM, where my contractions intensified even more. When they first checked me around 7:10PM I was 5cm!
Things moved really fast after that and I quickly decided that I wanted an epidural, which was placed just before 8PM. Kate arrived shortly after, and started to help by reminding us of a few comfort measures I had wanted to use and by taking some photos. At some point my water broke, and when they checked me around 8:15PM I was 9cm.
The epidural never really fully took on the left side and I had to breathe through a few contractions while on my left side before they got me positioned to deliver. I think I was ready to push well before they had me start because the doctor hadn’t even arrived yet! I can tell by the timestamp on the photos Kate took that I pushed for about ten minutes before he came out - he was born at 8:39PM weighing 8lb 3oz!
What were you expecting prior to going into labor?
At the end of my first pregnancy I was induced at 41 weeks due to low fluid levels, and ended up with a 37-hour labor and bad hemorrhage following delivery. I was really hoping for a different experience but also expecting another induction, especially after I hit 41 weeks with no sign of a baby coming. My only hope was that it wouldn't take as long or be quite as dramatic as my first delivery was.
How were you feeling right before you went into labor?
I was definitely ready to give birth. I had been experiencing some pelvic dysfunction with this pregnancy that had made it physically very challenging for me. I had really hoped to experience what going into labor naturally felt like, but at the same time I felt completely ready for the induction we had scheduled. It was a mix of disappointment and relief, plus all of the excitement and anxiety that comes with a new baby.
How did your labor and birth experience compare to what you were expecting?
My labor came as a complete surprise! I had really prepared myself for the induction and had honestly just come to believe I was one of those ladies who would just never go into labor on her own. This experience ended up being the complete opposite of my first and really exactly what I had hoped for - quicker with less drama!
What was it like emotionally while you were in labor? What were you thinking about?
It was so fast, I'm not sure I had very much time to think. I was definitely frightened by the fact that I was already 5cm dilated right after we arrived and remember feeling like I had to make a split-second decision about pain management because things were happening so fast. Delivery happened so quickly that I remember as he was crowning I was terrified that he'd shoot right out and that I'd get an awful tear in the process. It felt like my body was a freight train and my brain was just along for the ride!
Did you realize things were happening fast?
Definitely no. I was really in complete denial that it was even happening until we were almost at the hospital. Even then, I didn't decide to call Kate until after we had been admitted and things started to really snowball. I was completely shocked when they first checked me and I was already 5cm dilated, and I also don't think my husband realized how out-of-control I felt at that point.
I went from 5-10cm in just over an hour, so it's no wonder that I felt the way I did. In hindsight I wish that I had realized it was the real deal sooner and asked Kate to come a little earlier, because I think you probably would have realized how fast things were moving and helped slow that pain management decision down a little. I may still have asked for the epidural but I do think I opted for it more out of fear of the unknown versus my actual need for it - I remember thinking, "you need to make this decision NOW before it's too late!" I certainly don't regret it, but I do think I would have been fine without any medication.
How did you feel immediately after the birth? What were you thinking and feeling emotionally in those first hours?
I think I said, "I can't believe that happened" probably 100 times in the first few hours. It was thrilling. I was so shocked at what my body had done I just couldn't wrap my head around it! To top things off, the 25th was my birthday too, so not only did I have this surprise labor but we also now share a birthday. It was hands down the best birthday surprise I've ever gotten! I really did feel fantastic afterward and was just so thankful to have had that experience and to have a healthy baby.
If you had a choice between a fast birth or a long and slow birth, which would you pick and why?
I feel like I've experienced both ends of the spectrum, and I'd definitely opt for the fast birth. The labor itself was probably scarier, but I truly felt awesome immediately after and the first few weeks postpartum were a breeze compared to my first. I don’t think I’d want to experience anything quicker though!