Quick Births

I recently finished reading the book Permission to Mother by Denise Punger (you can read my full review in an upcoming issue of the CAPPA Quarterly). In one of the Appendices of the book, she addresses “Herbal Inductions–Are They Safe?” Her response is “no” and she adds “A homebirth does not equal a ‘natural birth’ if Blue and Black Cohosh are used to induce.” She opens the section by referencing her third labor which was over 12 hours and gave her “time to emotionally adjust to the escalating physical demands and surprise of my labor” and then goes on to say, “Over and over…I am hearing about intense labors that occur in two hours or less! Women often express delight about their miraculously quick labors (as if a quick labor were the goal). But I don’t sense any emotional, physical, or spiritual satisfaction accompanying these seemingly precipitous deliveries.” She also shares that a commonality in these stories is the use of herbals to induce or augment labor.

This section caught my eye, because I had a very quick birth with my second baby. I also was intrigued by the presumptiveness of dismissing a quick birth as not emotionally, physically, or spiritually satisfying—it seems like someone who is seeing through their own “lens” of 12+ hour labors and can’t imagine another type of timeline for birth. For the past several days I’ve been pondering this issue and considering my own experiences. I also did a variety of google searches looking for information about “emotional impact” of “fast labor” or “precipitous birth.” I turned up surprisingly little information—there was one article that popped up several times titled “The experience of precipitate labor” in the journal Birth. However, I was not able to access the full text of the article to read what it actually says. The results were described as: “The experience of precipitate labor was categorized in terms of physical experience (perception of labor length and contractions), psychological experience (relationship of how women perceived birth to their prenatal expectations, and emotional trajectory of disbelief, alarm, panic, and relief), and external factors (support persons and hospital system).”

My searches also turned up personal birth stories, excerpts from nursing textbooks or emergency medicine texts about handling precipitous birth, and message board discussion threads. The most commonly shared pieces of information about rapid labors is that they can be physically shocking and can be difficult to “catch up with” emotionally, as well as stressful because the mothers often are thinking, “if this is early labor, how I can possibly handle another 12 hours?!” They also reference increased change of hemorrhage. I did not see the questions raised by the Permission to Mother segment directly addressed anywhere. So, I want to know–if you experienced a quick birth what physical, emotional, and spiritual satisfaction did you experience, if any? What about external factors? (support persons, birth environment.) How about your psychological experience and “emotional trajectory”?

My own experiences are as follows:

Second baby, total labor two hours. Forty weeks pregnant. No herbal induction methods used. About 45 minutes were “serious labor.” It was very intense and I’ve said several times before that it felt a bit like a train rushing past and that I had run to catch up with it (emotionally and mentally).

Physical Satisfaction:

I was extremely proud of my body and its super-awesomeness 🙂 I felt that my sense of birth trust was physically manifested in my actual birth experience. My body was a powerful and unstoppable force and I had to get out of my own way and let it happen! I felt driven to my hands and knees–like a power was holding me there. After the birth my body felt weak and “run over by a truck”—I felt powerful and like a warrior during the birth, but afterward it was a physical “crash” of sorts. I did not have excessive bleeding, but I did almost faint several times after getting up (hindsight says, why didn’t I just stay down a while longer?!). I experienced labial tearing (no perineal tearing) and a lot of swelling as well as bruising, that I surmise was a direct result of my son’s rapid birth.

Emotional Satisfaction:

The birth was very emotionally satisfying. I did feel as if I never made it to “labor land” though–that hazy, dreamy, unreal state that I associate with my first son’s birth (and longer labor). I did not feel scared or overwhelmed or out of control as such (I did consciously let go of control—I think these are two different things) . I felt proud of myself. I felt amazed. I felt phenomenal. I felt ecstatic. I felt powerful. I felt empowered. I felt triumphant. I was pleased with how I’d verbally coached myself through labor—telling myself “it’s okay, you’re okay” and “be a clear, open channel for birth” and “relax your legs.” I felt excited and enjoyed the “drama” of already holding my baby after only a short while before thinking, “maybe I’m in labor.” It felt like a wonderful, fulfilling adventure.  I didn’t feel like a “victim,” but I did feel like something “happened to me”–as I said, I had to just get out of my own way and let the power roll through me. Later, I felt emotionally upset about the tears and the bruising. This felt like my piece of “failure,” because I had hoped and planned not to tear again.

Spiritual Satisfaction:

This is related to the above for me. I felt like a force of nature–like I was one with the powers of the universe. I was happy with my ability to get out of my head and “be in the now” with the energy of birth. My son’s birth was the most powerful and transformative experience of my life. I think that counts as sprititual satisfaction 🙂

External Factors:

I gave birth at home. If I hadn’t planned a homebirth, I think there would have been more stress and fear involved with trying to get to the hospital (and possibly a car birth, as we live 30 minutes from the hospital). My husband was very physically there with me–holding and supporting me–I felt like we were one person. My mother was present towards the end and held my older son. They felt overwhelmed and surprised by the intensity, but they got out of my way and let me birth! My midwife was present for 5 minutes–enough time to catch the baby. She was calm and a gentle presence.  She was very physically supportive postpartum. No one tried to influence or control what I was doing, where I was, or how I was laboring and giving birth. I had complete freedom and control over my environment.

Emotional Trajectory:

I went from excitement—“I hope this is really it!”—to, “Oh my goodness, we don’t have time to fill up the birth pool—just get me my birth shirt, my blessingway bracelet, and my ponytail holder!” and wading deeply in to the rushing waves of energy. The experience became completely encompassing–I was no longer in my left-brain, but was instead holding on to the train and catching up. I did not feel panicked or alarmed and I did not feel relieved when it was over, I felt amazed and happy and blissful and powerful.

8 thoughts on “Quick Births

  1. Molly, LOVED your story of your “quick birth.” Your words: “I felt proud of myself. I felt amazed. I felt phenomenal. I felt ecstatic. I felt powerful. I felt empowered. I felt triumphant.”

    My third birth was fairly quick too. My focus went so deep in labor that I submerged into an abiding part of my being. I realized it had always been with me, and I knew it would be with me forever. I don’t think I could have uncovered that part of me if I hadn’t been in a challenge that took everything I had to stay with it. One great benefit of birthing is having the opportunity to discover our internal power (which once we have uncovered, we know is always available to us).

    My hope is that every woman has the opportunity to discover the ecstatic, triumphant, powerful awakening, wisdom, etc…that comes to us through birthing.

    Blessings on you, yours, and the work, you do!

  2. Hi Molly,

    I love hearing about your reflections on your second birth.

    I see moms and babies at well-baby and lactation visits following birth. I also see new moms at our local support groups. It’s been two years since I published this section and have accumulated more information. I wanted to answer your question that the new moms have reported to me increased hemorrhage after the use of herbs to bring on labor. On page 252 I used the broader description “cardiovascular distress.” I have definately noticed patterns that I am concerned with when inducing and augmenting occurs at homebirths. I have not been at these births myself to see what defines the hemorrhage so I decided to use a the term “cardiovascular distress.”

    I am not so concerned with quick untampered labor. I am glad to hear that you had no herbs!

    Certainly, I agree, quick birth can be satisfying (ei, my cover models birth page 35-37).

    Thanks for reading my book and writing a review. Thanks for all the work you do to help woman birth their babies.

    Denise Punger

    • Thanks for your comment, Denise! To clarify, when I mentioned increased risk of hemorrhage with precipitous labors, I was referring to other books/articles I’ve read about fast births, not about the section in your book and not specifically with regard to herbal inductions. My question to other readers is really about the “emotional, physical, and spiritual satisfaction” point you raised 🙂

      I have to write quickly (two little boys at home!) and can’t quite delve into a subject as much as I would like to—I’d like to explore the issue of herbal inductions more completely in another blog post. I definitely share your concern about tampering with the natural process of birth, even if said tampering is through “natural”/herbal means!

  3. I think putting time on having a baby as satisfactory is the wrong answer. I look at child birth as a time to deliver our bundle of joy in the most healthiest situation. For me this was connecting to my baby from time zero. Was it from 4 weeks or whatever…I was counting each day at talking to my little one. Exercising and eating only foods that would encourage a strong healthy baby. Of course there were times when I would have that glass of wine to relax, never worried me. I believed I would have a quick labor without any reason as it was not a genetic thing, but more me talking to my little one the whole time. My first baby was born in less than 3 hours. I broke my water and the doctor wanted to induce. I wouldn’t let this happen and he gave me 8 hours to do something. I connected with my baby and said hurry up!!! 10 minutes labor I had my first contraction. 3 hours later the baby was born. I remember the nurse told me to run to the hospital on the next baby as I had precipitious birth. The next baby was the same as it was over 10 years later and considered the same as the first baby. The third was 55 minutes from the first twinge to being born almost on the highway and the fourth was 35 minutes getting stuck and then being born 10 minutes later. I contribute to being very fit, never thinking I would have more than an hour and lots of sex! A strong uterus, a strong connection to the baby, eating only healthy foods and being in great health from lots of exercising kept me fit for the birth. Never took any medicine or cutting. It was all natural…except my makeup. What I am trying to say is, take care of yourself, connect to the new spirit inside you, talk to your body and take care of it as it will take you through the whole process in a wonderful way. Was it painful…of course….terribly so, but over quickly with healthy mom and baby ready to tackle the world as it was over so quick. So when you are emotionally and physically fit, your baby generally will be as well as you both can accomplish any birth…home, car….or hospital.

    • I love your point, Trina. You’re very right. I think that is why the quote about “little physical, emotional, or spiritual satisfaction” jumped out at me so starkly–there is a lot involved with birth rather than timelines. I’m having trouble remembering exactly what I read, but I remember reading an article about WHY women even feel the use do describe birth in terms of a timeline–i.e. “I was 4 centimeters dilated at 2:00…” because that is not how birth FEELS–it is an “observer’s” perspective of birth, not the felt perspective. I wish I could remember more of what I’m talking about…need to google and/or look in my files!

  4. This really caught my attention as I used blue cohash about a week before my second daughter’s delivery. She was a planned homebirth and I took some blue cohash tea under the advisement of my herbalist who told me that blue cohash would help prepare the body for labor and if the body/baby was ready then it might help get things going. As I said I took a few cups of tea a week before we went into labor but hadn’t had any for five or six days before labor actually started. In the end I delivered a nine pound + breech little girl and experienced no tearing. The labor was five hours from first contraction to the time she was resting on my chest. Being nowhere close to the two hour range I’m not sure if that qualifies as being too quick or not but it was good for me. I felt very aware and intune with the process. I felt, like you said, very proud of my body in it’s apparent abilty to accomplish such a feat – however probably because of the increased length of the labor I felt emotionally that I was keeping pace. The flow of the entire event was very ‘right’ for me – it felt like things were going the way they should. I didn’t feel the ‘crash’ afterwards but I attribute this to a formula my herbalist made for me called ‘shock tea’. After the birth of my first I noticed that I was getting cold, shaky, chills that sound (from what I’ve read) exactly like going into shock which made sense to me as it seems that even though it is a natural process your body has still gone through a lot so it’s entitled to a little shock. That being the case I talked to my herbalist and she made a formula (apple cider vinegar, cayanne, honey and a little shepards purse) that I took immediately afterwards. From what I understand cayanne regulates blood circulation (keeping it in balance) and shepards purse specifically works against hemorraging. The difference between having this available and not was unbelievable – it really helped my body get back in balance, rejuvinate me and let me enjoy the time with my newborn rather than being cold, shaky, exhausted and somewhat disoriented after delivery. Perhaps I am mistaken in my information but I had always attributed the blue cohash with the softening of my perineal tissue hence helping me deliver a healthy breech presentation without a tear even though I had torn with my previous smaller head down baby. Since it didn’t send me into labor I’ve always felt that blue cohash was more of a preparative herb but don’t know how coupling it’s usage with the anit-hemorraging agents I took immediatly after delivery could have changed the effect of the herb. Which brings to mind one question I have and that is what other factors were involved other than the use of blue/black cohash? It seems to me that with labor there are so many seeming small things coming into play for each woman that can drastically change the outcome depending on how/when/with whom they happen. Anyhow sorry if that all was too much information/too long of a response. Thanks for sharing your experience and giving me yet another good thing to ponder and consider. I love your blog and look forward to each new post.

    • Stephanie–you’re right about many things coming into play. It is hard to “pin” any one thing! I would like to do another post with more about the cohoshes. Thank you for your compliment about my blog. I enjoy writing it and I wish I had more time to write more posts–I have many, many ideas, but not enough time to share them all!

  5. Pingback: Brought to our knees | Talk Birth

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