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).
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.