when my quick labour took me by surprise!
By Michelle Mayefske
My third pregnancy was by far my most challenging. My body broke down and started to develop severe symptoms of autoimmune illness at six months gestation. I was physically and emotionally drained to the max and my mental health tanked. My poor husband watched as my usual vibrant self crumbled under my intense health issues.
My path through the darkness was paved by the excitement of meeting my baby. I spent hours preparing and dreaming about their arrival. My husband and I decided on our first home birth + water birth and we were both looking forward to the experience. My birth doula met with us regularly and put my mind at ease when I worried about how my health issues could impact things. I repeatedly told my body that I trusted it to birth like it had twice before and I told my baby that I was ready to meet them. Throughout my pregnancy I remember telling friends and family that I really wanted to follow my body's lead… and did I ever!
I was awoken in the early morning at 4 am by some intense twinges in my very low pelvis. I changed positions a few times thinking that might help- no. I used the toilet thinking that might help- not a chance. These couldn't be contractions, could they? They were so deep in my pelvis and not higher up in my uterus like my previous births. I laid in bed and had a few more that were very strong… this must be it! I woke up my husband, who woke up our 11 year old and the birth pool set up began!
Twenty minutes and at least three surges later, my husband asked if he should call our doula. I told him “ughhh… no! This could take hours!” but something immediately became different. The surges increased even more in intensity and felt like they were one on top of the other. I got a few bits and pieces ready for my birth space but… what was happening!? It felt like transition but how could I be in transition!? I had been in labour 30 min!
I laboured in the kitchen while standing and ordered my husband to ring our doula. I told her I needed her NOW! My husband hurried around trying to ensure the pool was filling while also trying to comfort me as I became louder. The surges were one right after the other and I felt like I had no opportunity to comprehend what was happening. I thought to myself, “This is either going to be the most painful labour ever or I AM in transition!” There was no build up or warning- just BOOM, go time!
I stood against my kitchen counter visualising the surges like waves on a beach. Each one would swell, bring my baby closer to me and retreat again. I focused on my breath and the baby moving down. Within minutes of this my waters released with a big gush and covered the kitchen floor. This was the first my waters went on their own and I stood in shock. I'm not losing my mind, baby must be near! The next two surges were the most intense as I simultaneously felt huge rectal pressure and movement in my pelvis. I knew I needed to get into the birth pool!
Those ten steps felt like ten miles but once I got into the partially filled pool, it was heaven. My husband was following as I got in and supported me as I rested against the side of the pool. After my next surge I reached down and said “I can feel the baby's head!” I think this statement could still be the biggest shock of my husband's life. At this stage it was only our family in the house- no midwife or doula had made it yet! My hand rested on my baby's head and I remember thinking how small it felt. I was mindful about slowing down this stage so my perineum could naturally stretch to reduce the chance of tearing.
One more surge and my baby was completely out. I didn't have to actively push, as my body did all the work on its own- also called the foetal ejection reflex. I brought our baby up on my chest, rubbed their back and felt my hands covered in vernix! I was so enthralled I completely forgot to check the sex. It was only when my 11 year old stepped into the room and asked that I had a look! We had a beautiful baby boy!
Our support team would arrive minutes later who checked the baby and me- no tears! And helped with keeping the placenta for encapsulation and in making my first ever placenta fruit smoothie. When we checked the clock it was just after 5 am! Just over an hour in labour and all was well.
My baby boy is now almost four and his intense personality is certainly in line with his very quick and overwhelming birth. Precipitous labours are defined as those lasting under two hours. They can feel overwhelming, stressful, shocking and even traumatising for some. For us, I felt like this was the way our experience was meant to be and it was incredibly positive after what was a very challenging pregnancy.