The times I have told the birth story, of my precipitous labour, after Nell was born in February, I often joked ‘well there’s not a lot to tell, it was all over so quickly.
Truth is, the whole experience from start to finish will stick in my mind forever.
I’ve always heard so much whilst growing up and recently, about long, drawn out labours. The kind that go on for days, with slow inductions, contractions slowing and the cervix taking ages to reach 10cm dilated. My first labour was fifteen hours so didn’t feel too shocked about the length of it…
Nobody ever talks in depth about the fast labours, the ones that can also be traumatic and painful, similar to induction with hard and intense contractions.
Well, this was me, second time around.
What exactly is a precipitous labour?
A precipitous labour is one which is usually defined as giving birth in less than 3 hours from the start of contractions.
Instead of a slow gradual build-up of contractions over several hours, these can be much more sudden and intense from the offset.
Some women giving birth aren’t aware they are in labour until the final stage.
Every pregnancy and labour is different
I was due to have my second baby, on the 6th February, although I know that due dates aren’t accurate and this time round I was doing everything I could to induce labour earlier.
My second pregnancy was hard, don’t get me wrong, I was low risk throughout and the baby was healthy, apart from being deemed ‘big’ two weeks prior to due date, all was well, but I was just way more tired than I remembered with Millie.
The head was engaged for some time therefore the heaviness was a lot on my already weakened perineum by the end of each day. I genuinely felt I had a bigger baby than last time.
The pressure of being asked to get induced on my due date was playing on my mind (although I had declined this and said I wouldn’t even consider it until my due date passed) and even the imminent ‘sweep’ I had booked in, was making me feel anxious.
And my labour began
I decided to start with clary sage diffusers at bedtime about a week before my due date and on the 2nd February, I asked Pete to massage my foot pressure points, which are another way of inducing labour.
On the morning of 3rd February at 3:00am I woke, feeling the usual urge to go to the toilet- something I was used to by this point in pregnancy.
I went to my en-suite toilet and sat in the dark, feeling very heavy in my bottom. I knew that with Millie, my bowels emptied and that was a sure sign of imminent labour, this time I just felt like I couldn’t go, so sat there for a while before returning to bed.
Only a couple of minutes passed, and I was certain I needed to try again, this time I headed to the main bathroom so as not to disturb Pete. The main bathroom was lighter from the window and the outside streetlight. I sat down and could see a small amount blood on the pad. ‘’Oh its started’’ I thought and went back to my bedroom to get changed. I then sat on the toilet again a couple of minutes later and noticed more blood.
Suddenly, the pain I had felt in my bottom, had worsened and I was started to use hypnobirthing techniques to stay calm. I called out to Pete (he said this was at around 3:15am).
He passed me my Wavecomb which helped with using pressure points to divert pain and he started to time my contractions, I held that comb so tight in my hand as the pain was intensifying quicker than I had remembered with Millie’s birth.
It was all happening so fast
I told Pete to call the hospital, as this time I’d planned to use the midwife led unit and would need to know when to go in. I can clearly remember Pete talking to the midwife and him telling her that my contractions were pretty regular at this point. He passed me the phone as soon as my contraction had finished so that I could quickly talk to her.
The words still ring in my head now ” Do you want to come in? just be aware that with your second baby, everything can happen much quicker!’ … I agreed to come in, so Pete called my mum to come round and look after Millie.
I had no idea what time this was, all I knew as that the pain was now so intense, and I had moved to being perched on the edge of the bed, trying my very best to squeeze the comb and breathe through the pain.
My mum arrived but Pete had to do a lateral flow and although I thought we were prepared with the hospital bag, there were still things to put in and all I was thinking was, I need to get dressed and get myself to the car.
I waited for the next surge to end and pulled on some comfy pants and my dressing gown…. the next surge came, and I literately was on my tiptoes, clenching the comb and moaning in agony. Wow, how you forget the pain from your first labour, but I carried on with my breathing and concentrating on relaxing between the contractions.
I managed to get myself up and get downstairs, out the front door and to the car. ” It’s okay” I told myself… ” I don’t have the urge to push yet”.
There was just no time!
As soon as I opened the door of the car, I knew it was coming, I leant over on the seat, conscious that it was the middle of the night and once again (like my first birth) I was having a contraction in the middle of the street!
I got in the car and waited for Pete, thinking seriously we need to go. As we drove off, I told Pete to drive carefully but soon enough the contractions were now unbearable and I held the car door handle so tight.
I didn’t even open my eyes on that journey as I was so focussed on using the time between contractions to rest and prepare for the next one.
I must have opened my eyes when we were about 10 minutes from the hospital, I remember at this point I had felt something move down but as the contraction stopped, it had seemed like it had gone back up.
It was almost like the baby was giving me just a little bit of extra time to reach the hospital as the time of rest at this point also just held out that little bit longer. My body had been pushing for the whole car journey, but it didn’t even register in my mind.
We reached the car park and Pete was still trying to keep me calm and reassure me that we had arrived, it was okay, he would get me out and into the hospital on a chair.
One more painfully intense contraction and I shouted ” No, I can’t…. that’s the head!!”
Even the ‘ Burning ring of fire’ of the head crowning was so surreal. The baby was coming now and there was no way I could get out of the car.
”You need to check, are you sure?” … Well, when the head crowns, you can’t lie about it, that’s for sure!
The midwives were just in time!
As the pain subsided again, I glanced out of the window and saw the midwives running towards us. ”Is it Hayley? Can you get into the back seat?’ she asked.
I couldn’t move, I could tell Pete was trying to help the midwives. One of them said ”we need to get your trousers off Hayley, can you do that?” I whimpered and sobbed in panic and pain, as she helped me with my trousers, it was like a huge release, the contraction was coming and all I could do was lean over the arm rest and push. The head was out and not far after that the shoulders.
Baby was pulled out into the foot well, they placed the baby on me for a minute and all I could say between the tears of relief and shock was ” Pete, what is it???!”
It was a girl, and they took her quickly into the hospital to get her out of the cold night air.
The after pains I felt in my bottom were unbearable and getting into the hospital was so painful, I cried and whimpered as I clambered onto the bed in the beautiful room they had set up and waiting for me. The amazing midwives helped deliver the placenta, and then stitched me up for a small tear.
The arrival of our beautiful baby girl
Your baby girl was born at 5:00 am exactly, the midwife told me. I could not believe that it was all over so quickly, it was like one minute I was pregnant and now I’m not. This thought still resonates with me now.
I felt so proud of myself at this point, no pain relief and a safe arrival of my baby. But wow what a whirlwind, I was so tired, emotionally drained but the oxytocin was flowing, and I finally held my baby girl in my arms.
We didn’t name her for the first couple of hours but decided that Nell would be the name of the little girl who couldn’t wait to meet us that morning!
I was discharged by 10am that morning but I told myself not to rush and to just relax and wait until Nell woke and fed until we would leave. I think deep down, I was still trying to prolong the whole experience and just have that time, just the three of us bonding and healing.
Pete went out to clean the car as best he could and noticed the car park ticket entry time which said ‘ 04:54’, Nell was born 6 minutes later! It was a close call and I’m so glad that I hadn’t told Pete to pull over at the side of the road.
The early days
The early days were hard, the baby blues hit me like a tonne of bricks this time round. Although I suffered with pain after having Millie, this experience was so different, I now mourned my pregnant body and although I knew I wanted the baby to arrive before my due date, I couldn’t come to terms with my precipitous labour being just two hours long, from start to finish.
I was overwhelmed and cried every day, I cried looking at Millie, knowing my first born had something new to deal with, the night feeds were hard again, and in a flash my possible last pregnancy to experience and embrace had gone.
If you read my first birth story about the grueling fourth trimester, then this time around different types of feelings were added to the list.
The speed of my precipitous labour really did affect me and my mental health, but nobody prepares you for that and it is assumed that it’s nothing but a good thing to have a fast labour and get it over and done with. Yes, it was quick, no complications, no long tiring hours of your body using energy to push that baby down.
My birth was a positive one, no interventions and my body birthed a healthy 7lb 30z baby… but more needs to be done for the postpartum mother, to really talk through their birth experience and to help them overcome the emotional roller coaster in the following weeks.
Precipitous labour is an added shock to the mind, an abrupt end to 9 months growing your baby and can be a painful shock to the body, which differs so strikingly to longer labours/births.
Our Guest Blogger: Hayley Millington
A very insightful blog written by our guest blogger, Hayley Millington. I personally sat on the edge of my chair whilst reading this most recent blog. Hayley really captures how a Precipitous Labour can be tough despite most mums-to-be wishing for a fast labour!
Hayley has written a blog for Nursery Store before. Check it out here – ‘My positive birth’