I gave birth in 30 minutes

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 Photo: Shutterstock

At 8:30am, I opened one groggy eye and saw my husband lying on the couch, reading the news. I picked up my phone and scanned the day's headlines. It could have been a typical Sunday morning, except we weren't at home; we were in a hospital birthing suite, and I had a wireless monitor around my belly.

Over 30 hours earlier, my waters broke while we were at home. Labour still hadn't started spontaneously and because having ruptured membranes increases the risk of infection for an unborn baby, I was being induced.

I took a deep breath, trying to mentally ready myself for a long day. It'd only been 45 minutes since they'd started administering serotonin, and all the stories I'd heard about women being induced involved long and intensely painful labours. I wondered how long it would take before we met our second child. Five hours? Ten? Was I ready for a cesarean if labour stalled?

At 8:45, I felt a twinge in my stomach and knew immediately that the serotonin was starting to work. By 9:15am the pain had escalated, and the contractions were coming hard and fast. As we finished counting through one, it felt like only a few seconds before the next one started.

"I just want a break long enough to pee!" I said. My husband walked me to the bathroom, where I sat on the toilet and breathed (maybe wailed?) through another contraction.

Back at the hospital bed, we tried to find a break long enough between the contractions so I could climb back on. But it didn't happen.

At 9:24am I delivered our baby while standing beside the bed - less than half an hour after active labour had begun.

The euphoria that followed was unforgettable. Relief washed over me as I realised it was all over, and that my little boy had arrived safely, and was healthy.

Though the delivery was free from pain-relief, interventions and any negative effects on bub, I hadn't gotten away completely scott free.

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Baby's quick descent allowed little time for my pelvic bone and muscles to adjust, and left me with bruising, stretched ligaments and a weak pelvic floor. Simple activities like sitting up to breastfeed, sitting cross-legged, getting in and out of the car, pushing the pram and even turning over in bed were excruciating in the months that followed, and it took longer than I expected to recover from such a quick, seemingly uncomplicated labour.

It's only now, after twelve months, ongoing (costly) visits to a physiotherapist, and a weekly commitment to core strengthening classes, that I've been able to regain some of my pre-pregnancy strength.

A lot of the women I spoke to were enviable of my quick labour experience and dismissive of the complications that followed; a response I found frustrating but understandable.

"I know most mothers want a quick, painless labour. But that outcome is dependent on so many things," says Olivia King-Downie, who works at the Australian College of Midwives and is also a doula. "Anything around 8-10 hours and mum and bub faring well at the end of it all is a 'good' first labour, or the standard I've experienced with the families I've worked with."

She explains that precipitate labours (when baby is birthed less than 3 hours from when contractions start) aren't something you'd expect in first-time labours, but it's normal to for delivery times to be halved in post first-birth labours - as was the case with mine.

"Every birth is different, and every time you walk into a birthing suite or delivery room, you never know how it's going to play out," She says. "Just a few weeks ago, I worked with a woman who had a 48-hour birth. Then, two weeks later, we had an under three-hour first-delivery."

Olivia explains women wishing for or trying to induce a quick labour need to be wary of the complications that may arise. Not only is there a risk that you mightn't even make it to the hospital, there are risks to the baby, such as interruptions to the their oxygen supply due to the speed and frequency of contractions, and risks to mum, such as heavy bleeding, or retaining placenta.

"There's a greater risk of tearing [of the perineum, cervix or vagina], and the repercussions of that, as well as pelvic floor integrity," she says. "These things are really important, particularly to women's mental healing after labour."

Being aware of what can happen, and getting yourself into the headspace for delivery is an important part reducing the panic and coping with the pain, Olivia says.

"Every woman's headspace is different when they're labouring, whether they labour quickly or slowly," she says, "But if you can take the fear and adrenalin, and just accept what's going to happen, that all helps. Accept that the body is going to do what it's going to do, and let it run its course. When there's an element of acceptance, and you feel safe, and you feel you've got trust in your care providers or your partner and you can just let go, it makes an enormous difference."

While I experienced excellent support from my husband, midwife and sisters during my labour that made it easier to get through the pain, it was life post-delivery that I found hardest to cope with.

I found it hard to accept my body's limitations, and the difficulty I had doing simple, day-to-day things like running around with my five-year-old, sitting up to breastfeed my baby, or even using the vacuum cleaner - all of which made adjusting to life with two kids trickier than what I was prepared for. I found the challenges played havoc on my mental health, it was only after seeking professional help that I was able to debrief the experience in full - a step I now realise is a critical part to the postpartum recovery process.

"I think it's really important for care providers to debrief labour," Olivia says. "Whether it's with their midwife, clinician or obstetrician - I think it's a very important part of postnatal mental health that often gets overlooked. If you end up with lots of unexpected outcomes [during labour], and you don't know how to sit within it, that's really difficult. With the mothers I work with, I debrief the birth in full, just so they can gain clarity. It helps them to recover and accept what was."