Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How Do You Know I'm in Labor?

She is a great lady, with an awesome sense of humor. Her husband called me, she had told him not to, that it was not labor. He looked at her, curled up on the bathroom floor breathing through contractions, and made the phone call. I said that they should probably head on was their third baby after all. Twenty minutes later, she walked through the door, clearly in labor and clearly well into her labor. She continued to be convinced that this was not, could not be labor and apologized for me having to come in. I just helped her walk back to the room, starting taking her vital signs and listening to her babe. Since she was positive for GBS, the nurse worked on starting an IV. She really did not like the needles, and in between contractions she argued..."are you sure it is time for that?"...."how do we know I am in labor"...."what if I don't need that IV yet?" Her husband, myself, the nurse and her doula all tried to reassure her that she was, in fact, in labor. Again, she argued, "but how do you know?" Finally, I said, "because we all have eyes!"

So, once the IV was started and she was a little more settled, I checked her cervix and low and behold!...she was definitely in labor and was actually in transition. We helped her into the birth pool and she finally began to accept that her labor was real. Less than one hour after arriving, she birthed her beautiful baby to the world.

Afterwards, we all talked about her reluctance to believe her labor. First, it had been very fast, less than four hours from start to finish. As I have discussed before, fast labors can be very difficult for women to process. Additionally, this Mama had her previous two babes in a hospital, where she was "ignored" until her cervical exam confirmed that she was "ready" and had been told not to push until a doctor arrived. So, her thoughts and feelings started to make some sense. Her husband told us that when he was getting her out of the of the house to come in, she was reluctant. He said to her, "remember that we aren't afraid to go to this place?" and she finally agreed to leave. While this may make me feel good about the care that my group gives and the style of our services...that our families trust us, it also makes me sad that women have these histories to overcome. I am by no means a "hospital hater", I am grateful to have the services available at a hospital when a woman and her baby need them. However, there must be, and in reality there IS a better way to care for pregnant women. A way that honors, empowers and uplifts while still guarding physical safety. They are not and need not be mutually exclusive!


  1. I totally understand this- my first labor was 5 hours start-to-finish, and I didn't even call my doula until 1.5 hours before she was born. All of the books say that contractions must be a certain distance apart, lasting a certain length of time, blah blah. I know, I had them out at 4:00 am and was reading them as I timed contractions on the couch. What I really needed wasn't a book, but a midwife! I'm sure if I had called the doctor's office they would have brushed me off and told me that I wasn't really in labor; as it was, we got to the hospital and she was born 15 minutes later.
    This time I have a midwife and she is ready to come as soon as I call her!
    And I think that precipitous births can be really hard to process, especially if you've prepared a long time for the birth. It felt like I was pregnant, and then I wasn't, since for the first 3 hours I thought that I wasn't in labor. It was weird to look at my daughter and see her outside, like "how did she get here?!" Next time I am preparing somewhat for the birth, but not focusing on it, because it might go even faster, and I don't want that anticlimactic feeling again.

  2. I also completely understand. My first was a 30-weeker and I had mild cramping, but nothing that looked like the labor you see on TV-plus it was way to early. I was in total denial. Thankfully a female coworker took me to my dr who had his nurses wheelchair me to the next door hospital where my son was born about 1 hour after my arrival. Not that I would have probably called a midwife because my denial was so great, but maybe we would have discussed preterm symptoms more. Second birth, 37 weeks, woke up at 4:00 am, timed a few mild contractions and they were already only 5 min apart. Husband convinced me to go to the hospital then. Son was born at 6:30-boy did that get the floor excited. And yes, I walked in and signed myself in while my husband parked the car. I am blessed with such easy births, but yes, it does take a while to process all that happens in such a short period. Debbie