I’m often asked how long the fastest birth I’ve ever seen was.
‘Four minutes,’ I get to reply to people with seriously raised eyebrows.
It happened when I was a student in my final year of midwifery training. A woman with a history of two previous precipitate (fast) labours had come into hospital in what was clearly very early labour.
She was having one tightening in a ten minute period; they couldn’t even be classed as mild contractions. Usually, someone in labour this early would simply be sent home and told to come back when they were ready to get serious about giving birth. But because this woman did indeed have a history of giving birth very quickly, it was more than possible that she could go home and find herself accidentally having a baby while she boiled water for a cup of tea. So we were more than willing to let her stay, looking in on her every half hour to see if there were any further developments.
But there weren’t; every time I went into the room to see what was happening, I was told that she’d had another three tightenings in the half hour since I had last checked in. Eventually I encouraged the couple to go for a walk and come back in half an hour so that I could check the baby’s heartbeat and the Mum’s pulse and blood pressure. So off they went, coming back thirty minutes later to report that nothing much had happened on the walk. I sent them back out again, beginning to wonder if this baby was just fooling around and that the whole labour would just fizzle out and we’d send the mum on her way.
I found some things to do in the meantime, chiefly, showing other students how you can use a tube of topical anaesthetic to numb your legs before waxing them, just how you can manipulate the Drugs of Dependence Log Book to your best chemical advantage and how to create a second identity in payroll in order to pull double pay. Cool, huh?
Seeing as how walking usually gets things moving along in the labour department, I was disappointed when, after having walked around in circles for an hour and a half, the woman’s contractions weren’t coming with any more frequency or intensity. And now she was getting tired from being on her feet for so long.
‘I’m going to have a bit of a lie down,’ she told me.
‘No worries,’ I told her, ‘let me know if you need me for anything.’
She retired to her room and I sat down despondently at the front desk, watching the central CTG in a mindless manner, flicking between rooms to see what was happening with everyone else in labour.