Pssst. I think I have discovered a secret formula for birth. I know, I know, every labour is unique and distinct, and you just can't apply a formula to birth. But, this has worked so many times recently that it's blogworthy. Here's the secret:
- Take one new condo with a view of the water (False Creek, especially).
- Take one spacious and powerful shower.
- Add one first-time labouring woman whose contractions have just dipped under the 5 minute mark.
- Add one doula who says, "I will sit silently on the floor outside this door so you can labour undisturbed. I hope you will be able to stay in the shower for at least 45 minutes. I won't disturb you, but I will respond to you if you express a feeling or a need or ask me a question. But remember these words. Trust your body. Trust your baby. You are strong. You are spiralling spiralling your baby down, down and through. You are open, wide open."
- Add one partner who says, "I will make sure everything is ready for you when you need to come out of the shower. I will put towels in the dryer for you, and place the clothes you will need on our bed. I will not disturb you. I will be here when you need me. I trust you, I trust our baby, and I trust your body."
- Add filtered sunlight through a crack in the door.
- Add liquids and food within easy reach.
- Add the sounds of an iTunes playlist created by the woman, her partner, or loved ones.
- Gradually, add the apparent dissolution of time and space.
- Add one fast elevator and a short drive to the hospital (or the arrival of two tiptoeing midwives at home)...and the addition of a baby soon after with very little (okay...maybe a little) drama.
Okay...there's more to Step 10, but you get the idea.
I've just had such luck lately with condo labours, with unlimited showers, beautiful views of the water, no disturbance, a fast elevator ride, and a short drive to the hospital (if planned) with few stop lights. And, recently, one woman never made it out of the quiet dark space, and gave birth on her bathroom floor (yes, her midwife was there).
Am I just in the middle of a statistical blip that balances the challenging births of this past Fall, or am I onto something here?
I pulled the info from my database, and was truly surprised to discover the high percentage of women living in the tall condos around False Creek in Vancouver who have had relatively short labours requiring limited technology or assistance. Okay, I'm not just imagining things. But why are these labours going so well???
Perhaps the women who live in new condos in Vancouver are just different.
Perhaps, it's the unlimited hot water. I have had similar experiences with women who have laboured at home in tiny basement suites with flash hot water heaters. But, it's rare to have a flash heater in a single family dwelling in Vancouver.
Perhaps, it's the speedy elevators. One study linked a fast elevator ride with a reduction in cesareans. Strangely, the working theory was that the elevator rides to the operating room somehow repositioned the babies, resulting in a smooth vaginal births.
Perhaps, it's the ability of these women to remain undisturbed high up in a concrete condo. No one knocks unannounced if you live on the 23rd floor. There are no mail carriers tromping up your stairs. No garbage trucks barreling down the lane. No neighbours to worry about. We know that disturbance can slow down a labour (we've seen the effects of jackhammers in the hospital during renovations and a labour speeding up after the roofers go home for the day).
Perhaps, the answer is as simple as one word. Many women have said the word "spiraling" had a huge impact on their labour. "I saw myself as being calm, zen, quiet, in the middle of a storm, and the baby was spinning, spiraling down to earth. I released everything, and the baby starting pushing his way out!" Aha! Ina May Gaskin's sphincter law in action.
Or it could be that one special song that her partner added to the playlist.
Or it could be his, "I trust you," that made all the difference.
So...I guess I have to retract my announcement of a secret formula. There are so many combinations of things that can add up to a smooth and short labour. Each labour takes as long as it needs. Each baby takes as long as it needs. Each woman takes as long as she needs. You aren't at a disadvantage if you don't live in a condo with unlimited hot water. There is a big world out there. You can have lovely smooth births whether you're urban or suburban, inside or outside, in birth pools or on dry land with slow dances and kisses and just one word. You can also have a challenging birth. That's just how it is sometimes.
I'm sorry that I took you on lighthearted ride to look at our driving need to make sense of birth. I doubt there's a secret formula involving Vancouver condos. But, if you remove all the noise and chatter from the labour equation, you might just find one word, one concept, interwoven throughout...
That one secret word might just be...
(Although, in an alternate universe, I would dearly love to know the results of a randomized controlled trial on "The Effect of Living in Yaletown Condos on the Length of Labour in Primiparous Women".)