Yesterday I mentioned that commenter Jenny has a history of precipitous labor, and even though she typically gives birth in a hospital, she was interested in hearing suggestions for being ready in case of precipitous labor at home.
My general precipitous labor story is thus: my body dilates and effaces without me knowing it, i.e, no painful or regular contractions. My doctor watches the progression over the last few weeks of pregnancy. When I am a dilated to a 6, she schedules an induction for that night or the next day. I arrive at the hospital, have my water broken artificially, and deliver the baby in about an hour. It's a little crazy!
IMO every woman preparing for birth, even in a hospital with an OB practice, should learn at least a little bit about home birth and about how birth unfolds when it's left alone. It's not that uncommon for babies to come really fast when they decide to come, and once you pass a certain point it's much safer to stay home than to race to the hospital and risk giving birth in the car -- or, as one woman I know did, next to a file cabinet in the fire station in her neighborhood.
Wouldn't it be better to be prepared?
Here's my suggestions.
My midwife would say that childbirth isn't an emergency unless you think it is, but she still recommends this slim handbook for all her birthing families. It was written mainly for people who might be expected to find themselves helping a mother who's giving birth outside the hospital -- police, etc. It has some advice that's pretty doctor-centric (advising that the mother be on her back, for example) but what it's really good for is telling the difference between normal birth and birth with complications, and how to handle some of the events that might be unnerving, including what to do if something serious happens.
Double-make your bed. You'll be glad you did this if your water breaks while you're sleeping. This is one of the Great Secrets Of Home-Birthers. It's also useful later if you have a chronically bed-wetting kid or someone's got a vomiting illness.
Have an extra, waterproof mattress cover (a rubber sheet's cheap, but there are more comfortable, breathable options out there now.) Make your bed once with mattress cover, bottom sheet, and top sheet well tucked in. Then put the second, waterproof mattress cover on top and make your bed again with another set of sheets and your blankets. If your water breaks all over everything, or you wind up giving birth squatting on top of your bed, zip! it all comes off and there's a fresh newly made bed underneath. You can go to sleep in it (maybe with your baby) and someone can wash the soiled sheets when it's convenient.
Got a tub? Clean it out. Bathtubs are awesome. Everybody should have one. If you keep potted plants in your tub, take them out. If your tub is gross, have someone clean it. Or use some of that late pregnancy nesting energy to do it yourself. There are worse places to give birth than a bathtub, and if you find yourself really WANTING to be in the tub, you'll be glad if it's all ready for you. Skip the perfumed bubble bath.
Have some clean towels. If you're perpetually behind on the laundry, set some aside. Three or four big ones should do.
Have a package of Depends-type underpads, a.k.a. "chux pads." This is another one of those magic tips for not having to clean up any mess, and they have utility later. For the newborn period when I'm still resting a lot in bed and in chairs, I much prefer sitting/sleeping on one of these to wearing those damn postpartum pads. I have been known to pull them out of my stash when the little one has their first bout of vomiting.
How does the midwife use them? When the bearing-down starts, someone puts one on the floor (or bed, or whatever -- wherever you're squatting) between your feet. From my POV, the chux pad magically appeared from nowhere just when I started to push -- really the midwife put it there. Although frankly, if you're having precipitous labor you might not care very much, it might give your husband something to do. "Stay right there honey! I will protect the carpet!"
That newborn nose-suctioning bulb thing.
Some kind of heating pad. For the afterpains. They suck and you won't want to be without your heating pad. I like a rice bag, myself. Here's a fancy one, but you can just use a tube sock tied shut with a knot.
Consider putting a flexible "telephone" shower head in your shower. Well, I give this advice to every woman who is about to have a baby.
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Since you are preparing for the possibility of precipitous labor -- which is by definition fast -- you don't have to do a lot of the things that home birthers prepare for. Like always having your fridge and pantry stocked with the kind of food you want to eat when you've been in labor for 6 hours. And you won't bother with a lot of the postpartum care stuff, because if you give birth at home, sooner or later you will probably be (unnecessarily and at great cost) transported to a medical facility where you will experience standard-ish hospital postpartum care.
I usually buy a custom birth kit put together by In His Hands Birth Supply from a list that my midwife gives them. It has things like antiseptic, gloves, cord clamps, peri bottles, baby hat, gauze pads, and underpads in it. In fact, In His Hands sells an emergency birth kit for $12. They also sell Emergency Childbirth along with some other literature.
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Add more thoughts in the comments - and if you have a story of precipitous labor of your own, please share!