So I’m meandering down the cereal aisle trying to decide between Honeynut Cheerios and Raisin Bran Crunch when suddenly I realize I’ve wet my pants.

“Shit!” I say, louder than I should have. My kids laugh and start yelling, “Mommy wet her pants! Mommy wet her pants!” The man across from me shoots me a look of disgust. The woman with the toddler smiles sympathetically.

But wait – I didn’t wet my pants! My water just broke and here comes my baby!

“OH MY GOD!” I scream, “MY BABY’S COMING!!!” I pull down my pants and catch my baby. The disgusted looking man turns every shade of green as the woman with the toddler runs over to help me. Instantly, the whole store is in a frenzy. People are panicking but I don’t care. My baby has just entered the world and I’m in Heaven!

Within minutes the paramedics arrive. “All I want is a ride home,” I tell them. Surprisingly, they don’t insist that I go to the hospital, and I return home to show my husband our new daughter. By that night I’ve had four calls from the local TV stations, and an offer of $10,000 from the National Enquirer to tell my story!

OK, so this didn’t really happen. But it could have. Women give birth like this all the time. I know, because I read the National Enquirer (but only at the check-out stand!). Actually, “precipitous labors,” as they are sometimes called, are often reported in more “legitimate” publications, as well. Many women give birth with little or no warning. I’ve enclosed some of their stories below.

By the way, my last child could have easily been a supermarket birth. I gave birth in my bathroom before I had the chance to tell my husband I was in labor. Unfortunately, the National Enquirer did not offer me $10,000 for my story.

(Note from Laura: A few weeks after I posted this article, someone saw this in the pregnancy/birth forum on

“A couple of years ago, in a grocery store in my town this poor woman went into labor in the produce section and had her baby in only 10 minutes, right there next to the watermelons! She had her older kids with her but her husband was in line and didn’t want to give up his spot to be with his wife!!! I always thought, how rude and insensitive. But the store gave them a gift certificate!”

The fastest birthing I ever attended took a minute and a half. Amy’s labor with her first baby had lasted only half an hour, so we were prepared for some fast action. Amy called me, saying she was having no labor but felt in a condition of heightened awareness similar to what she’d experienced when she had her first baby. Not waiting for any more information, Kathryn and I jumped into the truck and tore down the road toward Amy’s place. At the same time Michael, my husband, rushed Amy’s husband down from the tractor barn. As soon as we arrived, Amy’s water bag broke and the baby started coming out. I had Amy lie down, washed my hands and delivered her nine pound son. The whole thing took about a minute and a half.

-From Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin

I woke up at about 1:15 a.m. and had a rush of tingling all over my body, then the shakes, followed by about 10 contractions and she slid out into my hands before I had a chance to even call anyone. It was fantastic!

-From “Peaceful Surrender” by Stacy

Troy’s birth was as uneventful as a birth can be. I woke up in the middle of the night, knowing that the waters had ruptured. I started to get out of bed just as a strong contraction began. So I lay down again and waited for it to end. Then I reached over and shook my husband, telling him it was starting. I had three more contractions (a total of four) and Troy’s head emerged. Seconds later he was out, not crying but breathing and looking around as his brother had. I couldn’t wait to hold him, to keep him close to me. Home birth – it’s beautiful!

-From “Three Do-it-yourself Home births,” by Frances Frech, in the book Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Shanley

Suddenly, I woke up and sat straight up and said, “I’ve got to push.” I pushed one time and out came the baby. It just flopped out on the bed. About that time I heard my doctors and nurses running in the door saying, “DON’T PUSH.” When I told them I already did, they looked under the blanket and almost had a heart attack. On the bed they saw the most perfect 9-pounds, 10-ounces baby girl there ever was.

-From “Fast & Easy” by Vera Langdell

Early Fri am (1am) I began to feel a lot of pressure, but still contractions were 10-12 mins apart and not at all as painful as I thought they should be. My husband called the Dr. who assured him that we were Ok to wait as long as my contractions were that far apart and I could speak through them. At 3:45am as I stood up to go to the bathroom, I felt an intense need to bear down. I resisted the urge as I staggered down the hallway to my bathroom. I noticed a lot of blood and when I wiped myself I felt a bulge in my vulvular area. At that moment, my water broke – exploded is more like it and my baby’s head literally popped out! I screamed mostly with surprise and my husband was there as the rest of our daughter slithered out of my body, into his arms! All we could do was laugh! No epidural, no stirrups, no forceps! I plan to have other children, but don’t plan to include any of the above in their births either!

-From “Miranada Rose’s Birth”

“Dr. Harold Renshaw describes the case of a young primipara whose confinement was almost ‘instantaneous.’ She told her mother she ‘felt queer,’ then ‘stepped across the room and leaned on the mantelshelf, when, without warning, the baby fell on the floor.’ She made an uninterrupted recovery.”

“Dr. G.D. Trevor-Roger reports the case of ‘a 3-para age 28,’ who stated that she woke at about 6:30 a.m. and the child was born immediately. She told me that she had ‘neither ache nor pain’. Recovery was uneventful. She had another spontaneous birth four years later. . . . In neither of her first two labours did she suffer much pain and they both terminated quickly.”

“Surgeon Commander G.V. Hobbes, R.N., mentions a case of a woman who did not know she was pregnant, who played tennis up to the time of her confinement and who, the day before went for a 12 mile walk with her husband. Her doctor had been treating her for amenorrhoea. She was painlessly confined of a 7 ½ lb. baby.”

“Dr. W.M. Murphy reports that he was called at 10 a.m. to a perfectly healthy woman of 36 who had had two previous confinements. She was up and performing her household duties. She had no pains ‘but thought she was in labour as “water had been coming in little gushes since 8 o’clock.”‘ He saw her again at 8 p.m. and she had had no pains. At midnight, when she sent for him again, she gave birth almost immediately to a male child of 7 ½ lb. The placenta followed in five minutes and there was scarcely any hæmorrhage. She had no pain whatever during the day and only three pains as the child was being born. . . . The history of her first confinement at the age of 24 years is similarly painless.”

“Dr. Eric Kenderdine also reports an interesting case of easy birth in the Midlands. He says: ‘The patient, a primipara, had a hot bath on the Sunday at 23 o’clock, and noticed a slight “show.” She went to bed and awoke at one o’clock. She defæcated normally, but “had to support herself in front.” A feeling of weight at the rectum sent her in to see her nurse, sleeping in the next room, at 2:30 when the first real pain occurred. This made her stand first on one leg and then on the other. The nurse was surprised to see the head crowned, and hurried her to bed, when the birth took place at three. The patient started laughing, as she did not think it would be so easy.’ The baby was of normal size.”

“Dr. de Garis also quotes Dr. Yeatman with reference to a primipara of 20 who alone in the house after breakfast, felt some discomfort and thought the bowels were going to act but, recollecting her condition, got into bed just in time for a healthy full-term infant to be born . . . the perinæum was not torn. . . . She persisted in the statement that there was no pain at all, merely the sensation as if passing a large motion.”

“Dr. Joyce reported two cases to Dr. de Garis — one of a patient who ‘said in a perfectly natural voice that something was coming, and birth followed immediately,’ with a slight pain or two, and another of a primipara who ‘while the head was crossing the perinæum, brushed a fly from her arm, and said she felt no pain whatever, only a sense of stretching and pressure.'”

“Dr. Allison also reported a case to Dr. de Garis. A woman had two confinements in which she complained only of feeling stiffness. At her third, after seeing Dr. Allison at 10 p.m. she decided at 2 p.m. to walk a distance of 100 yards to the hospital. Half-way there the child was born. ‘She said later that she had had absolutely no pain, not even discomfort, as she merely felt the touch of the baby on her thighs demonstrating its presence.'”

-From The Truth about Childbirth by Anthony M. Ludivici (E.P. Dutton, 1938)

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