With DS my water had started leaking and had been leaking for 12 hours or so before I was even admitted to the hospital. Upon being admitted I wasn't really dilated (either 1 or 2) so I ended up needing cervadil, pitocin, etc. It was a long labor (water broke Thursday night around 9pm and didn't give birth until almost 12pm on Saturday) and I had to push for 3+ hours and needed assistance from the vacuum (had lateral 2nd degree tears). Read DS's birth story here.
In comparison, this was totally different. I thought my water was leaking yesterday (Wednesday) around 12:30am so I called the doctors office and they said to go in to get checked. I had only been 30% effaced and 1 cm dilated at my 39 week appointment the week prior, so I was hoping this meant some progress. Upon arriving at the hospital, I found out my water did NOT break. I was a little disappointed - but glad that I had taken our car and kept DS and DH sleeping at home. The nurse wanted to check me because I was having contractions about 4-5 minutes apart (I hadn't had pretty much any up until this point) and when she did she was like 'You are 5cm dilated!" I was so shocked. I don't know how I went from 1 to 5 in less than week without feeling contractions. So, she basically said I was staying (this was around 1:30am).
This was the point I started wishing I had woken DS/DH up to come with, so I pleaded with them to let me drive the 10 minutes home so I could get them (and my bags) so DH could have the car drop off the dogs and DS with grandma (our truck just so happened to be in the shop so we only had one vehicle). They let me go, and the contractions got worse while driving. Fortunately, I made it home and back to the hospital within an hour. She checked me again and my contractions were now 3-4 minutes apart and I was 6cm dilated. I knew I wanted an epidural and she recommended I get it then in case my water broke and labor progressed rapidly so I went ahead with that and then fell asleep (got epidural around 3:30am). At 6am they woke me up to check me and I was 8cm and completely effaced. They called my doctor in. She arrived around 7am and said I was dilated to 9cm and said she had a meeting in the hospital and they would call her when I was ready push.
By 9am she was back and her and the nurses argued over whether I was ready to push and how dilated I was (my doctor thought I was ready to begin pushing and was completely dilated/effaced but the nurses insisted I needed more time and wasn't quite to 10cm). They decided I was ready, so they had me start pushing at 9:30am. They only had me push only with strong contractions (my epidural wasn't very strong so I could feel the contractions - and her coming out of me). Less than 30 minutes later DD was born at 9:54am (one day before her due date) about 8.5 hours after arriving at hospital. The doctor and nurses were all guessing how big she was because I guess she looked pretty big - and she was. She weighed in at 9lbs, 15oz and 21.5 inches long.
To my great surprise this was a super easy labor. I didn't need pitocin, vacuum, etc. I also didn't tear (or get an episiotomy). I'm already feeling great and was up and taking a show within a couple hours of the birth. We are checking out the the hospital shortly (about 26 hours after the birth) and I definitely feel fortunate to have such an easy labor and quick recovery - particularly since I'm going home to my 18 month old DS!