While I have precipitous labors -- like most women in my family -- having talked with friends, it seems that those lightning-fast labors are less common than the longer labors (my second baby, for instance, I knew I was in labor at 5:30, we got to the hospital at 6:00, baby was born at about 6:20).
I think for many women, laboring at home until they are feeling near-transition (depending on distance from the hospital or even birthing center) is advantageous because she is in HER OWN territory. She can do whatever she wants, eat, drink, wash the ceiling, whatever. She can get in her own zone. And the farther along she is in that process before arriving at the hospital, the less likely that interventionist hospital policies will derail things and stall her labor out. I've got several friends who have described this very thing happening to them. Of course, birth at home (UC or otherwise) might have been a better option for them; and I do mention homebirth to people. But if their only option is a hospital, better to show up late than early!! Sometimes all it takes is one pushy nurse to start the cascade of interventions.
UC isn't a choice all women are comfortable with - and frankly, I think most fears that people have about UC don't involve the "4cm" phase of labor. They involve PPH (dh's huge fear), or shoulder dystocia, or baby having trouble breathing .... the catastrophic fears. And, sure, a mother can and ought to know at least a little about how to deal with those issues in the absence of assistance, but not all mothers want to give birth without assistance. Much as we might like to rail against the father influencing how/where a birth occurs -- at the same time, these things do get negotiated. If I thought my dh could really become comfortable with UC, we would have one. But he's terrified of them (and, we have had awesome natural births at the local hospital, thanks to a good midwife-minded OB and my quick labors). Until July, lay midwife assisted homebirth isn't an option where I am (new law just passed
) and even after that, who knows how long it will be before we have a midwife right here in town (because given my fast labors, how likely would a midwife be to arrive on time, when she'd be traveling most likely at least 2 hours to get here?).
I have told people to 'wait 'til you're pushing,' and I'll keep telling them that. It's usually a first-time mom, or mothers who want natural births after a high-intervention first birth. I doubt many of them actually wait 'til they're pushing.
But I think so many people panic and head to the hospital as soon as they realize they're in labor, then stall out upon arrival and end up on pitocin, then an epidural, then with their water broken, and "on the clock" for a c/s --- where, if they'd just stayed home and more relaxed a little longer, they might have avoided it all.... I do also tell friends when we're talking about this, that if their mom had fast labors, then it's possible that their labors will also be fast (I've a friend expecting her first, whose mother nearly gave birth to her in the car - first and only baby).