In many cases I am officially considered a "Grand Multipara" meaning that I have given birth more then 5 times. This changes the natural of labor.
In general the grand multipara has lots of prelabor and on and off again- then when real labor starts it is usually either easy or quick.
I think I first saw this effect with my 4th. Active labor (3cm to birth) was 25 minutes- this left me with no time to breath between contractions.
Number 5- went off and on again for about 1 week before I had an easy labor of about 1.5 hours. This labor left me in charge of myself and my birth.
Studies suggest that grand multiparas often have latent labor to about 6 cm- then the real work kicks in.
This seems to work pretty well for home birthers- we keep up with our life, ready for the baby to emerge at short notice, meanwhile our other children can get the attention they need and the laundry keeps getting changed and the floor keeps getting mopped - mostly because we got to keep busy so the waiting and unknowing of when our short labor will kick in won't drive us crazy.
There has been studies suggesting increased risk in grand multiparas- but studying into those studies and you will find that they represent the under-educated and poor folks of the wold- when adjusted to economic and health status they were just as safe if not safer then regular multi paras in giving birth. (assuming of course that drs don't interfere).
I have personally learned that my body works best without interference during and after labor. Generally I loose no blood and don't tear and the babies are strong and noisy.
I am excited though, because for each pregnancy I have increased my overall healthy eating standards and have been less medically involved, and often more physically active.
I look forward to another healthy baby in my arms, and the ability to sleep on my stomach again.