“Everything’s going to change now, isn’t it?”
– Harry Potter
Nora’s birth story began with me convinced it was never going to begin. When I found out I was pregnant again, my intuition told me two things: (1) it was a girl, and (2) she was going to come late. Turns out, my intuition is pretty good.
Nora was due to arrive on Saturday, September 28th. As the date crept closer, I thought for sure my intuition had been wrong and that she would come sooner…from about my 37th week on, it felt like her head was already halfway out. I had a hard time walking around, sitting at my desk at work, and I was constantly having Braxton Hicks and minor contractions. My doctor checked me at my 38-week appointment and I was 2 cm dilated and 60% effaced. I started thinking, Man, was I wrong – she’s totally going to come early.
About a week before her due date, my OB/Gyn checked me again and I was 3 cm dilated and about 80% effaced. I was still thinking, Man, was I wrong – she’s totally going to come early.
The day before her due date, I was still about 3 or 3.5 cm dilated and 80% effaced. At this point I was thinking, Dammit, just get the fuck out of there.
5 days after her due date, I was “almost” 4 cm dilated and still 80% effaced. By then, I just tried to stop thinking about it.
You know what the worst part about being overdue with a baby is? It’s not the fact that you can no longer sleep at night. Or the heartburn that makes you feel like your upper body is on literal fire. Or that you haven’t pooped since 1996. It’s not even that you can’t physically lift your toddler anymore, or that walking up 3 stairs feels like you just ran a 10k, or that you pee every time you sneeze.
It’s that people won’t shut the fuck up.
Other than the persistent “are you still pregnant?” questions (AS IF YOU WOULDN’T FREAKING KNOW IF THE CHILD CAME OUT, YOU AHOLE), the least helpful thing anyone can do for a week-overdue pregnant woman is dole out unsolicited advice about what she “needs to do to get that baby out.” Because, hello, she’s already fucking tried everything.
No amount of spicy foods, over the counter herbal remedies, or sex with my husband would make the damn stubborn child come out. No amount of walking around the block, labor inducing cookies or eating pizza and drinking beer. Not the eggplant parm, the bouncing on a birthing ball, nor sitting over a bowl of steaming coffee. (Seriously?) You name it, I tried it. And it was clear that I would just be pregnant for the rest of my life.
So on October 4th, I decided to go shoe shopping with my mom and her friend to help get my mind off things. Charlie was having an overnight at camp with Nanny and Pa-paa. My mom wasn’t working because she was supposed to be on vacation she had planned to New York…that she cancelled because my six day old child was STILL INSIDE OF ME. I wasn’t working because I stopped working on Nora’s due date, thinking that there was no way I would ever have a six day old child STILL INSIDE OF ME. I thought I was feeling some contractions as we headed out shopping, but since I had been having them for about a month, I decided it was probably nothing because, again, this baby was just never coming out.
At my last doctor appointment, we had scheduled my induction for Tuesday, October 8th. My OB/Gyn had told me she thought for sure I wouldn’t make it until then, and that because I was already 4 cm I could head in to the hospital pretty much as soon as I felt consistent contractions. She said she thought I’d most likely have a very quick labor, and even if it wasn’t game time, they’d probably just move forward with breaking my water and making it game time anyway since I had a 6 DAY OLD CHILD INSIDE OF ME.
So after some authentic Mexican food and a full day of shopping, we ended up back at my mom’s house and I was feeling some pretty consistent contractions (about 5 minutes apart). I had been feeling them pretty much the whole time we shopped, but I figured it was just the Mexican food giving me gas. Until I realized that gas doesn’t usually come in consistent, 5-minute waves… It was almost 5 pm, so I decided to call Tristan at work and have him come meet me to head to the hospital. One way or another, this baby needed to GTFO. Tristan got to my mom’s in about 20 minutes, which was pretty good time considering 5 o’clock traffic and the fact that he usually has no sense of urgency. We hopped in the car and I called the doctor on our way to inform them that I was coming in.
We got to the hospital around 6pm. My contractions were manageable yet also kicking a little punch. You know what the worst part about giving birth in the largest (most popular) hospital in the state is? Sometimes, they RUN OUT OF ROOM. Which is what happened when we got there. Seriously, no room at the inn. So, they made us wait in the family waiting area until they had a triage bed ready.
Sitting in the L&D family waiting area when you are in actual labor is…awkward. Everyone was looking at me like, “Hey lady, you’re in the wrong place.” And there was this woman sitting next to us who just kept talking to her family about some girl she knew that never knew when to stop talking and I just wanted to scream at her, Pot! Kettle! Now shut up, I’m in labor. But, then I remembered I couldn’t just yell at random strangers if my water hadn’t even broken yet, and I was technically invading their territory not the other way around.
Finally, yet not soon enough, a nurse came to get us to walk me to the Triage room. At Maine Med, you actually get to see 3 rooms during your stay – you get your initial check at Triage, where they decide if your labor-y enough. If you pass go, you collect $200 and move over to Labor and Delivery. (Except for the $200 part, you actually have to pay that to them…and according to my insurance it costs you like 75 times $200.) Then, once you’ve delivered, you get wheeled up to the Mom & Baby unit to stay for 2 luxurious nights.
Anyway, when we got to Triage, the nurse (who would be accompanying me through the L&D portion of my stay) hooked me up to the monitors. I was, indeed, having contractions. The resident checked me and I was still 4 cm. Then, because I had been feeling a little damp on my way in, they also took a sample to see if my water had broken yet. She rubbed some fluid onto this sheet of paper. It reacted kind of like a Color Wonder marker; it turned the paper a lovely shade of blue. Or purple. Or something like that. Anyway, the verdict was, broken water. Oh shit. I was havin’ a beh-beh.
As ready as I was to have this baby, I was also terrified. I gave birth to Charlie without the assistance of an epidural. For some strange reason, I wanted to go completely med-free with Nora too. Even though I knew I was completely tainted by the pain of my first labor experience and completely unprepared to manage the pain on my own. I mean, mentally I knew I could do it again. Hell, I did it once. But deep down, I didn’t want to. I had taken all kinds of birthing classes and hypno-crap when I was pregnant with Charlie. But not enough time had passed between these labors to make me “forget” what it was like. No, this time, I knew no amount of deep breathing or light touches or visualizing my vagina as a flower would do a goddamn-fucking-thing. It was going to hurt like a bitch.
Nonetheless, this baby had to come out somehow. And it was now or never. The nurse set up my IV and drew some blood, and by 7pm we were officially checking in for our 3 day, 2 night stay.
Just like with Charlie, my platelets were low with this pregnancy too, so it was questionable whether or not I would even be able to get an epidural if I wanted one. People always ask me why that is and what the hell that even means. Short story short, platelets help clot your blood. When I get pregnant, for some unknown reason, my body does not make enough of these bad boys. And this is bad because the time when you would not want your blood to NOT be able to clot is when you have a human being exiting your nether region. If your platelets are too low, they can’t give an epidural because it becomes too risky. Bleeding, hematoma, paralysis, etc. etc. The cut-off number is 100. My platelets were at 124 at the time of delivery.
I was glad to find out that my platelets were high enough for meds if I wanted them. But, I was still going to try to do my best to go about it without medication. Key word: try.
And try I did, for the next 7 hours. I actually did pretty well, just doing my thing and working through each contraction. Because there were so many damn people having babies on this night, there was no doctor coming in to check me. My nurse was there quite frequently, checking the monitors and all of that. But I had no idea how much I was progressing. This made me a little nervous, only because I had stalled out at 5 cm with Charlie for so long. I was worried that would happen again. But, I tried to just focus on the task at hand and see what happened. After all, everyone kept telling me that the second labor would be faster and easier and blah blah.
People are big fat liars. Because even though my labor was faster in the end, it was for sure not easier.
I had gotten into the tub at around hour 5. I was trying to time it with the point at which I thought my contractions were picking up, so that I could get out of the tub, hit transition, maybe throw up a bit, and boom – pop out a baby girl. However, my plan was foiled by the fact that I got out of the tub after two hours, only to have the resident check me and say “Great, so you are 4 centimeters.”
I just looked at her with daggers and said “I came in here. 7 hours ago. At 4 centimeters. And was days before that. At my last appointment. Seriously.” She knew she was lucky that there were no scalpels within my reach, lest I would have probably cut her.
At this point, the doctor from my medical practice (not my regular OB, but the doctor on call who would be delivering me) came in. They talked to me about the risks of laboring too long with your water broken and the concerns for infection, and suggested at this point that they intervene to help me progress. I heard what they were saying, but wasn’t really listening. They lost me after the word “Pitocin”…it was the magic word that, for some reason, I feared all along. My doctor had tried to dispel the “myths” of Pitocin when we discussed induction, but I still feared having to have a Pitocin contraction with every ounce of my being.
So, I cried. I cried not because I didn’t want to get the Pitocin or because I was upset that my birth plan hadn’t gone my way. I knew at that moment that, as much as I had known before that this was going to hurt, it was really going to hurt. And I just wanted to skip over the hurt part and get my little girl and go home.
But I knew that intervention was the right thing to do. Considering I had been there for 7 hours with no progress, there would be no telling how much longer it would take. They said 16 hours was really the longest they would let me go, and truly I didn’t know when my water had actually broken. So in came the Pitocin drip.
When you’re on Pitocin, they require you to be monitored constantly, whereas without it you only have to have the monitors hooked up every hour or so. I also had to hang out with the lovely IV pole that I was now tethered to. Not long after being hooked up to the Pitocin, shit got serious. I had flashbacks to Charlie’s birth, where I remember telling Tristan that if the window had been open, I would have just jumped out. I asked if he would open the window so I could get some air, but he didn’t fall for it.
The contractions started to come, one on top of the other. I remembered that happening with Charlie, but the contractions with him were not quite as intense so early. And by intense, I mean painful. It was like I went from 0-60 in about 5 minutes. The nurse showed Tristan how to massage my lower back, so through every contraction I would bend over the bed and he would press on my lower back. That provided relief for about 5 seconds into each contraction. And that’s when I turned to Tristan and said, “I want the Nubain.”
I had gotten Nubain with Charlie, in the middle of the night when I just needed a break. This time, I just needed relief. The frequency and intensity of my contractions was just kicking my ass. I finally had my bloody show, but I knew it hadn’t been long enough for me to progress to 8 or 9 cm (which was how intense these contractions felt), so I knew I was probably still in for another 8-10 hours of work ahead. Tristan buzzed for the nurse and I requested the Nubain, and just about as the nurse closed the door, I decided – eff this shit, get me the epidural.
Because everyone in southern Maine decided to have a baby on this night, it took about an hour for the Nubain to come. The resident checked me and I was about 6 cm. It was around this time that, I think, they turned off the Pitocin. I told the nurse, between contractions, that I was certain I wanted the epidural and that I was okay with it. I also kept reassuring Tristan that I was okay with it. I don’t know why I felt the need to make sure everyone knew I was okay with it, probably because I didn’t expect myself to be so okay with getting it. But for some reason, I just was.
By about 2 a.m. (8 hours in), the epidural still hadn’t come. I was watching the clock, knowing that the Nubain (which was barely even touching the pain of my contractions anyway) would wear off soon. It was at this point that I noticed there seemed to be more people in the room than should really be there. They were coming and going, kind of looking at the monitor and then me, then leaving again.
The benefit of having only been in labor for 8 hours was that in between contractions, I was able to have moments of clarity. The curse of having only been in labor for 8 hours was that my moments of clarity allowed me to realize that the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor had dropped too low. I had asked the nurse when I was in early labor about the gray “zone” on the monitor an how it worked, since I kept seeing spikes and dips out of the range. She said little anomalies were normal, but if the line was consistently outside of the range that I would probably see people in there.
They put the oxygen mask on me and informed me that they would have to get an internal monitor onto the baby’s head to get a more accurate heart rate. If I hadn’t been in so much pain, that would have been the moment I panicked.
I just thought, They are the experts, I’ll let them worry about the baby. It was my job to keep focused on labor and getting her out. The pain was so intense that all I wanted was the epidural. And it became even more difficult to manage the pain being restricted to the bed with a fetal heart rate monitor (a long rod-like deal) sticking out of my who-ha. So every time someone entered the room, I prayed to god it was the anesthesiologist.
At this point, there were about 6 people in my room. None of them had any anesthesia. This was when the doctor informed me that I appeared to also be out of amniotic fluid, and that this may have been contributing to the baby’s decelerating heartbeat. Great. This was also when I officially hit transition and got a serious case of the shakes. If I hadn’t been in so much pain, this would have been the second moment I panicked.
She explained that they could do a procedure to refill me with fluid to get me through the rest of the labor, a procedure called an amnioinfusion. I only caught bits and pieces of the explanation between contractions, but the process involved them sticking more uncomfortable rods up inside of me to try to refill me with fluid. After one failed attempt, I’m still not even sure that the procedure worked. Because it was at this time that the anesthesiologist arrived.
I was 8 cm dilated at this point. I didn’t think they would let him give me any drugs due to how far I had progressed, but I certainly wasn’t in any position to tell anyone in the room how to do their job. So, I basically did what they told me and concentrated on the fact that I was about to get me some drugs.
The anesthesiologist reminded me a lot of my husband in that he also had no sense of urgency. While I couldn’t blame him for taking 2.5 hours to just get there (since he was in an emergency c-section), I did blame him for talking slower than slow. And for moving at the pace of a snail. Which I’m sure he did on purpose since there are legal liabilities they need the patient to understand and sign off on, etc. etc. But there was a human being about to come out of me. If there had been an open window, I was so irritated I would have pushed the guy out of it.
I signed the paper, sat up on the bed like he showed me, and in between contractions he stuck me with Lidocaine and put in the epidural. The nurse told me to make sure I let them know if I needed to push, because she could see on the monitor that I was close. Tristan said the anethesiologist instructed the person assisting him to give me 8 cc’s. We are not medical people, so I’m not sure if that is correct in any way. But Tristan watched her push the meds in to the number 4. (Our nurse later confirmed that I only got a partial dose of medication.) And that was about when I told everyone I needed to push.
They prepped the bed as I waited for my next contraction. I really just wanted to put off pushing because I wanted the epidural to kick in first. I pushed for an hour and a half with Charlie, and while I didn’t have any tearing, it did feel like I was pooping out a pumpkin. I just wanted to be numb. But at the next contraction, they lifted my legs, and I pushed.
By the end of that first contraction, her head has descended to the point that it had taken me an hour to get to with Charlie. Pushing this time actually felt awesome… like I was good at it or something. By the second contraction, her head was out and the doctor announced that the cord was around her neck. (If I hadn’t been in the middle of pushing a human out of me, that would have been the third moment I panicked.) During the third contraction, I started to feel like my butt was asleep. The prickly feeling trickled down to my toes as I pushed out her shoulder, and with the forth and final contraction (less than 15 minutes total of pushing), she was here.
Nora Anne Littlefield came into the world on Saturday, October 5th at 4:07 am, weighing 7 lbs 11 ounces and a length of 19 inches. She cried immediately and pooped as she was placed up on my chest. I had never been so glad to be pooped on in my life.
This labor was not at all what we planned and not even close to what we expected. 10 hours from start to finish, but really 3 hours from the time I began progressing to the moment she was here. And while I had to get the Pitocin I didn’t want and didn’t get the actual benefit of the epidural I did want, I am glad my labor progressed the way that it did. Focusing on everything else kept me from focusing on the bad things that were happening. I don’t regret a single moment or a single decision. I asked our nurse after all was said and done how serious everything was that was happening, and she said we were very close to having Nora come out a different way. Above all else, we got our beautiful, healthy little girl and that’s all that matters.
Our family is complete.