On Pizza, Pushes, and Pure Surprise: Nu-Nu’s Birth Story

Last Friday, I had my 38-week check-up at my OB’s. I was exactly 38 weeks pregnant.

I had decided the baby was going to come a little early by that point. I figured it would be some time the following week. The night before my appointment I felt some contractions in the middle of the night, from 1-4 or so, but they weren’t strong or regular enough to constitute real labor as I remembered it. Still, they were enough of a warning that I knew I should finish packing my hospital bag and putting the infant car seat back together, which lay disassembled around the apartment after we took it apart to clean it. I told myself I’d finish all that Friday afternoon when I got home from my appointment, while Smudgie was in daycare.

I headed into Manhattan early that morning for a therapy appointment. Turned out, I had the wrong date and my therapist wasn’t there. I was tired and mildly annoyed, cramping a lot and feeling run down. I had 90 minutes to kill before my appointment uptown, so I stopped into a restaurant and ordered myself some lemon ricotta pancakes. Thankfully, given what came later.

When I met LG for my appointment, the OB asked me how I was feeling and whether I was having any contractions. I told him about the night before but emphasized that they hadn’t been a big deal. I discussed with the nurse who weighed me getting another TDap vaccine. I saw a quickie, low-res ultrasound of Nu-Nu’s heartbeat and position. The doctor showed LG where he could feel the head if he put his hands in a certain spot on my pelvis. And then he did an internal exam.

He told me that I was 3.5 cm and 70% effaced and that, given I was contracting the night before, he was sending me to the hospital around the corner to be assessed for labor. In shock, we gathered up our things, received our instructions, and left to walk the five or so blocks to the hospital.

I wasn’t in labor. I kept telling LG that. We didn’t have our bags, my cell phone was completely dead and I didn’t have a charger. It just wasn’t possible for me to be in labor. I wasn’t in any real pain. Everything was going to stall soon, I was sure of it.

But I was wrong. An hour on the monitors in triage took me to 4 cm with increasingly frequent contractions. Another hour and I was still at 4, but the cervix had thinned further. Considering we had to take the subway back to Brooklyn, an hour+ long trip, and then drive back to the Upper East Side if I should go into more rapid labor, *and* that it was now 2 pm and rush hour just a few hours away, the OB on call from my practice (Dr. B, for those who know it) wanted me to be admitted. I worried that labor would stall and I’d be confronted with pitocin, a c-section– a lot of interventions that I didn’t want. But I agreed to be admitted anyway.

By 4 pm, LG and I found ourselves in an L&D room watching TLC’s Four Weddings while I laughed through my contractions and spent the periods of time off the monitors walking the horse-shoe-shaped delivery ward. The contractions were still irregularly timed, as close together as four minutes and as far apart as ten. I doubted I was making much progress at all. But we had the doula on the way, my MIL headed to pick Smudgie up from daycare and spend the night with him at our apartment, and one of my sisters planning to pick up our bags (my mother-in-law would finish packing them per our instructions) and deliver them to us in the hospital. I’d even managed to borrow a phone charger from a nurse. I hadn’t quite wrapped my head around the fact that the baby was coming and soon–not even when I saw them setting up the warming table with its little hat and blanket (I cried, of course). But I accepted that practically speaking, this was turning out for the best. We had people to care for our son and all the things that were left undone could be taken care of later or simply forgotten about. We were having a baby.

At around 6 my OB returned. He suggested breaking my water, since my labor pattern was funky and the contractions weren’t regularizing the way he’d expect in active labor above 4 cm. But I knew that labor increased in pain a lot after the water broke and I preferred to continue as I was, with intermittent monitoring and the freedom to walk around the room and very bearable labor pain that didn’t seem to require more than some quick breathing to get through. After he examined me and found that I’d reached 5.5 cm, he agreed to let me continue as is.

Over the next several hours, my labor gradually intensified, so gradually that I didn’t quite notice at first. I started laughing through my contractions and fantasizing about the cheese pizza I was not permitted to eat (I think I hallucinated a vision of powdery, chewy crust and melty globs of mozzarella) to wincing and even moaning a little. We shut off the tv and I began experimenting with my doula’s birthing ball. I snapped at LG to get off the phone at one point and requested the lights to be turned off.

At around 11 pm, everything changed. The manageable, if strong, pain crossed over into unbearable territory. The contractions were lasting 90 seconds or more, with multiple peaks. I began shivering uncontrollably. Nu-Nu was still kicking the heck out of my ribs and head-butting my cervix, as she’d done for weeks past. My doula and I suspected I was nearing transition, but whether or not I was, I wanted an epidural.

I got the meds in at around 11:30 and was then examined. Eight cm along! I felt proud I’d made it so far and amazed that the labor pains had been so moderate for so long. The entire active laboring period was so much less intense than it was with Smudgie–the contractions were still ranging irregularly between 4-8 minutes apart right up until the end.

After the epidural went in, things progressed rapidly. I rested, shifting position in bed every 20 minutes or so. In about an hour, I began to feel pressure. My doctor examined me again around 1 and found I was 10 cm and at zero station. He decided to have me labor the baby down further with contractions rather than begin pushing right away. The pressure built with every pang. I knew it would be time to push soon.

And it was. The OB returned, suited up and ready to go. My nurse, doula, and LG took their positions around me. They started coaching me and I started pushing. Three pushes later, the OB told me to stop and breathe. I felt unbelievable pressure that I couldn’t imagine easing and then–release. Another little wiggle and I felt the baby slip out and heard the cries.

I peered between my legs and the doctor’s arms as he suctioned and prepared the baby. I thought I saw girl parts but maybe not? “What is it?” I asked, and he answered, “Take a look!” and then held up my spread-eagled daughter and put her on my chest.

I was seriously stunned. “Really? I have a girl? Really?” I turned to LG and asked him if we had a name and when he nodded, we called Nu-Nu by her name for the first time in her life. They weighed her and tended to her and then she was back in my arms and I was nursing her as they stitched me up.

We ordered a pizza into L&D and my husband fed me bites of cheesy deliciousness as I held my daughter in my arms. One of those perfect moments I know I will look back on for the rest of my life with gratitude and awe.

My Girl Nu-Nu

She’s here!

Miss Nu-Nu was born on November 16th at 1:57 am, weighing in at 7 lbs 6 oz, a full pound heavier than her big brother Smudgie was at birth. That probably explains why my routine OB appointment at 38 weeks turned into hospital admission and then birth 14 hours later: as my OB put it, people who are going to have 7-pound babies are going to have 7-pound babies, whenever that needs to happen.

We’re all well and adjusting to life as a family of four. Smudgie is still my sweet and mischievous boy, not quite sure what to make of this sudden sister but tolerating her arrival well, regardless. He’s learned her name and has learned to thank her for the amazing new fire truck she gave him. “I love it” he told me this morning as he carried around the apartment before breakfast. Not quite “I love her” but close enough for now.

Birth story to come, maybe even later today if I feel up for it. I’m still taking care of all the “nesting” tasks that didn’t get done during these two weeks that were supposed to be my pre-baby prep time. It’s all okay, though. I wouldn’t trade a moment of my little girl’s story for another day or week.

And here she is in the hospital, sporting the first of many hats that will no doubt become her signature look:

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Spooky Stories and Holiday Plans

Thank you to everyone who helped encourage me after my last post. I hit kind of a breaking point that week and had a mini-meltdown to LG, my therapist, and my mom, who volunteered to come up here to Brooklyn and help me tackle some baby prep. So while we still have a lot to do, the newborn clothes are at least sorted/cleaned/put in drawers and we have the co-sleeper in our room and the infant car seat is in the trunk of the car. One of these days we’ll install it, I’m sure.

The dissertation progresses slowly. The teaching still takes up a lot of time. At 36+ weeks I’m physically coming up empty a lot of the time–heavy, tired, dealing with a lot of pelvic pain. But I also decided to stop working after 38 weeks, so I have a little rest–maybe a few weeks, maybe a few days–to anticipate. And I am looking forward to it indeed.

And my Smudgie remains such a little star. At 25 months, he is a chatting, laughing, lovable little boy. He adores helping: “[Smudgie], can you get me your shoes?” I ask and he responds with the cutest little chirping “Oka-yeee!” Lately he’s been coming up to me when I’m sitting on the couch or a chair and saying, “Hi Mommy! Hi Mommy!” and snuggling up against me. It melts my heart every time.

I’ve held a few newborns recently. God, they’re small, aren’t they? And sweet sleepy little bundles. I am still nervous about how I will manage with two, and increasingly nervous about the birth, which I don’t feel like I’ve had time to prepare for emotionally. But I am so looking forward to lying (on my back!) on the couch with a resting little nugget on my chest. As much as I want to finish all my projects first, to make it full term at 39 weeks, to have another easy birth, I know it will be okay if any of those things doesn’t happen as planned.

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In other news, Smudgie had a splendid Halloween in our neighborhood. He did a little trick or treating at local stores and houses, saw a “haunted house” that a set designer who lives down the block builds every year in his brownstone’s front lot–this year’s theme was a skeleton pirate ship–and even got to watch the delightful Park Slope Halloween parade from atop LG’s shoulders. He was the most adorable Kermit the Frog as you can plainly see:

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This post has taken me a few days to write. During the process, I’ve had more “Things Can Never Be Simple, Can They?” news: LG’s step-father has had a surgery scheduled for just a few days before Nu-nu’s due date, which means my mother-in-law can no longer watch Smudgie if I go into labor around then. And the sister who live in my neighborhood and was the night-time stand-by for labor is starting a new job that week, too, and might have to go to Sweden for work. I’ve got an e-mail chain of about seven people on-line to watch him at various times of the day or night, but this older kid stuff is really complicated. I remember when our biggest worry was making sure our dog would get walked while we were in the hospital. Now I’m concerned we’ll be bringing my toddler to the hospital, where LG will have to sit with him in the waiting room while I labor alone with the doula.

But at 37 weeks I’m at least feel prepared in my unpreparedness. I guess we’ll figure it out somehow and then the baby will be here and I’ll get to meet this little guy or girl (I’m thinking guy lately) and we’ll just sort it out.