September 20, 1998
I’ve never been the type of person that stays up all night. Even when I was in middle and high school, I was always the first girl asleep at sleepovers. This would often be to my disadvantage, especially in high school when the girls got high and didn’t just pull mild pranks like putting your hand in warm water. In my world, girls were worse prankers than guys.
Dr. Humphrey lied. She lied about the pill that would make me more comfortable and she lied about me being able to push. Somehow baby girl Littrell changed her mind and decided to take a nap before embarking leaving me in this limbo. I kept praying for Ben to get impatient and just push her out, but that didn’t happen.
Anyhow, back to sleep. When you are trying to squeeze something the size of a cantaloupe out of something else that is usually just a little larger than a grape, there is no sleep. There is only absolute agony.
Until the moment when that special someone says the three best words in all of the English language:
“Want an epidural?”
“Oh hell yes.”
Brian is a pile of nerves. He can’t sit still for a moment. He’s pacing, he’s on the phone, he’s staring at the TV, he’s making fake jump shots with wadded up kleenex. The trashcan is overflowing. He looks like someone who has just spent ten hours on a plane.
Nick is the opposite. Nick is holding my hand, getting ice chips, staring at the monitors, and only whimpering slightly as I break the tiniest bones in his fingers. Nick is the one that stands in front of me while the doctor of mercy shoves the needle in my back, numbing my lower extremities.
“Should you be doing this?” he asks nervously. “You could get paralyzed.”
“I signed the papers,” I snap as a contraction takes hold before the medicine can kill the pain. Oh, God I hope the medicine kills the pain. “I’ll cut my own legs off if it helps.”
“You should feel a little better in just a minute. The full effect will take fifteen,” the anesthesiologist says. I nod against Nick’s chest.
I should have gotten that guy’s name because, unlike Dr. Humphrey, he didn’t lie. In just a minute the contraction pain seems less. In fifteen minutes, I’m watching an episode of Friends, the one where Phoebe has the triplets. Totally fitting.
“You’re doing awesome,” Nick says, rubbing my hand.
“You’re doing great,” Brian agrees, tugging on his hair. “This is intense.”
I don’t know what to say. Actually, I want to sleep. The epidural is amazing. I think I might even drift off into a sleep snoring epidural cloud of euphoria because Dr. Boone’s voice scares the living daylights out of me. Even worse is seeing him with his hand up my vagina and not even knowing he is down there in the first place.
“The epidural has helped,” he says encouragingly. “We’re going to have you start pushing in a few minutes. Guys, I need you to get gowned up. I’m going to get the nurse team in here.”
The sleepiness fades away. I clutch Nick’s hand, not in pain, but in terror. He looks equally nervous.
“It’s okay,” he whispers. “It’s all going to be fine.”
I look over at Brian but he is already getting a gown on. He looks like he might be going in for an execution. He eyes the place where my legs are kinda flopping open warily. It’s a totally different look than the one he gave me the night we monkey humped.
People start filing into the room. I think it is a side effect of the epidural that my inner monologue gets very sarcastic and witty. Everyone gets a nickname: Boondocks, Humpday, the doctors. Curly, Pudge, and Franklin the nurses.
My vagina is a regular party hangout.
“Courtney, initially I was going to try to delay the birth of your baby boy,” Dr. Humphrey is saying as she prepares a small tray. I try not to think what she might be using the scalpel for. “But, he looks to be the larger of the two and I think the risk of infection if we try to stop the delivery and wait for him isn’t the right choice in this situation. The other benefit is you’ve been able to hold out until 32 works. They’re going to be preemie, but nothing points to there being anything we can’t handle here. Okay?”
I don’t answer her right away. After all, hasn’t she just lied to me twice?
“Okay,” I finally say, feeling like a mumbling teenager. “Should my legs be tingling?”
I probably shouldn’t have said anything, but it results in another jolt of juice that makes me feel like I could lay here and squeeze out an elephant. Screw the cantaloupe. I’ve got a clown car ready to roll!
Somewhere in the midst of all this someone shuts the TV off. You know things are about to get real once the TV gets turned off. Brian hovers off to my right. Nick is right beside me. The nurses keep going in and out until Dr. Boone shoves his hand up me for one more check.
“Courtney, it’s your show,” he smiles.
I’m not so sure it’s my show, but a second later I’m convinced. A spotlight that looks like the underside of an alien orb comes on and the whole bottom half of my bed disappears. Suddenly my feet are in stirrups and my ass is hovering in outer space.
“Go ahead and take a deep breath and push,” Dr. Humphrey commands.
All eyes are on me. Well, not me. Not really. If they were on me, they’d be looking at my eyes. Every single damn pair of eyes in the room besides Nick’s is on my hoo-ha. Even Brian’s. Brian’s eyes are kinda bugging out of his head like a...like a bug.
I take the deep breath and push, but I’m not sure if I accomplish anything. I can’t really feel pushing and it seems more like me cramming my chin down on my chest and grunting really loud. I can’t help but think my description could be used in high schools across the nation as birth control. There’s nothing sexy about grunting like you’re Howie after AJ has spiked your breakfast sausage…
The phrase ‘Good. Again.’ is repeated no less than fifty times. My chin actually starts to hurt. Nick’s lips, covered in a mask, press against my forehead at random intervals and I’m sure that my efforts are in vain. I’m sure that there’s no way in hell that I’m going to be able to…
“Here’s her head.”
“OH MY GOD.”
Brian’s words jar me out of the endless cycle of chin down, push, grunt. I look at him and he looks at me. His words are slightly muffled, but his face is creased and I know he’s smiling.
“This is amazing.”
“A couple more pushes,” Dr. Humphrey urges.
I tear my gaze away from Brian’s. It takes a couple more tries to get into that same old pattern. Chin down, push, grunt...chin down, push, grunt...chin down, push, grunt…
A cry. A cry that scares me, thrills me, startles me, stops my pulse, and makes my heart race.
I hadn’t expected to hear her cry. I had expected...I don’t know what I had expected, but when Dr. Boone lifts my daughter up into the air everything else seems to exist but the tiniest little baby…
The cry stops as soon as it begins and I let out a scream. Brian takes a step forward, but the nurses, Pudge, Curly, and Franklin descend and I see just my little girl’s foot as they start working on her in the corner.
“Is she okay?” Nick demands.
Dr. Humphrey is already following the pack of nurses. “We’re going to get her on oxygen immediately,” she says loudly, feeding into the urgency by raising the volume. “Just be with Courtney. She still has some work to do.”
It’s then that I remember. I have another baby to deliver. Another series of chin down, push, grunt…
I just start doing it without being asked. I didn’t give a damn whether the doctor was ready or not. Suddenly every second passing seems like a second lost in my daughter’s life and my ability to make sure she’s okay. Chin down, push, grunt…
The time is endless, or so it seems. Nick tells me later it is about eight minutes.
“Brian, want to do the honors?”
I’m right between push and grunt when Brian settles down between my legs. He looks at me again and then down and I see a look on his face that I can’t even describe. Nick has inched down slightly too. Brian looks back up and the look disappears.
“I can’t,” he squeaks.
Brian looks at Nick and Nick looks at Brian. There’s just a split second of a silent conversation that goes on before Brian steps aside. Suddenly Brian sinks down on a chair right beside my head and takes my hand and it’s Nick. Nick who has not in all this time since we landed outside the House of Blues been granted access to my hoo-ha. And now…
“A few more pushes Courtney,” Dr. Boone commands.
I’m exhausted. The epidural is holding and my adrenaline is fueling me, but I know that the crash is imminent. The worry for my daughter is killing me. I give a pathetic grunt/push.
I hear a cry, a muffled cry, but a cry. I lower my chin and squeeze Brian’s hand.
This ends now.
“Good, good!” Dr. Boone shouts encouragingly. “Nick get ready...I slipped a shoulder...you do the rest.”
“Hey buddy, hey buddy, hey buddy,” Nick chants and I look down to see him blubbering like a baby….
A baby who, a few seconds later, he is holding with so much love and awe in his face that I can’t even stand it.
A baby who starts screaming his lungs, his healthy lungs, his healthy heart, out loud.
Even though he’s still the second smallest peanut I’ve ever seen.
“Ben,” I laugh through a thick cloud of tears.
“Benjamin Thomas Littrell.”
“Nice name,” Dr. Boone says. He smiles. “And your daughter?”
I’ve heard other people say that sometimes things can change all in a moment. For months I’ve kept a name so secret and so close to my heart. It was the only possible choice. I open my mouth, but instead of the name I chose, a name that admittedly, I see yelling with ‘Carter’ at the end, I say the only other logical choice…
“Winnie Jacqueline Littrell.”