On the walk back from the public pool my 38 week pregnant Love Interest began feeling lightheaded. We timed her contractions and at 11 PM they seemed close enough together that we drove to the hospital figuring we would have a false alarm under our belts.
The woman at the front desk asked, “It’s that time, huh?”
An orderly with a teenage mustache wheeled my Love Interest down the long corridor. It was two weeks before her due date so I asked, “She’s too calm to be going into labor, isn’t she?”
“No, we had a sixteen year old in here the other day.” I waited for the end of the sentence, but he said nothing else, so I was unsure if the sixteen year old was just as calm or if he hadn’t understood my question.
We arrived in the maternity ward where a Haitian nurse inspected my Love Interest. She asked a bunch of questions and sassed us when she didn’t like our answers. I asked the nurse, “She’s too calm to be going into labor, isn’t she?”
“Probably, but you never know.”
The nurse probed her with a swab. “If your water broke this should have turned blue. Hmmm, it is a little bit blue.”
“That’s because our daughter is only part Smurf.” No laughter. It was a tough room.
The nurse probed her again.”That is blue and that very wet. Your water broke.”
We were moved to a birthing room. The television was turned on to the fourth quarter of a West Coast NBA playoff game. Deep into the fourth quarter with the Spurs ahead of the Warriors the doctor entered. “Since your water broke we’re going to induce your birth with Pitocin. You’re going to give birth in probably 6 to 12 hours.”
As soon as the doctor was out of hearing distance the nurse mumbled, “More like 8 to 24 hours.”
Either way at 2 am this was going to be a long night so when I was kicked out of the room I was glad to stretch my legs and check out the vending machines. When I was allowed to return I asked my Love Interest what happened in my absence.
“They wanted to know if you physically, emotionally, or sexually abused me.”
“Good thing they didn’t ask about financial abuse.” I thought that got a laugh out of her, but it was just a groan from a painful contraction.
Around 3 am she got demerol. That was when I should have told some jokes. She wanted me to take pictures of her and some time after she asked if she was making any sense I passed out for a couple hours. When I woke up she was in pain. I gave her ice to suck on as the anesthesiologist came for an epidural.
As morning light crept in, shifts changed and we had a new nurse. This one was from Texas and complained loudly about divorce laws in Florida that allowed her no good ex-husband shared custody of her children. Around 10:30 our doctor came back in and complained to the nurse about not contacting him earlier. She insisted she did and showed him her phone. He denied any such contact. Meanwhile, my Love Interest was squirming and the doctor disappeared again. I wondered if he was the nurse’s ex-husband.
With just me, the nurse, and my Love Interest in the room it was declared time to start pushing. The nurse instructed, “Put your legs up and hold on to your thighs with your hands. Your partner and I are going to hold your feet.”
“With her toes pointing out?” I asked remembering our birthing class.
“Yep, like a frog.”
“One that’s about to be dissected.” This earned a frown. The room had gotten even tougher.
“Every time you have a contraction I want you to push hard for ten second intervals. We’ll try it three times and then we’ll stop until your next contraction, so you don’t tire yourself out. Push!”
She pushed like a champ.” One… two…” Her face turned beet red. “Five… six…” She bit down on her lip. “Nine… Ten” After a few sets of this I was exhausted and all I was doing was holding the soles of her black socks and yelling out platitudes I hadn’t uttered since my days as a high school swim coach. “Come on! You can do it! You’re doing great!”
The doctor appeared and threw some plastic protective wear over his clothes like he was going fishing in the Everglades. The bed was part transformer and he rearranged its parts so he had a better vantage point. I wasn’t going to look. I was going to keep my eyes on my Love Interest’s face, but I couldn’t help myself. The top of a head was coming out of her vagina. The doctor encouraged us to touch it. We were both hesitant as she still had the rest of the body to push out, but we pressed our fingers against her soft, bloody scalp.
What happened next betray my limitations as a writer. How can you describe an unnaturally white body coming out of nothing with a movement that makes no sense until you realize that is an arm waving violently into the world? The closest thing I could compare it to is one of those computer generated special effects from a big budget movie that don’t look quite real.
She let out the slightest whimper of a cry. The doctor handed me scissors to cut the umbilical cord. It took three snips before the blanketed baby was free to be in the arms of her Mom. Suddenly the room was much kinder and I was out of material.