This weeks’ topic was to write about a birth, from the opposite gender’s point of view. Good luck to all the auditioners!
“Mark? Mark! Wake up!”
I could barely make sense of her words as I slowly surfaced from a very pleasant dream involving Margie, three cans of whipped cream, and a jar of maraschino cherries.
“Yup, yup, I’m here, I’m here, what’s going on?” More to wake myself up than anything else, I spoke into the darkness. The silence after my words was punctuated by the rustling of covers, heavy breathing, and then – ouch! – light as Margie flicked on her bedside lamp. Clapping a pillow to my head, I groaned “What time is it? What the hell is going on?”
“It’s four in the morning. Time for you to get ready for work, and time for me to have this baby. I can tell.” Uncovering one eye, I gaped at her as best I was able while still frantically trying to make sense of what she’d said. “Come on! Seriously, I can’t wait forever here, you know. I’m getting in the shower then I’ll pack us both a couple bags. Up!” and with that, she yanked both pillow and blanket from my suddenly terrified grasp and marched off to the bathroom.
The remainder of the morning passed in a blur. I dropped Margie off with her mother, promising to drop everything and come get her as soon as she felt like she needed to head to the hospital, then drove to work in a daze. I floated through the day in a kind of mixed up muddle, forgetting things and drifting off into daydreams in the midst of meetings. It was four o’clock when Steve finally, in mock disgust, told me to leave.
I turned from locking my office door to see Jim standing behind me, with Paul and Tom not far away. They all were grinning like maniacs and shifting from foot to foot.
“What?” I asked, suspicious. “What’d you do?”
“Nothing, man!” Jim slung an arm over my shoulder and steered me towards the elevator. “Has your old lady popped yet?”
“Well, no, but I was just about to call her…”
“Call her on the way. We’re taking you to Mama Mia’s for a margarita, baby! Celebrate your impending fatherhood, dude! Don’t be an asshole!”
I wasn’t sure this was the best idea. I had spoken to Margie around two, and she sounded bored, impatient, and as if her mother was driving her nuts. I had a feeling I should head to her mothers sooner rather than later, but I had to admit that a margarita sounded good, and it couldn’t take that long to have one, could it? Just one?
I called her on the way to the mexican joint, letting her know I was having one drink and then heading home. She agreed, but I could hear her frustration with her mother in her voice and I resolved that I would hurry to her side as fast as possible.
Mama Mia’s was packed, and it was happy hour. We nudged our way up to the bar and dropped an order with the bartender. Jim pulled out a shot glass and a quarter and plunked it on the bar. I looked at him, already shaking my head, when he overrode my objections with, “Come on, best two out of three. Loser drinks the Mama Mia special!” He pointed above the bar where a gigantic margarita glass hung suspended from the ceiling, with a hand lettered sign reading “Mama’s Special! Get ya drunker faster’n you can say ‘Hola’!”
I eyed it with misgivings, but soon found myself tossing quarters at a shot glass. And, like a pure dumbshit asshole, I lost.
“Honey? Honey?” I tried to hear Margie over the noise in the bar but couldn’t, quite. I made my way outside where it became apparent that Mama wasn’t lyin’ about her special margarita. I was drunker than I had any right to be on the evening of my baby’s birth, and it was already seven o’clock on top of that.
“Mark. Where the hell are you? I am going to be ready to go to the hospital within the hour and you’re off getting drunk! What the hell?” A pause, then a muffled “no, mom, Mark is going to take me. No! I want my husband to take me to the hospital!”, then, “Mark? How soon can you be here?”
Not for another hour and a half, as it turned out. Mama don’t make no wimpy drink.
“Are you okay? Can you make it?” I was coaxing Margie out of the car and towards the hospital doors, but it was slow going. She was stopping every few steps, breathing hard, and snapping at me when I tried to hurry her towards the door. I was having nightmares that my son was going to just drop right out of here there on the asphalt. All I could think of was to get her into the hospital where there was someone who would know what to do in case the baby did decide to slide right out.
“You asshole. Slow down! If you hadn’t been drinking with your buddies we could have been here an hour ago! I hurt! Owwwwwww!!!” She bent over, breathing hard, arms wrapped around her fantastically large belly. It was nine-thirty, she was in labor, and I was afraid. I had never seen her in so much pain, and I was torn between fear that the baby would be born right here and frustration that there was nothing I could do to help her.
“Maybe your wife would like a wheelchair? That might help take some of the strain off.” The elderly security guard pointed at the row of wheelchairs to my left, with the helpful message “Patient Temporary Use Only” stenciled on the backs. Of course! I seized one, pushed it over to Margie, plopped her into it, and raced down the corridor.
“You stink. I can smell the alcohol.” Unbeleivably, she started giggling. “We are so white trash. I can’t beleive this. The nurses are going to think you’re some kind of derelict and report me to child services before the baby’s even born!” Her laughter cut short with another contraction, but she was still giggling once it was over, and it made me laugh too. It eased some of the tension in my shoulders to hear her laugh, even for a little bit.
The nurses put her in a room and hooked her up to an IV. We waited all night for her to be able to get her anesthetic but they said she wasn’t effaced enough. Nothing was making sense, and I couldn’t remember a word of the Almazaze classes or whatever they were. All I knew was that she cried when the pains hit her and it made me want to cry too. Thinking of the needle they were going to shoot her with just made me want to puke.
By three AM, they had finally been able to give her the shot. I couldn’t watch. Yeah, I’m a pussy. So?
By nine, they were telling me to get ready because my baby was on it’s way. She had started hard labor at seven, and I have to tell you, I never thought she was capable of making so much noise. What a screamer. Unbeleivable. She wouldn’t let me leave the head of the bed, she just wanted to hold my hand and rain imprecations down on my head for getting her into this mess. That was between yelling like Xena the Warrior Princess every time her body was gripped by a contraction. I don’t know how she did it, I truly don’t.
“Mark? You’re going to want to come down here. We’ve finally got him into position and his head is crowning.” The nurse was smiling underneath her face mask thing. I didn’t know what crowning meant, and I sure didn’t know if I wanted to see whatever it meant happening down THERE, but I went anyway.
How is it that she doesn’t rip apart? I wanted to grab the nurse and shake her, tell her that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be, it can’t possibly be what’s meant to happen, and OH MY GOD! A baby is coming out of my wife! OH MY GOD!
I think I’m going to be sick.
Then the next thing you know, Margie gives one final, drawn out howl and collapses back on the bed. With that last scream, I see my baby slither right out of her body. He’s covered with this white goo and I seriously think I’m going to puke again, but then the doctor rushes the baby out of my sight, over to a nearby table and I hear them conferring in low voices.
“What’s going on?” Margie’s voice was thin and weak, but undeniably frightened.
“Nothing, honey, everything’s fine, everything’s perfect, everything’s fine, baby, just relax, he’s fine.” I didn’t know that, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to say anything different until I knew what the hell was going on. I almost forgot about the video recorder dangling from my hand. I sent up a fervent thank you that I hadn’t had it on while…while THAT was happening, but I remembered to switch it on now so that I could catch our baby’s first few minutes in this world.
“Mark?” Dr. Peterman’s voice was warm and releived. I looked over to him and saw him standing aside from the table, gesturing at my baby. My baby boy. “He had the cord around his neck, but he’s all right now.” With those words, my son screamed. Just like his mother.
Somehow I fumbled the video camera into position with one hand as I approached the table and looked down on my wrinkled, redfaced son screaming his lungs out. My voice and finger trembled as I greeted him with meaningless words and placed my finger in his little fist. “Hey, buddy, hey there. Look who it is, little man. My little man. I’m here. I love you, little man, little buddy, shhhh.” My throat closed up and I couldn’t speak any more. I don’t even know if I was taping anything worthwhile, it could have been a clear view of my shoes for all I knew. I retrained the camcorder best I could on his precious face.
His fingers closed convulsively over mine, and in that moment, his screams dwindled to nothing and the frown between his little eyes relaxed. I marveled at the months of effort and the recent hours of hell that it took to bring this little man into the world. I looked over at my wife, who was watching me with a weary but peaceful expression on her face. “He’s fine, baby. He’s beautiful.”
“He looks like a cone head,” I observed to the doctor. He laughed and said it was because they’d had to use a suction to get baby into position to come out of his mom. I looked back down at my boy. His cries had stopped completely and his little limbs jerked and waved spontaneously as he tested the air. His skull was soft and covered with fur, he looked like a cone head, and he was red and blotchy all over, but dammit. He was my son, and he was beautiful.