What A Team!
“Breathe, damn it!” Words from my husband’s lips as we navigate the birth of our first child.
I’m at five centimeters. He’s at pathological.
I’m thirty-five and breathing hard. He’s forty and longing to escape. We couldn’t wait for this baby to be born. Now we are thinking of pushing her back in until we’re both a little more mature.
Apparently, Lamaze class is not the same as a Lamaze birth.
At seven centimeters, John tries kindness. “You have to breathe consistently, honey. Otherwise, it doesn’t help.”
“I’m ready for the oxygen mask,” I say.
Before the next contraction, John reads aloud, “At the beginning and end of each contraction remember to take a deep, cleansing, relaxing breath.” Forgetting kindness, he commands, “OK, so BREATHE!”
He leans in to see if I’m breathing, and I punch him squarely in the nose.
“Lay off!” I say, “This is partly your fault, you know!”
“That was not a nice thing to do!” he exclaims as he wipes blood from his nose.
“Mr. Curren,” the nurse announces, “I’m afraid we have to ask you to leave the room. You are upsetting your wife.”
“But she punched me!”
Once in the delivery room, Dr. Laird takes a moment to help John with his paper shoes which are on backward and his mask which at present is upside down.
“There you go, John, let’s get this baby born,” Dr. Laird says as he positions himself for action.
“OK, now Ms. Curren, push!”
Within five minutes we all; nurses, doctor, father, mother, are laboring in sync. A finer team never entered a delivery room.
Suddenly a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning and the room goes black. In the dark, John grabs my right boob instead of my hand.
“Hold on, folks,” doctor says, “we should have an auxiliary power source here any minute.”
We huddle together in the dark like refugees in a New York City blackout, me with my legs fanned out, John with his hand on my boob, Dr. Laird humming a tune from The Sound of Music. I will say there’s something calming about not having strangers looking up my whatsis – kind of like a dream sequence. And I think, Maybe I won’t have to push anymore.
“Voila! Lights up! Push, Ms. Curren, push!”
If Dr. Laird hadn’t been a saint of a doctor, I would have punched him.
No time. Our daughter has arrived and is hustled by the nurse into a bassinet to be cleaned up.
I reach for John’s hand, but it isn’t there because he is now at the baby’s side saying, “She’s not making a sound, doctor.”
“Then you stand by her, John, while I take care of your wife.”
I can see through all the people and equipment to where John is standing. Our daughter lets out her first scream (of many) and John, mask halfway on, halfway off, and one shoe cover slipping away, lights up the room with his smile.