"We are going to break your water now," the doctor said. Doctor Tursi was holding what looked like an 18" swizzle stick and casually looking at Rose in much the same way an orchestra conductor might look at a musical score for Hello Dolly. Rose was half sitting in her bed in the maternity ward. Her legs were drawn back, knees up, and a sheet was covering her from her waist down. She was looking even more uncomfortable with this latest bit of news than she had been from her contractions. Rose had plenty of other reasons to be uncomfortable. There were two different IV drips going into her right arm. One was delivering a medication to induce labor, and I have no idea what the other one was doing. She had a fetal heart monitor on her stomach and another monitor to record her contractions.
Green lines danced on video screens while audible beeps and digital numbers recorded the baby's heartbeats. A paper printout duly recorded events about which I could only speculate, but looked like a seismographic recording of activity along the San Andreas fault. On her left arm was a blood pressure cuff. She was holding a cup of chipped ice, the only thing she was allowed to consume. It was noon and she had been in this position since 8:35 AM.
Rose responded to the doctor, "I'd like to go to the bathroom first." I'd had enough. I stood up and announced that I neither wanted to see Rose go to the bathroom (I assumed she didn't leave her bed to do that) nor did I want to see the doctor break her water with that giant swizzle stick. Both Doctor Tursi and Rose assured me that I could stay or go as I wished. I wished to go and, without lingering, I made a hasty retreat down the hall to the maternity lounge where the vending machines were located.
There were a lot of people in the lounge most of them women. I've always wondered why people sat around in maternity waiting rooms, looking and feeling useless while waiting for babies to be born. As I understand it, babies may be born in route to the hospital or days after mom arrives. It could be a very long wait. I also noted that there were no fathers waiting. Either the fathers were enduring what I was avoiding or they were out somewhere drinking. We all sat around trying not to look at one another, and I did my best to not look like a father. It was a like waiting in an airport for the weather to clear so that some relative you had never seen could arrive.
If I were Rose's husband I suppose I would have stayed and suffered through the procedures, but I wasn't. I wasn't even Rose's lover. I was just a very good friend. Rose and I had met a number of years ago when she was a student at the college where I teach. I've always been close to my students, but I have to draw the line somewhere, and this seemed like a good point for line drawing. About ten minutes later Chris, Rose's husband, came into the lounge and announced that her water had been broken and that it was safe for me to return.
I've always heard about women's water breaking and so I was on the lookout for a wet floor, or at least some evidence of water. There was none. I was both relieved and disappointed. At least a wet floor or wet bed would have given me more details for story telling. Nothing looked different except Rose. She was not as cheerful as she had been. "At least you're lighter now," I said, trying to cheer her up.
The baby's heart monitor was audibly beeping at about 130 to 150 beats per minute, which meant that Jake (the baby's name to be) was more excited about this than anyone. I doubt if he knew what was about to happen, but I sure did. I'd been there before. Two years and nine months earlier, Chris, Rose and I had been in the adjoining room where a similar scenario had played out. At that blessed event their first son Reese had been born, and I had been the designated multimedia person.
As designated multimedia person it was my job to videotape the birth as well as to take digital photographs. With a video camera in my right hand and a digital camera in my left hand, I dutifully recorded Reese's entry into the world. I had always considered babies' heads to be quite small, even though they seem large in comparison to their bodies. But seeing Reese's head emerge from Rose can only be described as ... well, I don't think you really want me to describe it.
For eighteen years I owned a South American boa constrictor named Wyndham. I think Wyndham was a male, but I was never sure, and I didn't really care. However, I was always fascinated that Wyndham could swallow a rat that was bigger around than he was. If I had videotaped Wyndham eating a big rat and then played the videotape backwards, I'm certain the effect would have been much the same as watching Reese being born. I suppose that comparison is not very flattering to Rose, but if you ignore the details it does provide a rather effective analogy. If you include all of the details, I'd much rather watch the video of Wyndham.
Jake was born at 3:35 PM. At six pounds, twelve ounces he was big for being almost a month early. I didn't hang around to see it happen this time. There are some things that I only need to see once, so I had left the hospital three hours earlier. My memories of Reese's birth were vivid enough and didn't need refreshing.
People who have witnessed the birth of a baby have often described it in glowing, wonderful terms such as "the miracle of birth." Personally I think it's a miracle that Rose is still in one piece. It is no wonder that nature blesses mothers with a sort of limited amnesia after childbirth or they would never go through it a second time. If all the people throughout history who had ever contemplated having children had been required to first watch the process of a baby being born, the world today would not have the population problem that it does. And if sex didn't feel so good, the human race would have become extinct eons ago.
I was the second of three children. When my sisters and I were born, dads were not permitted to watch the births of their children, and I doubt if many of them wanted to watch. Instead, they paced around in waiting rooms or went back to work until announcements were made. I guess I should be thankful for that or I might not be here. "Thanks Mom and Dad!"