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A Pregnant Pause, Part Three

May 26, 2012

Without Mark and Angela’s money, Darlene had to settle for what I can only describe as the hospital’s “economy birth” package. She was not allowed to give birth in the maternity ward, and instead had to share a room with a comatose 70-year-old man, whom I can only assume was waiting for Oliver Sacks to arrive with a Walkman.  Most importantly, Darlene had no access to a new and expensive treatment called an “epidural.”  She was going to have this baby as God intended—even a Caesarian section was only being contemplated as a last resort, given the cost of the procedure.

As she laid in the gurney, I tried to mentally calculate the size of her baby, and the approximate size I imagined it had to pass through to enter this world.  There was no way, I thought, this was going to happen without a c-section.  Darlene’s huge belly and tiny hips were simply not compatible.  In order for this birth to happen naturally, it was going to have to violate the laws of physics.  However, I shelved my doubts and trusted the medical professionals.  My job was not to make that decision—my job was Lamaze coach. I had a certificate to prove it.

I held Darlene’s hand. I said positive words. I reminded her she wasn’t alone.  I helped guide her through her breathing.  And all of that worked splendidly—until the first strong contraction.  Carol Burnett famously described labor pain as “grab your bottom lip and pull it over your head.”  A friend of mine who has had two sons chose “try to imagine pushing a basketball out of your ass.”  I suspect both of those metaphors are accurate, because I couldn’t imagine the strength in which Darlene suddenly squeezed my hand.   My metaphor for how hard she was squeezing my hand?  A mining truck filled with iron ore just parked on it.

I didn’t know what to do. The last thing I wanted was to let go of her hand—and given how strongly she was squeezing it, I doubt that was a genuine option.  So, I turned away, bit my bottom lip, and tried to keep my eyes from watering. I wisely chose not to complain to Darlene that she was holding my hand “a little too tightly.” In spite of the fact that she was no doubt enduring the most excruciating pain she had ever encountered, this remarkable woman still had the presence of mind to turn to me and say “I’m sorry. Am I squeezing your hand too hard?”  Chagrined, I lied:  “Not at all.  Squeeze it as much as you need to.”  I’ve got another one.

Darlene squeezed, breathed, wailed, and pushed  a while longer.  I don’t recall exactly how long the labor was—but I have no doubt it felt much longer to Darlene.  Pale, covered in perspiration, most of the color seemingly drained from all of her flesh, she wept and begged the doctor to do a c-section.  Mary begged for him to do a c-section.  The doctor looked as if he was about to agree, and then his eyes lit up:  “Nope.  This baby is coming. Now. Push!”

Darlene protested that she couldn’t push anymore, but I urged her, as kindly as I could, to continue.  She gazed at the wall a moment, turned to Mary, and then finally back at me.  She closed her eyes, and quivered with laughter.  She shouted, “Whose stupid idea was this?”  She giggled another few seconds, and we all exchanged looks of concern.  She then somehow found the strength to keep pushing.

As the baby started to come, Darlene screamed, wept, and pushed all at the same time.  Her voice hoarse with exhaustion, she turned to me and muttered.  “Make sure its okay.”   I nodded, trying to appear more confident than I actually was.  Without relinquishing Darlene’s hand, I rose, and leaned to get a look at this new life entering the world.   I gasped, not so much at the sight of this miracle, but the sight of how parts of Darlene’s anatomy were…stretching. I mean really, really stretching.  Oh my God! What the–?  How–?  That’s not possible! I quickly shrank back into my seat, and patted her hand.

“How does it look?”   Her voice was softer than a whisper.

“Fine. Fine!  It looks fine! Perfectly normal!” Certainly nothing happening that violates the laws of physics.  “Push!” I’m still not sure if I was trying to persuade myself or Darlene, but there was one thing I was certain of:  women are far and away the strongest gender.  I don’t know a single man who’d be able to endure that much pain.  Yes, passing a kidney stone is tough—but a kidney stone doesn’t weigh nine pounds.  What else do men have to deal with? Pulling out nostril hairs?  I don’t think so.

Finally, Darlene’s new son arrived.  She named him Jacob.  And I have to say, like many new-born babies, he was…well, hideous. As time passed, though, he became much cuter.  Mary, Darlene and Jacob eventually moved to Idaho, and after a few years, I lost touch with them.  I have googled and Facebooked Darlene in an attempt to find her, but I never have.  I do think about them occasionally, and wonder how their lives turned out.  I hope Darlene has finally found the peace and happiness she richly deserves, and that Jacob grew into a fine young man.  And I sincerely hope he never shows up at my doorstep wanting to know “Are you my father?”

Nope. I’m just the Lamaze coach who used to sell dead fish with your mom.  I don’t think Hallmark has a section for that.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 26, 2012 8:48 pm

    Is this the real reason you didn’t want to have children? You feared that you might lose your other other too?

    So funny and tender, P1. Just like you.

  2. May 26, 2012 8:49 pm

    Thank you. 🙂

  3. Sarah permalink
    May 26, 2012 9:03 pm

    You are a good man. I have birthed two children and you couldn’t pay me to look.

  4. Chloe Duhaime permalink
    May 27, 2012 3:46 pm

    This was moving and funny all at once. I really enjoyed this multiple part story.

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