At this point in the story, we arrived at the hospital after my wife finished getting "ready" following the "breaking of her water", which is still a weird saying. Water is a liquid, it can't break! Whoever came up with that saying is an idiot. Probably some doctor guy.
Anyway, to me, "ready" means getting immediately into the car, ambulance, hovercraft, hot air balloon or whatever you have and possibly bringing a leather belt to bite down on. And maybe something for her. HER version of getting "ready" meant getting ready for prom. I don't get it; it's like deciding to clean your house an hour before you scheduled a pack of wild, rabid, muddy dogs to come chase a hamster all over your living room.
As we entered the hospital, the magic began. We passed a Native American janitor walking the other direction, pushing his yellow mop cart slowly down the hallway. Noting my wife's appearance and obvious distress he gave us a knowing smile. As we passed each other I looked back, and so did he. His expression was solemn and wise.
"Did you see that?" I asked my wife in an excited, hushed tone. "A Native American spirit guide! He gave us a smile. Ours will be a magical child."
"What? What are you talking about?" she asked.
"He looked wise."
She looked behind us. "What? THAT guy? That was just the janitor. And I'm pretty sure he's Chinese."
I couldn't believe it; our Native American spirit guide was also Chinese! This was going to be a special child. I mean, the evidence was right there. Plus, it was Shark Week.
As he rounded the corner, I pictured the Spirit Guide dissolving into a million tiny peach blossoms that quickly blew into the shape of a dragon before floating into the night sky. Suddenly I heard the sound of a broom clanging heavily on the floor, signaling I was probably right about the peach blossoms thing.
Or maybe he just dropped it or something. But my wife wouldn't walk back to check, so we'll never know for sure.
That wasn't the only omen. I don't mean to brag, but for the first time in my life I walked in on a woman going to the bathroom. Sure, it was an accident as I'm relatively certain the signs that have a stick man and stick woman separated by a slash don't mean they recommend two people fight for one toilet. I'm sure it's akin to hitting the cover off a baseball, only this was a bit more traumatic and weird. And nobody gave me high-fives or took me out for pizza afterwards. On the bright side, she'll probably never forget to lock a door again.
As the contractions begin to worsen, the woman you brought to the hospital begins her transformation from fair maiden to cursed, angry damsel. Unfortunately a laboring woman cannot just get an epidural. That'd be too easy and they wouldn't get to experience all this "childbirth joy" people talk about that doesn't actually exist. Or, if it does, I've been grossly misunderstanding the word "joy."
Not long after you get settled in the nurses will "pop the hood", my apparently inappropriate way of describing whatever it is they do to your lady to check to see if she's "ready." She never is.
After the fourth time, I couldn't bear my wife to take another moment of the pain, mostly because she was starting to squeeze my hand really, really hard.
"She's ready," I announced to the nurse when she re-entered.
"She's sufficiently dilated?," the nurse questioned.
"Oh yeah," I replied. "I checked her myself." She remained skeptical.
"How many centimeters?"
"... Forty," I said with confidence. That sounded like a lot. Then I quickly added "...inches" under my breath i case she was trying to trick me with the centimeters thing.
She didn't buy it.
Only after going through the entire series of MASH will you get the news that relief is soon on the way.
"Don't worry," the nurse will finally say, "I called the anesthesiologist."
Why is it whenever the nurses tell you've they've called the anesthesiologist it takes forever for him to appear? He's never just down the hall eating a donut. In my head they send a squire to an underground lair two miles under the hospital. The young boy descends down a seemingly endless spiral stone staircase before happening upon three sets of guards.
"His presence has been requested," the young orderly says to the guards before whispering that day's code word. "Umbilical."
The boy then shuffles down dimly lit corridor after corridor until he comes upon a giant iron door with the symbol of a hissing snake coiling around a butterfly. The anesthesiologist, shrouded in a blue robe that barely covers his hard spine scales, hangs from his feet upside-down from the ceiling. He doesn't say a word, only opens his yellow lizard eyes before jumping down and climbing atop a giant white walrus. He reaches the hospital room, hunches forward with foreign, magical devices that look more suited to getting a confession out of her rather than the removal of pain, and utters words no one but he understands and prepares the magic elixir.
Once the epidural is in, however, a magical transformation takes place. The creature's scales shed to reveal a large, muscular back; his remaining teeth fill in, replaced by a perfect smile. He becomes the most beautiful man your wife has ever seen.
The rest is a blur until more people enter your room than you feel is necessary. And not one is there to give you a massage. Eventually your child will begin to emerge from the depths, which prompts the nurses to asks ridiculous questions.
"Do you want to see?" the nurse will ask, in a tone suggesting she's actually serious.
"I have a pretty good idea," I replied, trying to think about anything else.
To be honest, I was actually hoping the male part of this whole ordeal had devolved back to the 1950s where fathers-to-be in fedoras waited in a small waiting room filled with other fathers, heartily clasping each other on the back and exchanging cigars for a job well done. Because we had a lot to do with the outcome. It's like if a medieval knight told his king, "I'm going to slay the dragon that's eating the villagers!" Then that knight goes to take a nap. When he wakes up, someone tells him the dragon is dead. He takes out his sword and runs to the town square, where people congratulate him.
Eventually the point comes where the male can contribute, though it's at something the medical community essentially created just so the men don't feel completely useless, that being cutting the cord. Cutting the cord is an exciting, honorable and disgusting thing that you're pressured into doing. Say you don't want to do it and all of a sudden everyone in the room looks at you like, "Oh, you don't want to do the ONE thing here? We haven't done enough?"
Look, I'm not even particularly good at Jenga and you want to trust me with a medical procedure?
But I tried to make the most of it. When the time came I pulled out a note card.
"If I could just get everyone to quiet down, I've prepared a few words," I began.
Apparently it's not like a ribbon-cutting ceremony; they just want you to do the thing and get out of the way. In that sense it's pretty much like the conception, so everything comes full circle.
Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative & marketing writer for Briscoe14 Communications (www.briscoe14.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via town crier. Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny or he will squirt you with sacks full of breast milk that have taken over his refrigerator.