By Matt Gordon
In about a week the hospital would like us to come on over at 5 AM and have a baby. My wife agreed to these terms. I suppose they lost my number? Yes, my wife will breathe and sweat and squeeze a human life out of unmentionable places through unmentionable means. She could, indeed, poop herself I’ve heard. But my wife doesn’t even get there, for instance, if I don’t drive her. I’ll have some shows downloaded for post-labor too if she wants to watch along. And who makes about a dozen trips to the hospitality room? Now, to be fair, mostly those are for me to binge on free Jell-O, popsicles, and to escape the birthing chamber, but on a few of those treks I do schlep a cup of ice chips back to my groaning bride. So yeah, I would say we are pretty equal partners in this whole situation.
But did I get a call about this schedule? Did I get consulted? Of course not. They knew not to ask someone as sensible as me because unless we are squeezing in some deer hunting or farming or some other forsaken twilight activity at some point of the morning there is absolutely no way we need a 5 AM check-in time. No, I would have negotiated up to an 11 AM kickoff. Maybe squeeze in brunch beforehand? Some pineapple cubes, some cheeses, possibly a pile of b’s & gravy, maybe a mimosa or two? At this point it can’t really hurt much, right?
In fact, on that scheduling call, I would include some other suggestions for this process. Like how about side-by-side beds? I stand sweatily north of the battle-line for the entire labor process. With one of our kids that was all night long. Can you imagine the state of my feet following that ordeal? And my legs—heavens! It was like I had mall-walked a marathon. No, a bed with all those buttons like my wife had would do just fine. In my non-remote-control holding hand, I would reach across and grasp my wife’s clammy paw, provided she didn’t squeeze too hard. That pregnancy strength—you know the kind that can lift cars off children and such? When you hear those stories, it does make you wonder about who parked a child there in the first place; regardless, an innocent hand is no place to focus that kind of hulk-like force.
As for the entertainment options, the hospital must, must, must do something about the sound quality for the television. Following my plan for a tender mid-day check-in, we would be able to watch my stories. We might—if labor would last long enough—get to watch Hot Bench, an afternoon gem in the stylings of Judge Judy with not one but three judges! That is two more judges than usual. That is a lot of adjudicating! But what good is it if I have to use that little speaker that is embedded in the remote control? Were I to turn it up to levels that allow for the truest tri-judge petty court experience, the selfish medical professionals would hint that I turn it down or leave the room by saying, “Would you turn that down or leave the room?” I know this because they had the audacity to say it to me with our last baby when I tried to enjoy Wheel of Fortune over all that screaming. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound? And if you watch Wheel of Fortune without the clack-clack-clack of that giant wheel, have you actually watched Wheel of Fortune? I would argue no, and I think at least two of three judges would rule in my F_VO_.
Speaking of favors, do me one, and fetch us some decent food, will you? With our first two children, they’d bring in heaping plates of stroganoff and meatloaf and other ungodly fare. Ever heard of a chicken wing? At this point I’d even settle for some quality lasagna. But here I am wolfing down goulash and questioning what would compel someone to bring a child into a world like this, much less what would make someone bring a dutiful father a dish so decrepit? And then my poor wife, she ends up being starved since they only bring one tray of food. As I polish off the last of whatever livermush is before us, I almost feel bad for her—tired, hungry, and worn out. I can see why generations of old would sometimes call women the weaker sex. Poor, dear thing.
And despite my wife’s obviously weakened state, the nursing staff unrelentingly pushes our baby upon her. Skin-to-skin time, feed it, burp it. You’d think there was a staffing shortage or something. I’ve seen the nursery—I wandered in by accident looking for a restroom more tidy than our in-room one. They have like thirty little baby swings in there. We’ve got this child for the next 18 years, how about you take these next few hours, hospital? That okay?
But no. The babe will be foisted upon my wife. I swig a Mountain Dew and try to will my mammaries to activate. It never works. They remain mere showpieces on this bod of mine.
I’ll take another drink or two and look on—at my sweet wife and new little baby. They, two, will be one love in the dimness of the hospital light. They will be together, perfect, and utterly amazing. And as I take the scene in, I will push the little button on my remote, hailing the nurse to see about getting these lights fixed.