What I should have been doing: holding Lisa’s hand as she labored with her first child.
What I really was doing: balancing a plate of brownies as I ran around the hospital looking for an entrance.
I was out of sorts, discombobulated, if you will. Maybe it was my “inner idiot” messing with me, maybe it was my insecurities, I don’t know, but I wasn’t my usual confident, poised self. Lisa had specifically chosen me, out of her handful of competent friends, to guide her through the child birthing experience and so far all I had done was, well . . nothing.
Working out the kinks
The frigid December air swirled around me, but the jogging had warmed me and I transferred the plate of brownies to my left hand and unzipped my parka. A car slowly cruised up next to me, but before I could wave them past or flip them off, the window rolled down and a man’s voice called out, “Lise? Is that you?”
It was Dave, Lisa’s husband.
“Hey, Dave,” I replied, my voice strained from the exercise.
“What the heck are you doing?”
“Looking for an entrance.” I slowed my pace a little to catch my breath. “What are you doing? Who’s with Lisa?”
“We forgot the camera.” He stopped the car. “And no one’s with Lisa. Hop in.”
I followed his instructions and got in the warm car. Dave, being the kind of annoyingly charming guy who always knows the right thing to do, parked the car and got us immediately to the maternity ward and to Lisa’s room.
Still no sense of humor
Lisa was mid-contraction when we walked in so she didn’t look very happy. She declined a brownie and when the pain subsided asked politely if she could have more ice chips to suck on.
This was my chance for redemption. I immediately barked out to the nurse that we needed ice chips. And by the way, who was in charge of the ice chips and why hadn’t Lisa’s ice chip bucket been filled!
I wasn’t the only one surprised at my outburst. Both Dave and Lisa took notice as the nurse stalked out. I wanted to apologize and start over, but that ball had already started downhill and was picking up speed.
It was soon after the ice chip incident that things really started not going so well. I found fault with the TV, the the paper towels in the ladies room and the organization of the linnen closet, to name a few. My inner idiot had muscled her way into the room and became irritating to the point of obnoxiousness and I was powerless to stop it. Worse yet, I joined in.
Not the sharpest knife in the drawer
“Can’t you see my friend is in pain,” I screamed out to the attendant as Lisa began another contraction. “When will she get some relief? Who do you have to sleep with to get an epidural around here?”
I ran out into the hall looking for Lisa’s doctor.
The head nurse grabbed my arm. “If you can’t get a hold of yourself, you’ll have to be removed from the room. You’re scaring the patient.”
“That patient has a name – Lisa! And Lisa is in pain.” I brought my voice under control. “When can she get some drugs?”
“We’ve already ordered the epidural. Doctor will be here any time now.” In an odd way, she reminded me of that crazy nurse from One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest.
“Great. That’s just great. When he finishes his cigarette, tell him we’re waiting!” I rolled my eyes and went back into the room, just in time to watch Lisa’s monitor registering a contraction. A big one.
“Okay, Lisa,” I warned, “this is a doosey! It’s gonna hurt and hurt bad so get ready. Here it comes!” I watched the monitor as Lisa grimaced in pain and Dave held her hand. The hand holding was supposed to be my job, his was the camera, but in the confusion, everything got turned around.
“You’re peaking!” I yelled as Lisa doubled over in pain. When it was over she brushed her hair from her eyes and whispered, “Drugs.”
My clue to over-react
I marched back out into the hall. I was sweating profusly and my knuckles hurt from squeezing Lisa’s foot. Going through labor was beginning to take its toil on me. Not only was I a mess, but Lisa wasn’t doing so well either. Watching her twist and turn in agony was more difficult than I expected and I was powerless to help.
“Where is the damn doctor?” I grabbed the frightened janitor, who was shaking his head and mumbling in Spanish. I stomped to the nurse’s desk. “Why is it taking so long to get an epidural? This is crazy. Lisa’s writhing in pain and you’re not doing anything! Trust me when I say customer service will be hearing from the Schmagenbuch camp tomorrow”
I turned on my heels to go back to the room but an iron grip clamped on to my arm. It was Nurse Ratched.
“You’re not going in there,” she spoke softly, a terrible grin on her face. “I warned you once before. You will stand in the hall. You will not say a word – to anyone. You will behave yourself or I’ll have you removed from this hospital. Do you understand?” She leaned in and put her mouth to my ear. “I eat people like you for lunch.”
She may or may not have said that last part, I don’t quite remember, but she scared me. And she scared my inner idiot because as I looked around, she had disappeared. I was alone and embarrassed. And I was missing out on the birth of my dear friend’s child.
The doctor soon showed up and administered the epidural. Hospital personnel rushed in and out of the room and within an hour I heard someone call out “it’s time”. I continued my stand of shame outside the room and again, I wanted to apologize but it was not the right time. Lisa was having her baby.
Shamed into submission
At the last minute, Nurse Ratched took pity on me. “If you think you can participate without causing a scene, you can join us. Do you think you can do that?”
I nodded and walked slowly back in the room. Dave actually smiled at me and asked me to film the birth – he was busy holding his wife’s hand. I eagerly grabbed the camera, excited to be doing something that wouldn’t get me disbarred from the hospital.
Of course, this story has a happy ending. My actions were soon lost in the exhilaration of a healthy baby girl being born. Isabelle was beautiful and Dave and Lisa were on cloud nine.
My inner idiot was nowhere to be found. As usual, she had high-tailed it out of there when the going got tough, and once again, left me to fend for myself.
Not to worry, she’ll be back. I’m sure of it.
Note: Lisa and Dave declined my offer to assist in the birth of their son, Jack, fifteen months later. I guess they felt they were “experts” by then.