Monday, November 11, 2013

Back in the maternity ward

“You know the way to the maternity ward?” the hospital volunteer asked.

“I could get there with my eyes closed,” my wife Kara responded.  She thanked the volunteer for our guest pass, and we headed for the elevators.

It’s so much calmer visiting the maternity ward as a spectator instead of as a player.  When you’re in the game, it’s all doctors scurrying around and your wife screaming for the anesthesiologist who apparently just stepped out to enjoy a five-course lunch.  A nurse will put your screaming wife’s leg in your arms and say, “Hold this right here,” and your brain will not quite be able to keep up with the processing it should be doing, what with all the responsibility and screaming and goo everywhere.
“You might want to look away,” the doctor will advise, as if anything he could do would shock you at this point.  Then out comes the scalpel, and any childhood innocence you still had becomes but a memory.

“I can’t believe this is happening right now.  Is that his face?” you will think as you decide maybe you’ll break your rule about not crying in public (the last time being the first time you saw “Field of Dreams”), as your brand new son opens his mouth and also begins to cry, out of an orifice located on what you’d formerly assumed was the back of his head.  Then the new life is in your hands, eyelids shining with goop the nurse slathered on, wrapped in the same white sheet with teal and maroon stripes that every hospital in the world seems to use, and your life will also be new, because the old one is gone forever.  Then, when you look back on the terrible and beautiful events of the day, and think about all the insane life experiences you’ve had in the meantime, you will have no choice but to smile.  

I understand it was a memorable experience for Kara, too.

The elevator dinged on the third floor, and we stepped into the hallway.  It would have been surreal visiting that place again if we hadn’t just been a couple of weeks before.  We’ve entered the stage of our mid-thirties where our friends have begun firing babies into the world with rabbit-like efficiency.   

A nurse buzzed us into the maternity ward, and we turned right to head towards room 308.  If we’d turned left, we would have ended up at the maternity ward buffet, which was the main reason, nineteen months ago, that we were most upset to leave the hospital. 

“Dudes, try to have your baby on chicken parm day.  You won’t regret it,” was the best advice I could offer our pregnant friends as their due dates loomed. 

Beyond that, what advice could we really give?  Everyone does their own research and arrives at their own conclusions.  Many of our friends hired doulas to assist with childbirth, which is especially interesting because “doula” isn’t a real word.  If it was a real word, surely I would have heard it mentioned once in my first three decades of life.  I’m putting “doula” up there with “ramekin” and “filbert” as words that somebody made up during a 2009 Scrabble game and everyone else just started using to keep up the ruse.

We knocked and pushed open the door to find our friends exhausted and smiling, their little one in a rolling cart beside the hospital bed.  Little clucking, cooing noises came out of the cart.  I forgot that newborns make that sound.  I thought I’d remembered everything.

“He’s been so quiet,” they said.

“He’ll get over that,” we thought.

They asked us questions, and we gave responses, but they’ll figure out their own answers.  Not much to do now but to buckle up and enjoy the spit up.  And check down the hall for chicken parm.
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