I’ve heard it said that there is a special provision of nature that allows a mother to forget the pain of childbirth. Without this special indulgence, it might be hard to imagine any family containing more than a single child. I have my own name for this natural phenomenon. I call it insanity.
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to wipe a father’s memory clean. He is doomed to remember all of the many horrible hours in which a mother’s pain turned his wife into a stark raving lunatic. The height of her mental derangement comes in an otherwise very calm statement, when in a moment of seemingly stable reflection, the mother makes this declaration: “It wasn’t nearly this bad last time.”
The mother makes this laughable comparison as if to imply that at a similar point in her last labor, she was entertaining well-wishers with tea and scones. It was a nice little get-together in the delivery room, at the end of which a beautiful baby was delivered in a holiday basket garnished with fresh flowers and an assortment of candied fruit.
Only the father recalls the piercing screams and tortured howls of the former occasion. Yet a sense of self-preservation makes him humor the mother’s madness. Only a fool would argue with bedlam.
The mother, in her delirium, feels betrayed by fate. How could such a pleasant occasion have been turned into such a nightmare on her? Surely, this injustice cannot last long. It’s not supposed to hurt like this. God knows, it never did before.
I’m not sure what God knows, but the father knows it hurt exactly like this before. He knows there is nothing he can do about it, and he knows that he will be scolded severely for whatever he does to help and whatever he doesn’t do to help. The contract has been signed, and the contract doesn’t mention scones or gift baskets. There’s no turning back now.
There are still hours and hours to go. The mother is in pain like (to the best of her recollection) she’s never felt before. Also, she’s mightily pissed off because somebody has changed the whole process on her since last time. No one is feeding her bonbons . . . in the shade . . . beside a babbling brook . . . to while away the carefree hours of labor like they did last time. Insult to injury, that’s what that is.
The father sighs. There are still hours to go. And the only little task he needs to accomplish in all that time is to soothe the physical and emotional pains of a hurting, pissed off, delirious woman who suspects that he is the main conspirator in the cruel joke that is being played upon her.
He will remember this instance too, long after it has been whitewashed with rose pedals.