Dispatches from the Delivery Room, Part 2: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Labor Pain

Watching your wife go through labor is kind of like seeing the one you love turn into a werewolf. There is nothing you can do to stop the transformation; your wife possesses decreasing cognition of why she shouldn’t tear you apart; and the townspeople agree that you are not to be trusted to make the difficult decisions that might need to be made.

When my wife’s contractions were getting to be about five minutes apart, she could still speak to me as a friend. She very calmly made the arrangements for our three-year-old to be looked after. She put the house in order, and even accepted my comforting touch whenever her five minutes of peace expired. We got into the car and drove to hospital like married people.

Even though the contractions were only five minutes apart, the hospital wasn’t satisfied that she had made enough progress to be admitted. They made us walk the halls for an hour, after which they became convinced that we had no business there. They sent us home; we were welcome to come back when we were serious about having a baby.

A lot can go wrong when one finds himself alone in a car with a woman in labor. Even though we were heading home, I drove as though it were an emergency. I was sure that I would be pulled over for speeding at any moment. I imagined how I would explain myself to the cop. “My wife is in labor, Officer. So, naturally, we are driving away from the hospital as fast as we can.”

Back home, my wife’s contractions gained in intensity. There was no more quiet conversation in between. To make matters more frightfully confusing, those damned pains would not pace themselves at regular intervals like they do in all the training literature.

We tried every position, short of standing her on her head, to alleviate her agony. A warm bath helped for a few minutes, but soon became just another terror associated with the pain. All the while we debated the wisdom of returning to the hospital. What if all of our screaming and writhing were still not worthy of their hospitality? What if they sent us home a second time? That wouldn’t make us feel like social outcasts.

After three or four hours of this, my wife crossed an invisible line. I could no longer reach her. She had gone into werelabor. The transformation was manifest in her incongruous plea, “Help me! Help me! DON’T TOUCH ME!”

Her sister helped me load her into the car, for she was beyond the management of a single human. At the second stoplight, the cruel spirits of labor overcame her. “I can’t stand this!” she moaned. “I gotta get out of here!” Only my quick finger on the auto door lock kept her from laboring against traffic in a busy intersection and causing chaos in the streets.

Our son was nearly born in the middle of this intersection. Despite his mother’s fervent attempt to have it all out here, I stuck to my guns and insisted upon a hospital birth.

In the hospital again, the doctor did another cervix exam. She announced to us that it was four centimeters dilated, which was enough progress for us to earn a bed at their inn. I’m not sure if it were four centimeters or not. I truly believe that, having seen the wild light in my wife’s eyes, the doctor knew what answer she had better give before she pulled on her gloves.

Finally invited to give birth among polite society, my wife howled for pain medication.  The hospital staff insisted on observing certain formalities first. This only left my wife more desperate. I soon found myself caught between calculating civilization and the primal needs of raw nature, trying to forge a peace between two powers with which I held waning influence.

This was when I understood that they were both right. Raw nature had no good reason not to tear me apart. I was merely an annoying noise that brought relief no closer. At the same time, civilization could not trust me to make calculated decisions. The werewolf was too much a part of my heart.

In all fairness, my wife only turned werewolf under the most stressful conditions imaginable. I often turn into a Frankenstein while sitting around the house, without provocation. (Photo credit: my three-year-old son with his Fisher-Price camera.)

*****OFF TOPIC BONUS CONTENT: My book of short stories, A Smile Through a Tear is currently being featured on Sandy’s Spotlight. Sandy’s Spotlight is a blog that features authors discussing their books. Click here to see me looking all awkward on video as I talk about the book. I look a little Frankenstein-ish there too.

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8 comments on “Dispatches from the Delivery Room, Part 2: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Labor Pain

  1. I learned that if I didn’t hate my husband’s guts and wish I was dead, I hadn’t progressed far enough to leave the house.

  2. yearstricken says:

    I love this piece of writing. You write purty, Mr. Scott.

  3. A missed writing opportunity when you locked the car doors at that intersection. What ever happened to doing it in the name of art?! And, Scott, after your post-delivery room gift to me in the hospital after having Forester, I can only view your presence in such settings as an angel of mercy…

    • Scott Nagele says:

      We couldn’t very well ask the entire community (and some people who just pulled off the highway to get gas) to do it in the name of art; some of them were bound to have their cars severely dented. And maybe I’m okay, post delivery, but in the delivery room, I’m the village idiot.

  4. cookie1986 says:

    This is a VERY accurate description of what happens after a certain point in labour. Once in transition ( that scary place between 7-10cm), the only words I knew were “fuck” “no” and “where are my goddamn cookies?”.
    I never considered myself a werewolf, but fair enough!

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