Saturday, 23 April 2011

The song of the conduit

The Resident Fan Boy has an ironic favourite saying: "Assume" makes an ass of U and me.
The irony is in the fact that he's the king of assumptions. This has got us into hot water on more than one occasion over the years, the most memorable being on this date nineteen years ago.

It was the Thursday after the Easter weekend that year, and the week had been busy: we had attended our penultimate Labour Preparation class that week, bearing home-made hot cross buns as it had been our turn to provide snacks. There had been a Hospice volunteer workshop that week, although I had finally given up my regular shift. I'd also given up our weekly Scottish Country Dancing lesson, much to the relief of my instructor (something I didn't find out until months later). I was as big as a house, and about three weeks from my due date.

This particular day, I took the ninety-minute round-trip bus ride out to the hospital for yet another ultrasound. The Resident Fan Boy was on the volunteer board of a church community centre and the monthly meeting was right after his work, so we had a brief rendezvous at the downtown bus stop, and I headed home to clean up after the hot-cross buns. I was just about to start on it, when I needed to go to the bathroom. Again.

I'll spare you the details but when I emerged, I added a few more items to my overnight bag before calling the doctor, knowing he would only tell me to head to the hospital. Then, I called the number the Resident Fan Boy had given me and got an answering machine. (This was nineteen years ago, remember?) The answering machine gave me three emergency numbers which led me to three more answering machines. I tried a co-worker of the resident Fan Boy who had offered to drive me to the hospital, but it was the office pub night; no one was there. I dialled the home of the volunteer board chairman and got his fifteen-year-old daughter who was as helpful as...a fifteen-year-old. I phoned my mother and got her answering machine. I think it was at this point that I began to cry. I called a taxi, then my mum rang back, having come home from work to catch the tail-end of my message. She told me she'd meet me at the hospital and leave a message on our answering machine for the Resident Fan Boy. I hung up and my waters broke.

The taxi driver was very nice, one kid and another on the way. He told me to breathe through my contractions and noted nervously that they were three minutes apart. It was at this point that we got stuck behind an elderly couple in a very old, very wide station-wagon. The taxi-driver grabbed his radio mike and called his company: "Listen, I got a pregnant lady here with contractions three minutes apart; call Emergency and tell them to have a wheel-chair waiting!"

The city was in the middle of a hospital work-to-order job action, so my wheel-chair attendant turned out to be a videographer who'd recently produced a how-to video on getting wheelchairs into elevators. It took him three tries to locate the elevator to Maternity, but his elevator entry was impeccable.

Meanwhile, the volunteer board meeting was taking a supper break at the community centre. They were ordering in pizzas. Other members were calling home, but the Resident Fan Boy had just seen me at the bus stop, so assumed he didn't need to check in.

I went into transitional labour minutes after arriving in Labour/Delivery. It was like being hurled into the open ocean in a gale, trying to relax and ride over the ever-increasing waves. Somewhere in another room, I heard the screams of a woman further along than I. I had time for three internal questions, before I switched my mind into self-preservation mode, that is, not daring to think of what lay ahead:
1. What possessed me?
2. What woman in her right mind would go through this more than once?
3. Why does that fixture on the ceiling resemble a cervix?

It was quite a bit later when Resident Fan Boy came home to a darkened apartment with the mess from the hot-cross buns still in the kitchen.
And she's gone out... thought the RFB irritably. Then he noticed my bag was missing from beside the door.

"That's funny," said the cab dispatcher. "This is the second maternity call we've had this evening."
"I know!" snapped the Resident Fan Boy.

When he got to the delivery room, he found me writhing on the bed, coaching myself: "Let it go, relax, oh God, let it go..." He dashed to my side, grabbed my hand and as he leaned over to reassure me, I told him not to breathe on me. I could smell the pizza. He has never let me forget this. I think, as a woman in full labour, I was remarkably civil...

After a couple of hours of writhing, breathing, and sounding, as my mother later told me, like a cow in calf, it was decided that intervention was necessary. My husband, who has been known to faint during blood tests, was looking carefully away when he heard a baby crying. Who, he thought in disgust, would be stupid enough to bring a baby in here?

Not quite nineteen years later, yesterday to be exact, I sat enraptured in front of the computer and watched a video that elder daughter had made for my birthday. She mimed to the Great Big Sea's "Consequence Free", dancing and emoting in clever editing cuts, complete with costume changes. And I thought back to the Resident Fan Boy, passing out chocolate cigars in his office the following morning, and taking a phone-call from his now-not-quite-so-shell-shocked wife who breathed, gazing at the infant stranger in her hospital room: "Oh....isn't she beautiful..." I was stunned that anything so lovely could have come from me, which is just how I felt yesterday, watching a bewitching young woman twirl and glide in her tiny dorm in Halifax.

And, really, it hadn't. We don't really make children; they are sent to us on loan, for safe-keeping. If we really had such a hand in their creation, they would be so much more similar, instead they emerge from the womb with their distinctive personalities already bundled, trailing clouds of glory, as Wordsworth put it. We can help a little, but we really have to try to not hinder. We are the conduits.

I really wish I could share my birthday video with you, but that's not possible so here's Great Big Sea's video of "Consequence Free". (My beloved elder daughter knows I love the band. Happy birthday, m'luv.)


Vol-E said...

My husband, who has been known to faint during blood tests, was looking carefully away when he heard a baby crying. Who, he thought in disgust, would be stupid enough to bring a baby in here?

LOL. Good story. And with a happy ending, too!

Persephone said...

Oh, as you know, Vol-E, it's never over....

Jane Henry said...

Aw that's LOVELY. I think I had similar feelings during my first (not nearly so dramatic) labour. I do remember thinking I am ONLY GOING TO DO THIS ONCE. I swear there must be a forgetting hormone that gets released when you hold your little of bundle of joy in your arms. There can be no other rational explanation for why I have four(-:

Rob said...

What a lovely post, Persephone.