Friday, May 16, 2014

Things People Should Tell You, But Never Do: Part 1

I found it puzzling, at first.

The room was so warm and inviting, with bright colors everywhere. It lacked that clinical, sterile smell that most hospital rooms have. Even the medical equipment, normally a source of anxiety for me, seemed less ominous than usual. The occasional beep or chirp from the machines seemed to provide a calming rhythm, rather than their normal unwelcome intrusion.

Still, for all the effort spent making this room into such a serene, comfortable place, why was the floor tiled, with an enormous drain in the center?

The construction seemed so out of place; harsh tile, the endlessly repeating pattern only interrupted by the enormous metallic drain, perfectly centered in the room. It seemed so strange, and yet I couldn't help feeling like there was a secret, terrible purpose to it.

Soon enough, all thoughts of this particular oddity were gone. The process of childbirth began, which left no time or energy for this particular mystery. In what seemed to be both a moment and an epoch at the same time, I found myself holding a screaming, writhing little space alien in my hands. 

It was at that moment, full of joy and wonder, that I found out exactly why that drain is there. And believe me, it is necessary.

Case in point: in the midst of my reverie, I heard a terrifying sound. It was something close to a bowling ball being dropped into a toilet. Unsure of what I'd just heard, I turned to witness a scene of pure horror, dredged up from the most primal of places. 

The onset of sheer terror was instant. What appeared to be blood covered every surface from the foot of your mother's bed to the opposite wall. It was as if her insides had exploded somehow. Aliens? Gremlins? An inter-uterine bomb planted by one of our previous doctors as revenge for some unknown slight? Some rare genetic condition that causes a person to explode post-pregnancy?

While I stood there in shock, trying to figure out what might have caused this grisly scene, the drain made clear it's purpose there in the room. 

Of course by this point, I'd forgotten about the drain all together. I was much, much more worried about how my wife could survive that much blood loss.

Unsure of what to do, and jacked up on a burst of adrenaline, panic came over me. I began to rush to your mother's side, to see if there was something, anything, that I could do to help save her. Options sped through my mind, only to zip past and fly out of reach before I could find something, anything to hang onto.

As she turned to me, with a smile on her face, your mother let out a contented sigh and closed her eyes. I was convinced this was the last time I'd ever see those eyes open, and nearly burst into tears. 

Turning to the doctor and nursers, I was ready to beg for them to do something, anything to save her. I wanted to scream: Make it better! You're doctors, fix her! Now! 

At this point it had been about, oh, ten seconds give or take. I would like to think that a part of me had noticed that the doctors already had things well in hand, and were beginning to clean up the expected mess, but frankly, I was too busy having the most massive freak out of my life. 

Thankfully for everyone involved, the medical staff were particularly well trained. At least one of them must have been watching for my reaction, because they quickly took me aside. In a quiet, efficient, and practiced manner they somehow managed to calm me down.

I wish I could remember what was said, as that combination of words and the calm, professional tone, were perhaps the most wonderful speech ever uttered on the planet. At least at that moment in time, and as far as I was concerned. 

While it was likely some clinical explanation of events, I choose to believe that it was, in fact, some ancient spell or ritual passed down among midwives from the dawn of humanity. There was some certainly some form of magic at work there to bring me from a panic stricken mess to a zen-like enlightenment in just a few words. 

Regardless of the method, I was quickly made to understand that this was, in fact, a natural part of the process and nothing to worry about. To this day, I have yet to feel more relief than I did at that very moment in time.

Looking back on that situation, the whole thing could have easily been avoided. Perhaps I should have paid more attention in Health class. Or maybe it was in one of the five hundred and sixty eight You Must Read This ™ books about parenting that were recommended. I'm really not sure.

What I do know is this: of all the advice we received about having a child, not a single person mentioned those moments directly after the birth when a woman's body decides to recreate the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius with bodily fluids. And, to be honest, that would have been far more helpful to know than any of the other stories people bothered to tell us.

So consider yourself informed. Should you ever be present at a live birth, beware. Just because the baby has arrived, doesn't mean that everything is over. Expect a recreation of the prom scene in Carrie, and don't panic.

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