13 April 2013

Express delivery

Last night we watched a comedy in which three friends are in an immobilised cable car with a pregnant woman when she goes into labour. The whole thing was wildly unrealistic, but we nevertheless scoffed at the utter incompetence of the characters in the face of this emergency.
After it was over, though, I started to think. The male character was completely useless ... but, truth be told, I was choosing to forget that  my own first human birth was, in terms of my own part in it, an even more inglorious occasion – happy in its outcome only through good luck.
Nineteen years old, with fellow student Jon, I dropped in on friends Karl and Hannah in their small town home. Hannah was heavily pregnant. Karl wasn’t there: Hannah, tired of his fussy worrying and pacing, had ordered him out of the flat for a night on the town with his friends to give her some peace. She welcomed us in, sat us down, and went to put a kettle on. Then she screamed. We rushed through to find her on all fours, on a wet kitchen floor, wide eyed, gasping and panting.
Wide eyed, gasping and panting ourselves, we ran around in a headless chicken manner and flapped our hands uselessly until Hannah caught her breath and called us to order. She told one of us to go out to the telephone in the square, call the midwife whose number was pinned to the kitchen door frame, then find Jon and bring him home.
I would have welcomed the chance to be out doing something and away from the centre of useless responsibility, but Jon reached the door first so I was left alone with Hannah.
Hannah, though only twenty and in her first pregnancy, took charge with natural authority. She sat me in a chair, held my hand, reassured me.
I discovered later that, at under two hours, it was an unbelievably quick and easy delivery – but at the time it seemed to go on for ever. Hannah saw me through it, patience itself most of that time though there were a couple of stressful moments when she shouted at me to “stop being a useless wanker”.
I did as I was told, breathed deeply and stopped panicking when instructed.
By the time the midwife arrived, I was holding a hastily wiped baby girl roughly the right way up and Hannah was plying me with heavily sugared coffee. Jon, who had had to visit many cafés, pubs and bars in his search for Karl, returned with him some time after that to coo in an inebriated manner over the baby.
Having seen a fair number of deliveries since then, it's easy to forget, easy to pretend to myself that I've always been where I am now. But no; I really shouldn't judge the characters in the ski lift comedy. In fact they stepped up to the plate better than I.


Kyle said...

Oh my goodness... And how many times has this happened to you, exactly?

Felix said...

Births ... I've seen a fair number, now. That level of shocked total incompetence though ... just that once! :-)