The Rattlesnake

I know, first hand, that a woman enduring difficult childbirth labor can be like a rattlesnake. If you get too close, you can be killed.

Luckily for me, the one rattlesnake that I encountered had a sister, Linda, who not only showed me the way to a longer life, but knocked some obvious sense into my head. She taught me that if you are the first to arrive at a four-way stop intersection, and three other cars arrive after you at the other stop signs, and those three drivers are all pregnant women, you always (and there is no arguing this) give them the right-of-way.

You cannot tame a rattlesnake. It is impossible. Nor can you tame a wailing pregnant woman. Especially one that curses at the frozen tennis ball you press up against her back. Trust me, tennis balls, footballs, rolling pins—none of them are any guarantee that your life will be saved just because you use them. Yes, men, you were there at the great conception, but after that, until that baby is born, be very, very careful. Understand that even if the delivery date is in frigid January, the ice you walk upon can be very thin.

The life lesson that I learned during my wife’s first delivery was not that the miracle of life is indescribable, or that the hand of God is cloaked with the miracle, or even that the miracle is as mysterious as the reason for it. Rather, if I didn’t think first before I spoke, there was a very good chance that the rattlesnake was going to sink its venomous fangs into my thumbs, dismembering them for the scavengers to gnaw on. Unfortunately, my memory is not failing me. There was truly a point during the delivery when my thumbs felt like they were being pried like tin can lids backwards to my wrists. And then, in an instant, my wife’s sister came to the rescue.

It wasn’t long after she was admitted to the hospital, that Vikki entered a state of volatility.  Her pain escalated unpredictably. And when it spiked, I was uncertain whether or not the building could hold its own amongst the shrill of her piercing screams. She had a difficult labor. Twenty-six hours of it. For the grand finale, she gave us two and a half hours of pushing.   Linda wanted her to experience the birth without drugs—to be in complete control of her body. I saw Linda’s point, but I also saw Vikki aching so badly, I couldn’t help but feel her pain. And that is when I, the master of poor timing, made my grand entrance, announcing that I understood her suffering─that I understood her labor.

“Look, I know it hurts,” said the vulnerable mouse, standing too close to the rattlesnake.

Rule #1: Don’t ever tell a wailing pregnant woman you know anything. First of all, at that point, there exists nothing but her pain. No hospital. No nurses. Nothing. You are the slime that never was and shall always be of nothingness. That’s right. You are nothingness slime.

Yoooou know it hurts!?,” she groaned, “Make yourself useful and grab that rolling pin and start massaging my back. Oh, God, this hurts! Oh, God!”

Rolling pin in hand, I cautiously made my way over to Vikki. She looked at me as if needing an exorcism. “Go ahead,” she said, “Up and down on my back. Hurry! Oh, dear God, this hurts!”

Applying pressure to the rolling pin, I felt like I was crushing her spine, but she wanted me to roll harder. I did, but she said it wasn’t enough. “Get the football!” she ordered.

A rolling pin, a football, a pregnant lady, and a husband who is too chicken to come near his wife ever since he uttered, “I know it hurts”, are the makings for a very long night.  I massaged her back with the football. “Mash it harder!” she howled. I did, but my efforts were as futile as flossing teeth with barbed wire.

The next order came quickly, “Get the frozen tennis ball!”

A rolling pin, a football, a pregnant lady, a chicken, and now a frozen tennis ball. The nightmare continued. The intense labor was stubborn as it marched on into the twenty-four hour mark. Somewhere around 12:30 a.m., the contractions started to get closer together. The baby was on its way. But not without a little more misery. This time, though, it was my misery. Or so I made it to be.

In order to help with the contractions, Linda brilliantly suggested that I climb in bed with Vikki by assuming a squatting position behind her (much like the position Indians used when washing soiled clothes along a riverbank). Every time Vikki had a contraction, it was my job to hoist her up into the same position I was in. The idea was that when she squatted, it would allow for gravity to help push the baby out.  This all looks fine on paper, but there is just one wee little glitch:

My thumbs.

As I held Vikki, my thumbs were positioned at her sides, sticking straight up, as if begging for attention. I kept waiting for gravity to do its trick, but gravity was apparently lazy that early in the morning. I thought my thumbs were in a safe position until she grabbed them like she was flying through 30,000 feet of white-knuckle turbulence. And that was the moment where I learned you must think before you speak.

With clinched teeth, I turned to Linda and had her read my lips: MY THUMBS!!

In the same manner, she instantly mouthed back to me: DON’T. EVEN. GO. THERE!!

And I didn’t. I didn’t because I wanted to live. I wanted to see our newborn. How could I actually think that my pain was even slightly worth complaining about? I would sacrifice my life for anyone in my family—and that’s not even a hard pill to swallow. It’s not on my list of things to do, but given the moment, I will.

Be careful out there, guys. Be careful and think smart. How bad is the situation? Honestly, if there are possible repercussions, think before you speak. You see, if you take the path most foolish, the rattlesnake will not take its time to think things over. Instead, it will quickly summon its predatory instincts, arch its head back, and gladly swallow you whole.

Copyright Ros Hill 2015



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