Maternity wards are noisy places by nature and Dr. Barnes had no desire to add to tonight’s cacophony by arguing for a C-section his patient didn’t want. The delivery room, buzzing with a small sisterhood of girlfriends, one dumbstruck husband, and an exhausted midwife, came to an apprehensive halt every time he passed through the door, expecting him to utter the proverbial c-word (well, the other proverbial c-word). But he’d just peer with a wearied look at the birth canal, shake his head, and exit as silently as he’d entered. Thirty hours into labor and still too early to do anything. Maybe the baby didn’t want to have a birthday so close to Easter — to be forever overshadowed by chocolate, egg-laying, messiah rabbits.
The husband had been hyperventilating earlier. He’d thought his wife was dying. He was on the brink of fainting when the patient punched him in the stomach from her bed, snapping him out of it.
“This is my medical event,” she’d exhaled. “I’m not dying, Joe. It hurts like hell, but I’m not dying, so knock it off!”
Dr. Barnes thought the whole exchange was pretty funny. He decided to add it to his rolodex of medical anecdotes. In fact, despite having a floor full of women and children to attend, he found himself in his office, pacing the limited space from desk to door, rehearsing how he’d tell the story at the country club’s Easter lunch tomorrow.
“So the husband starts to hyperventilate and he’s really losing it,” he turned to a bobble-head of Joe Montana perched on his desk and started using it as a practice audience.
“…But then his wife punches him.”
He paused, frowning. The bobble-head stopped bobbling. The story was a little terse when he just came out and said it like that. He finished off his coffee and launched into it again.
“Okay, so the husband’s about to faint and the wife — at least five hours into labor at this point — walks over to him, wheels him around, and socks him in the jaw!”
He pounded his desk for emphasis, incidentally making bobble-head Joe start bobbling again in what the doctor took as a sign of approval.
“She says, ‘Damn it, John! I’m not dying but if you don’t knock it off right now, you will be!’”
Perfect. He dropped into his swivel chair, so satisfied that he didn’t notice his pager for a few seconds.
The pager was for the patient’s new baby girl, who, after all those hours holding out in her mother’s womb like it was a panic room, had suddenly decided to crash-land into neonatal life. She was purple, her shoulder visibly dislocated, and she wasn’t crying. She was the only person in the room not making a sound. One of the girlfriends, tasked with photographing the occasion, lowered her camera, perturbed by the distinct possibility that she was taking pictures of a dead baby. They rushed the infant to surgery; she stopped breathing.
“So wait, you want me to do what,” asked some nameless entity outside of space and time.
“Did you just leave the body?” asked the bewildered but nevertheless majestic voice of whichever God turns out to be the right one. “You can’t leave the body. It dies when you do that.”
“But I don’t get it. What do I do?”
“Go forth and live,” the voice reverberated.
“Yeah, but what specifically am I supposed to be doing. What’s the point?”
The voice didn’t answer.
“You don’t even know, do you? You always let silence do the talking for you. Well, I’m not listening. I’m not doing this,” said the nameless entity.
“But you are,” the voice rumbled.
“Take it back. Take me back.”
“You have no choice. You’re already in motion. With every minute that passes you’re more alive.”
“Minute? Oh, right. They have time. How much time do I have to be there?”
“About seventy years.”
“And how many years has it been so far?”
“Oh. How about now?”
“…How about — ”
“Do you hear that?”
“What is it?”
“It’s so loud.”
The patient’s new daughter was resuscitated to the sounding of medical machines, surrounded by a hospital staff with the controlled franticness of a string quartet in a scherzo. From there, the speed of her recovery was a low-grade miracle. Her color normalized, all her reflexes were functional, and she started crying like any healthy person in her situation would.
“So this lady wheels her husband around and clocks him in the head with a bedpan,” Dr. Barnes recounted the next day at the club.
“Jesus! Was he all right?”
“What? I don’t know,” said Dr. Barnes, hearing the name ‘Jesus’ for the first and last time that day.
Why wasn’t this guy laughing? Maybe he’d pushed it a little over the comedic threshold with the bedpan thing.
“Well, I feel so bad for that baby, to go through all that…”
Dr. Barnes gave a programmed nod and scanned the room, tuning out of his own conversation. This was your basic Easter shindig. There was a carving station with a big ham. The kids were out hunting for eggs on the golf course. A jazz trio made up of a singer, pianist and drum machine played The Girl From Ipanema. At four glasses of merlot, Dr. Barnes had lost feeling in his cheeks. He poked at them, bored.
He might have spent the rest of his Easter holiday dwelling on what went wrong in his story but after getting halfway through a fifth glass, he felt himself reach that perfect state of drunkenness where hot, euphoric ears somehow take in the clamor around them and turn it into a warm blanket of silence that envelops the drinker. The slow crescendo of the Easter party stopped. Basking in the quiet, he looked out the window at a toddler lumbering towards an egg in a sand trap. There were definitely worse ways to celebrate a resurrection.
Brendan Bourque-Sheil has written for Cracked.com and The Cynic Online Magazine. He also runs a blog called Comedy Conglomerate, where he interviews authors, comedians, and other creative professionals.
Tags: babies, Brendan Bourque-Sheil, Easter, labour & delivery, pregnancy