The screaming kept happening, it was completely unhinged screaming from a woman down the hall that was clearly in very real pain.
“Make it STOOOOOOOOOOOP! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”
“My God, that woman is screaming loudly enough for everybody to hear,” I thought to myself. “I hope my wife is alright.”
Sitting in the Maternity Ward’s lobby at the local hospital, John was waiting for his wife’s mother to come pick up their daughter, Emma. They were about to have their second child, but he needed to get his “big girl” to grandma so that he could get down the hall and be with his wife. Since they’d done this once before, he was pretty sure he knew what to expect but even though there are a lot of women in pain but this one sounded really bad. Every few seconds she wailed in agony. John looked around nervously every time the woman screamed, and kept checking the time on his watch. Willing it to go faster and for his mother-in-law to show up at the doors.
“Why is that lady screaming so loud, daddy? Is she okay?,” Emma asked.
“Yes, darling, she’s okay. She’s just in pain. She’s going to have a baby like mommy.” John replied.
“Is mommy in pain, too? Is she okay? Can I see her?”
“I’m sorry, sweetie. I mean, mommy is fine. She is not screaming like that lady. She is okay. She is not in pain. She’s going to have your sister and everything is going to be fine.”
“She sounds bad, daddy. Are you sure she’s okay?”
“Yes. Yes, she will be fine. I promise you. And grandmom is coming and she will take you out to have lunch. You can order ANYTHING you like. You just tell grandmom what you want and she’ll get it for you.”
“Is grandmom coming soon, daddy?”
“Yes, sweetheart. Yes, she’ll be here any minute.”
Just then the grandmother came. John kissed Emma goodbye and promised her when she came to visit mommy tomorrow, she could meet her new baby sister, too. Just as Emma took her grandmother’s hand in hers, a man blew through the lobby doors and nearly ran Emma over. John was about to say something to the guy but he hurriedly apologized to Emma and continued toward one of the nurses.
“Wait, what do you mean you’re in labor? I thought you were fine?” Gerald asked anxiously.
“I am… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… I am fine. Shit this hurts. I… ahhhhhhhh… I have to go. Gerald. Meet me at the hospital… I have to… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Shit. I gotta go.” Molly said.
“Wait! Molly! Wait don’t hang up. Where is the hospital?”
“ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS? YOU’VE BEEN THERE! Christ, Gerald, I can’t…. ahhhhhhhhhhhh…. I can’t deal with this right… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… now. Shit. Shit this hurts.”
“Molly, seriously, what is the address? I’ll get in a cab right now.”
“It’s Broadway and…. ahhhhhhhhhhh…. FUCK YOU GERALD. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH… shit, shit, shit. Broadway! Fuck, it’s Broadway… ahhhhhhhhhhhh.” and then she hung up the phone.
“I can’t believe I don’t know where I’m going. Where am I going to get a cab this time of day?” Gerald thought as his mind was racing. He was searching the streets for any available taxi and they were all taken. He started walking very quickly toward Sixth Avenue, “Maybe there will be one there”, he thought. At least they’d be going uptown.
Spotting a cab pulling to the opposite curb, he ran across the street through traffic to get into a cab that some elderly lady had just left, he pushed his way into the cab and told the cabbie, “Columbia, uptown. And go quickly!”
As the cabbie took off as fast as possible in after-work traffic, Gerald nervously settled into the back seat wondering if Molly was going to bite his head off for taking so long. He started texting his family to let them know that Molly was in labor and he was on the way to the hospital. Everyone had been on “baby alert” for the last two weeks as Molly had been experiencing labor pains every couple of days, but they were all false alarms. Gerald was half expecting the pains she told him about this morning to just be that, but, clearly, this was the real thing. At least she was already in a cab and nearly at the hospital.
Then Gerald was filled with extreme panic at this thought: “What if she delivers the baby in the taxi?” And at that moment, he asked his cabbie to “Go faster! I have to get there quickly.”
To his surprise, the cab driver told him that they were there.
“Wait, we’re not there. Wait, where are we?” a puzzled Gerald nervously asked.
“Columbia, just like you said.” replied the cabbie.
“Wait, this isn’t the hospital. Where are…”
“Hospital?!”, replied the cabbie, “You just said Columbia. This is the University, not the hospital.”
An overly panicked Gerald asked, “Oh, my god. No, no, no. Oh my, god. Can you get me to the hospital?”
“Yes, but which building? There are a dozen up there.”
“Just drive. I’ll find out. Just drive.” Gerald said as he quickly tried to pull his cell phone out of his pocket. He Googled “Columbia baby hospital Broadway new york” and came up with the address. “Thank god,” he mumbled to himself, “Molly would have ripped off my head if I called again to ask for the address.”
“165th Street,” Gerald blurted out to the cabbie. “Broadway at 165th St! And as fast as you can. My wife is in labor and she is going to KILL ME if I’m any later.”
“I’m going, I’m going.” replied the cabbie.
Ten minutes later they pulled up to the building, and Gerald quickly threw some cash at the cabbie while thanking him even faster, and jumped out of the taxi. Sprinting toward the entrance, he stopped long enough to get a visitor’s pass at Security and then up in the elevators. His heart was beating so fast he could feel it through his chest. He was so nervous and excited that he thought he was going to pass out. As soon as he got out of the elevator doors, he was in the Maternity Ward lobby and nearly ran over a little girl and her grandmother, “Oh, sorry. Excuse me,” he said hurriedly and then immediately turned his attention to the anguished screaming from down the hallway.
He checked in with the nurse at the front desk and she asked him to sit down and wait a moment. While listening to the woman screaming, he remarked how much like Molly she sounded but not quite. His heart was slowing down a little as he was able to catch his breath, and started to think about the baby coming. Their first! He was so terribly excited. He was also so very nervous. He had been ready to be a father for as long as he could remember, but now, at the precipice of it actually happened, he was overwhelmed by the nervousness and excitement of it all.
“Mr. Lopez? You can go down the hall now.” the nurse said as she motioned to Gerald toward the double doors, beyond which the woman who had been screaming so loudly had now stopped. As he pushed through the double doors, he was so pleased he thought he would burst.
“It’s Broadway and…. ahhhhhhhhhhh…. FUCK YOU GERALD. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH… shit, shit, shit. Broadway! Fuck, it’s Broadway… ahhhhhhhhhhhh.” she screamed at him and then hung up the phone as hard as she could. She wished for the old days when she would’ve been able to slam down a heavy “Ma Bell” landline. She wanted that satisfying release of aggression, but pushing the button to hang up the call on her cell phone was going to have to do.
Molly was too busy screaming in pain to be of much use to the cabbie, who seemed to be more nervous than she was. She wanted to tell him to take a different road but every time she started to get the words she just screamed.
She made it to the hospital curb before the pain got REALLY bad. The porter at the entrance heard her coming and got a wheelchair to the side of the cab before she even had a chance to open the door, and, gratefully, he opened the door for her and helped her out. Whisking her up to Security and then to the Maternity Ward.
Molly reached into her back to get the papers she had already filled out so that the nurse on the ward could just process her quickly. At this point she could barely speak and barely breathe. All that practicing over the last two months her Lamaze breathing went out the window with every wave of pain getting more and more intense. She thought she was going to pass out when they helped her out of the wheelchair and wanted her to get up on the examination bed. “They must be crazy,” she thought to herself. But she managed to find a moment between contractions where she was able to get strength to get on the bed. When they asked her to pull down her pants, and another wave of extreme pain came over her, she just screamed. Mostly out of pain but also out of frustration. When it stopped she cried and said, “I can’t. I just can’t. I can’t do this.” and as the pain washed over her again, she screamed, “OH MY GOD! MAKE IT STOP! PLEASE!” and started crying again.
They got off her pants and the nurses did a quick exam, noting that she was seven centimeters dilated but not quite ready to deliver. They explained that her water hadn’t broken and if she proceeded this quickly, she would tear her skin, so they wanted to slow it down. Molly processed this information as another wave of pain came on and screamed in agony. She was beginning to realize that probably everyone in the hospital could hear her scream. She actually couldn’t believe how loud she could scream. It made her a little more nervous but at the same time, every scream was a relief to the pain she was experiencing. It was now surging all over her body, and each unbridled scream was a release on the pain valve.
On the way to the delivery room, one of the nurses asked Molly if she wanted an epidural. Molly just had enough energy and focus to shake her head yes. The nurse asked again and said that Molly had to verbalize it before she could give it to her. So Molly held her breath, grimaced, and got out a breathless “Yes” before yelping through another wave of pain.
As she was wheeled into the delivery room she realized she was alone. Her husband, Gerald, wasn’t there and it was just her with the nurses. She wanted to cry but the pain coming again was too great, so she just screamed out “I WANT TO DIE. PLEASE MAKE IT STOP. MAKE IT STOP.” And as if on cue, the anesthesiologist rushed in. The nurse started to explain what stage I was in and he cut her off, “Yes, I can hear her from everywhere. Let’s get her up.”
“Now, I need you to sit up and not move. You must hold yourself perfectly still.” he said to her in a reassuring voice.
“Okay…” Molly mustered, but meanwhile she started the shakes some women get in labor and couldn’t stop. This frustrated Molly that she couldn’t control herself for a few seconds so the anesthesiologist could get the epidural in her spine, she was afraid she wouldn’t get relief and the baby would come and it would split her and… she had to stop. She realized she desperately needed to get a grip, but still, she started crying out of panic.
“I can’t stop moving. I’m sorry. I… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…. I can’t. Please. I’m trying.” Molly said in almost total anguish.
The nurse who was helping hold her upright, grabbed one of Molly’s hands and looked her squarely in the eye and said calmly and with confidence, “I need you to take a deep breath.”
“I can’t,” Molly whimpered.
“Yes. Yes, you can. You can do this. Do it with me. Breathe.”
And they both took in a deep breath and let it out through their mouths. After they did this a few times, the nurse kept encouraging Molly to keep going and assured her she was doing a good job. The anesthesiologist acknowledged that he could give it a try.
“Okay, now hold still.” he ordered Molly.
And for a few seconds, she could hold herself still. She felt a sharp pain enter her spine and some movement, and then heard the anesthesiologist say to the resident, “OK, put it in.”
The nurse reminded Molly to keep breathing, while the anesthesiologist’s resident administered the epidural medication.
They quickly finished taping up Molly’s back and let her lie back down.
Slowly, Molly realized the pain was subsiding. The anesthesiologist left the room.
“I think I scared him with my screaming,” said Molly -- realizing she was finally calming down.
The nurse leaned over to Molly and said, “You should be fine in a second, I’ve never seen him give so much to someone so small.” Then patted Molly on the hand, explained what was happening and that she’d be right back.
At that moment, Gerald walked in -- all smiles.
“Hey,” he said gently, “How’s it going?”
“Better,” Molly replied. “Did you hear that woman screaming down the hall?” Molly asked him.
“Yes, actually.” said Gerald, “It sounded pretty bad.”
“Yeah, that was me,” Molly said as she laughed to herself. “Your wife scared the hell out of the anesthesiologist and he doped me up, so I’m better now.” And Molly then felt the full effect of the drugs and allowed herself to be enveloped into the wobbly, feeling-free sensation of her lower body and take a few deep breaths.
“You’re doing great, honey,” said Gerald as he took Molly’s hands into his and kissed her on the forehead.
“Thanks,” replied Molly. “I’m glad you got here when you did.”