My girlfriend, Amber, stood outside the shower, waiting for it to warm, unsure if her water broke or bladder leaked. I brought my finger to her inner thigh and dabbed at the liquid. I looked at the tiny droplets and saw various multiracial Gerber babies smiling at me. I tasted it. The fluid was bland, save for a slight hint of life. Amber rinsed off and quickly pocketed her mascara. I grabbed the prepacked labor bag, which contained important items to ease childbirth, like a Sade CD and snacks. We took off for the hospital.
The check-in staff at the hospital were nonchalant considering a little human was forcing himself out of my girlfriend’s womb. The clerk calmly asked if we needed a wheelchair and handed me a name tag. “And you are?” she wondered. As an interracial couple not named Ice T and Coco, we were accustomed to such questions. I mean, I suppose I could have been Amber’s friend or adopted black brother, but damn, lady—play the percentages.
The clerk called us to the triage room. Here, the nurses came and went, each time swabbing samples of the substance dripping from Amber to make sure it was amniotic fluid. Evidently they were not supporters of alternative medicine, namely, the ability of my taste buds to determine labor.
Amber’s family and friends soon joined us. We couldn’t believe the baby was finally on his way. Had he marinated in the belly just a day longer, labor would have been induced, which sounded like something that involved drugs and forceps. The crew was excited; we talked of names and I answered the ubiquitous “Are you ready?”question many times over. Of course, marriage was also up for discussion. I mostly kept quiet, answering with a smile and quick reply of “Yeah, eventually,” as was typically the case when asked if we would soon join the antiquated, discriminatory institution that requires we prove our love to a possibly nonexistent God in an expensive ceremony where people stare at you.
Hours later, we finally got to the delivery room. Seating was limited, so Amber’s help team was reduced to me, her mom, and her best friend/childbirth photographer, who, in Amber’s words, was to document the experience without too many pictures of “down there.”
Pain began to set in. Amber stretched and bounced on an exercise ball for relief. Her prenatal hips and thighs engulfed it; hell, it was actually sexy. But the pain worsened. Amber’s teeth began to chatter uncontrollably. She had planned for a natural, drug-free labor. But this was long before she felt her womb shift. The nurse hooked her up to an IV. It helped, but not much. After five hours, she gave in and asked for an epidural.
The anesthesiologist arrived with his case of drugs. If I had to choose someone to put a needle in my girlfriend’s spine based on looks alone, I’d probably choose him—he was old and serious and wore up-to-date glasses. Amber sat on the exam bed, her back slightly arched. The room went silent. The good doctor explained the procedure as he prepared the medicine. He stuck her in the lower back and I watched the medicine flow from the tube to her bloodstream.