Sweat beaded at my hairline and trickled into my eyes. My fingers curled into tight fists. Gritting my teeth, I exhaled sharply. The hissing sound I made danced through the chaos barely audible. I heard it. I heard and felt everything. I tried in vain to concentrate on anything other than the pain. It tore through me in quick waves, syncopated but uneven. The room was dim, but the lights from the machines around me illuminated the faces I couldn’t focus on.
The woman standing beside me squeezed my hand. “It’s time,” she announced.
“Time?” I gasped. I wasn’t ready. It couldn’t be time yet. We’d been here nearly twelve hours, and I still wasn’t ready. Not that I ever would be. I’d read the books, watched the YouTube videos, scrolled the blogs and made the lists. But I knew I’d never be ready. After all, that’s what they all said. Nothing can truly prepare you for the moment or flood of emotions. Or the years of exhaustion and elation that followed.
“Dad,” she called across the room. “It’s time to push.”
My husband didn’t look up. He reached into his backpack, his back to me. We watched in complete silence as he shuffled through the contents. When he found whatever it was he was looking for, his back straightened. But he didn’t turn around. The nurse repeated herself as my body tensed for another contraction.
“Dan!” I hissed. “What the fuck are you doing? It is time to push!”
He turned around. His eyebrows furrowed and his mouth open. “Flossing.”
“What?” I asked not believing what I was hearing.
“Flossing,” he repeated without hesitation.
“It is time to push,” the nurse said again. Her tone far kinder than mine had been.
“Okay,” he said. The floss picker between his fingers, he opened his mouth wider and popped the blue plastic tool between his teeth.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked. My teeth clenched so tightly I knew I was bound to chip a tooth. “You’re flossing right now. It couldn’t wait?” My body pitched forward, curling around my stomach.
“There was something stuck in my teeth.” He remained calm and unphased. His shoulders slouched forward and eyes on the floor.
“Yeah? YOU have something stuck? YOU?!” My hands flew in the air in the touchdown formation. I dramatically waved them down towards my swollen belly. “If you don’t put down that stupid flosser, you’re going to have something stuck somewhere even more painful.” The words flew out, growing increasingly louder until I was screaming.
His eyes grew wide for a moment as if he’d just remembered where we were and what was happening. But he didn’t drop the floss. He stood shell shocked and stared at me.
The nurse grabbed my leg and I felt the flames of her stare as she shot daggers across the room. “It’s time,” she snapped. The sharpness in her voice pulled him back. I glanced at her gratefully and she nodded. “You’d be surprised by the stupid shit Dad’s do in the delivery room.”
He sighed and dropped the floss in the trash. I could hear his feet shuffling across the floor during his walk of shame towards the bed. The heat from his breath and the lingering smell of the ice cream cone he’d eaten in my face an hour ago smacked me when he leaned in to kiss my cheek. I jerked away and glared at him. I was starving. The smell of old ice cream mixed with the Greek he’d had for dinner. The two smells danced in my nose and taunted my empty stomach. I growled under my breath.
Before I could utter the words I wanted to curse him with, my lower half tightened into a ball of fury and held my breath captive.
“Ready to push?” The nurse asked.
“Yes,” my husband said as if he’d been ready the entire time.