At around ten o'clock one night in late January I was on the phone in the bedroom with my mother. Dawn was in the bathroom just off our bedroom.
``I'm bleeding,'' Dawn called out.
``You'd better go,'' my mother said, and we hung up.
I went to see what was happening. While using the toilet Dawn had found a little bit of blood in her vaginal area. I did a quick examination myself and found a few flecks of blood also. That meant ``Call the doctor,'' so we did. The doctor on call for us that night was Doctor Number 3 and he suggested that we go to the hospital and get checked, even though it was probably nothing.
In the car on the way to the hospital we checked our copy of Husband-Coached Childbirth by Dr. Bradley and he explained that some spotting is possible in the last three months, especially if this is your second or later pregnancy, and the blood comes from the thinning of the cervix in preparation for labor. Reading this put us both at ease.
But we went to the hospital anyway. Upon arrival I dropped Dawn off at the front door and parked the car in the garage adjoining the hospital and then walked back to the lobby. When I came in I was met by Dawn sitting in a wheelchair looking like a little kid with a mouthful of candy, grinning a grin like a Muppet.
``You look comfy,'' I said.
``Standard operating procedure,'' she replied, smugly pleased that she was finally receiving the service she deserved. An orderly wheeled her down the hall and up the elevator to the prenatal unit while I walked alongside.
``Pay attention,'' Dawn warned, ``You'll need to know how to get here when I go into labor.''
``You'd better be coherent,'' I answered as we turned corners and went through doors, ``because there's no way I'm remembering all of this.''
We were transferred from the wheelchair to a small room where we sat with Dawn hooked up to a fetal monitor while we waited for the resident to arrive to examine her. The fetal monitor is interesting: It consists of two long straps with velcro at each end. In the middle of each strap is a big metal hockey puck. The nurse slipped one end of each strap under Dawn and then around her belly, fastening the ends together. She smeared Dawn's belly with saline gel and adjusted the hockey pucks, plugging a cable from each puck into a computer on the side of the bed. A long stream of paper had already poured out of the computer and piled up in a little box in front. Across the computer monitor went all sorts of squiggly lines and blinking numbers. As the nurse adjusted things everything went haywire, finally settling down to merely chaotic when the nurse was satisfied she'd found the baby's heartbeat. About a minute after she left everything went haywire again and stayed that way.
Fetal monitors, I've decided, are mostly useless. This is because they pick up the baby's heartbeat; unless the baby moves even slightly, when they don't any more. So basically a fetal monitor records the baby's heartbeat except when it doesn't. What purpose this serves I do not know. And every time the nurse came in to check on Dawn, she would drop the bed back so Dawn was lying on her back. Pregnant women should never lie on their backs, because this puts pressure on several very important blood vessels. So I had to keep raising the bed up so Dawn was almost sitting, and then the nurse would come in and lay her back down. Don't these people know anything?
We sat watching television for a couple of hours. We watched Seinfeld, then Cheers, then Murphy Brown. I'm pretty sure this is part of hospital policy to get you out more quickly. Next would have been Wings, then Family Matters, then anything from the WB, and by then if we didn't run screaming from the room they could pronounce us dead.
Finally the resident arrived, looking like he'd slept maybe five minutes in as many weeks. He blearily took a sonogram of the baby, who looked fine, and then examined my wife.
``You're going to feel two fingers in your vagina,'' he told her. Was this detail really necessary? First, does she really need to know how many fingers? And second, won't she figure out where they are? It's not as if he could have said ``You're going to feel three fingers up your nose,'' and confused her. I'm pretty sure she knows what comes next when he's got the glove and the K-Y.
Anyway, he didn't find any more blood and everything looked okay, so he said we could go home. Then the nurse gave us some informative photocopies on false labor. I asked her how much sleep the resident had gotten.
``Oh, him?'' she said. ``He always looks like that. Everyone always thinks he hasn't slept, but he comes in in the morning looking like that. That's just how he is.''
So we went home and didn't get there until about one in the morning.
``How about we take tomorrow off?'' Dawn asked. That sounded good to me, so we fell asleep and at 8:30 I woke up and called my manager to tell him I wouldn't be in. I got his voice mail--score!--and left a message. ``Hi, I was at the hospital with Dawn late last night, everything's okay but I'm beat, so I won't be coming in today. Bye.''
So at least we got a day off out of it.