On this day in history thirty-five years ago, Connie and I were at Washington Region Hospital in Fayetteville, Arkansas where she was about to give birth to our first child.
Due to having no medical insurance, we had went the cut-rate route on the pregnancy, meaning we had no ultra sounds or other fancy/unnecessary pre-natal frills. We did, however, take a Lamaze class to qualify ourselves for the lower-priced birthing room.
As the coach, my job would be to help Connie through the painful contractions by encouraging her to employ the heavy puff/pant technique we’d been taught in class.
Six hours into the labor, the contractions became more intense. I moved up beside Connie and stroked her sweat laden forehead. When the next contraction hit, I put one hand on her shoulder, leaned down and whispered, “Now, Honey, remember your breathing.”
What happened next was like a clip from the movie “The Exorcist.” She grabbed the neck of my cotton t-shirt and began to twist the fabric with the strength and determination of ten thousand IRS agents intent on wringing last drop of blood from a turnip.
My face turned red, then purple, then blue. She continued to twist, cutting off all blood flow to my brain and closing the airway to my lungs. Her eyes bulged with fiery anger. She bared her teeth and growled in Linda Blair fashion,
“You did this to me, you son-of-a-bitch!”
I don’t remember what happened next. Maybe the contraction ended, a nurse stepped in, or perhaps it was divine intervention. In any event, she released her death grip long enough for me to stumble away from her bedside. For the remainder of the evening, I was careful to do my coaching at least an arms-length from her bed.
Somewhere around midnight, the nurse announced that the baby was about to come and went to find a doctor. Fortunately, the golf course closed at dark and she was able to find one within about five minutes.
He’d only been seated in front of the birthing chair about two minutes when he told Connie to give a hard push. She did and the baby came flying out like it was shot from a cannon. The doctor juggled it, but managed to make a circus catch just before the baby hit the floor.
I remember being relieved that the baby had the appropriate number of fingers and toes and that all other parts appeared to be intact and in good working order. It was truly a blessed event that I’ll never forget.
Happy birthday, Snicklefritz (a nickname John Craig gave her).