I am a people watcher. Not a professional mind you, no license or training from a top secret English Council, no just strictly amateur here. It is a great boredom eraser. Sometimes, I invent lives for the people or sometimes I just give them fun names and watch their antics. Take the other day when I was stuck in the Financial Aid office of my university.
The Financial Aid office moved to a new location this summer. It was formally housed on the second floor of three story Georgian style mansion built in the early 1800s. Payne Hall was originally a storehouse and makeshift prison as part of the Augusta Arsenal. Housing financial aid there always seemed fitting to me. The new location is just as old, but much smaller and previously used as such varied things as the purchasing office and art studio.
The old office had a high service bar behind which the helpful and optimistic financial aid assistants barricaded themselves against the constant torrent of often simultaneously confused and bitter students. The new office has no such physical impediment. The old office also had seating for about 15 people; the new office has zip, nada, not one seat for those who wait in monetary anxiety.
The new office is not designed to have customers, so when the new semester begins, as it doing so now, the little entrance way quickly becomes crowded and all are pressed together. Ten to twelve people fit in the little alcove if they do not mind invading each other’s personal space and everyone has used their Dial. So it was among these circumstances I was able to get some practice in people watching.
For the first part of my wait, it was pretty much your usual college kids making sure all was good with their scholarship and grant money. Our local university is in the middle of a hostile corporate takeover, so it is plain to see why they are worried. The move is not going smoothly.*
After a while, and outside of all the PDAs some individuals started to stand out. The No Child Left Behind Family, Baby Dyke, Junior Businessman, the OMG sisters and Chickie Babe. What can I say? I was there for a long time…
The No Child Left Behind Family consisted of at least five kids, I think, there may have been more. It was hard to tell as they continually floated from inside to out and back again. They were all pretty interchangeable, except for the kid in the wheelchair stuck in the corner and left to play games on a phone. I never did discover who was there to talk to the assistants, the mother or any of her brood.
Baby Dyke came in with a YMCA swim instructor t-shirt and life guard red swim trunks. Tall and thin, she sported a mohawk that fell into soft curls in the middle. Even this girl’s hair could not be straight. She carried all extraneous objects in the waistband of her shorts. Phone, wallet, keys, each was pulled in turn when needed. The reason she stood out to me was really one single comment. Upon being told she would need to supply a copy of her last year’s W2, she said and this is a direct quote, “You mean the IRS keeps copies of that?”
Junior Businessman came decked out in a three piece suit. Truly, an entire three piece suit and a briefcase to top it off. I am not quite sure who he was trying to impress. The whole point of financial aid is that you need money. Looking like Alex P. Keaton really doesn’t help your cause.
The OMG sisters are at every university function so I am not surprised I saw them that day. I am pretty sure you have seen them – they are the girls who upon seeing another member of their tribe squeal at a torturous frequency level followed immediately by a high pitched repetitive screams of, “Oh My G-d, it’s you!” These vocalizations are usually accompanied with the waving of hands then followed by a round of ritualistic maneuvers mostly involving a-frame hugs and kisses that are thrown in the general direction of the intended recipient. It can be a painful thing to witness.
The coup de grâce of the afternoon was Chickie Babe. CB made a grand entrance in low cut, form fitting, sherbet orange dress, with matching platform 4 inch high heels and oversized, bronze, woven, heart-shaped handbag. She had flatiron brown hair with just the right swoop at the bottom. Her smartphone was blinged out with a multitude of shiny little rhinestones, which I thought would be uncomfortable to grasp, but without pain there is no beauty, as I am told.
CB owned the place. She put herself square in front of the door so that she would be the first thing seen to all who entered. She kept her head down just so much, while creating obviously important text messages with an imperious flourish yet able to keep an eye on her audience. When a friend came in she dared not associate herself with the OMG sisters. She merely put out her hand and said, “Come stand with me, Darling.” “Darling?” We live in Georgia, for goodness sake – no one says, “Darling” unless you are referencing someone’s grandchild under the age of twelve or a homemade handicraft we are not quite sure of.
Up to this point, CB had merely elicited a raised eyebrow and slight smirk, but I tell you I had to turn away not to laugh at her next move. When Johnny Olson announced her name as the next contestant on “Will Your Financial Aid be Approved,” CB sidled up to the desk and proceeded to lean over the desk giving the lovely assistant full perusal of les doudounes. As with Junior Businessman, I am not quite sure what this was supposed to accomplish. The assistant was not a cop who pulled her over for a minor traffic violation and was clearly not impressed with the display.
From her bent over position, CB whispered to assistant that well, she did not have her student id with her and that she wanted to know…the assistant interrupted her and asked in a bored voice, “Name?” CB looked somewhat taken aback then gave her the name, but still whispering a mile minute. The assistant read off whatever magic computer revealed and as if she could not believe the statements, CB grabbed the monitor and turned it to her face. The nonplussed assistant sat for a heartbeat then reached up and slowly turned the monitor back around. CB did not get the hint but craned her neck further around to look at the sacred words.
I do not know what the assistant finally whispered to CB, but with it she was able to wrest CB from her personal space. CB stood up adjusted her clothing, checked something on her phone, tossed her hair and with as much dignity anyone can muster on 4 inch platform heels walked out of the office. The assistant crossed her name off the list and called the next contestant, who thankfully turned out to be me – Smirking Old Lady.
*(http://nation.time.com/2013/07/19/cash-strapped-universities-turn-to-corporate-style-consolidation/) – read the comments for the real story.
I am a late comer to many of the hip television shows of the last decade. I guess using the term hip pretty much says it all anyway. I work nights, never invested in a DVR and do not subscribe to premium channels. My t.v. watching has pretty much subsisted on trying to stay current with Bones and Glee through Netflix or Hulu. Not exactly the Ingmar Bergman stuff of television, but entertaining to a tired mind (although I did write a cool paper on the media industry’s use of intentional propaganda in the employment of the word “fag” using Glee as the basis – but I digress). Heck, our television reception has been gone for a month now.
I am also not a fan of entertainment violence, especially graphic or psychological violence. I like my occasional shoot-em-up, but gruesome or nightmare inducing, no thank you. Bones is about as icky as I can take. So why in the world would I choose to watch Breaking Bad? I mean have you seen the promotional cover? It is Hal from Malcolm in the Middle after six rounds of steroids. I think the premise intrigued me enough to take a gander.
Breaking Bad is a Vince Gilligan creation, produced by AMC, surrounding the gradual and terrifying decline of a middle-aged, rather emotionally disenfranchised high school chemistry teacher, Walter White. Having been diagnosed with what was thought to be imminently terminal lung cancer, Walter, who has limited monetary resources, stumbles upon a plan to make quick money to leave his family after he dies. He becomes a meth amphetamine “cooker” with one of his former high school students Jesse Pinkman. (*spoiler alert starts now)
I have to admit here and now, if I had started watching this in real time, I would have given up. The story arc for me was incredibly slow and boring. The constant close-ups of Bryan Cranston’s slack mouth angst were wearing. The wooden acting of the supporting characters was bothersome and the whole perfect emotional tug set-up, with the pregnant wife, disabled (and unbelievably naive) teenage son, kleptomaniac sister-in-law, and stereotypical DEA agent brother-in-law was a bit trite. It would have been too much of an investment for my need-a-resolution in 50 minutes mentality. Where were all the award winning acting and critically acclaimed story lines?
The stilted life of the White family prior to the discovery of Walter’s undercover and dangerous vocation was mind and emotionally numbing. Hints are thrown out throughout the program that Walter left his stimulating and potentially lucrative partnership in a research lab in order to maintain family equilibrium after his son was born with cerebral palsy and the characters literally embody this loss. They move through their lives stiff and locked in their own individuality. There is an ironic lack of chemistry between the characters. It is not until Walter’s other life as Heisenberg, the drug king, begins to overtake the family’s that the actors and their characters come to life. Save one.
Jesse Pinkman is Walter’s former student and character foil. In the beginning, Jesse is a live wire, a junkie living on the edge with the chemicals he produces. Jesse is the one who feels and has true connections with the people around him, unhealthy as they may be. Aaron Paul’s portrayal of the messed up, but lovable poor, little rich kid and his reactions to his dissolving world is riveting. The intensity of his sorrow in the aftermath of his girlfriend’s death is gut wrenching. Try not to clench up when her phone is finally disconnected. As Walt becomes more alive in his separation from all that is moral in regards to life, Jesse dies with each ensuing disaster. He becomes the stilted one, unable to make those connections anymore.
I found out that the original intent was to kill off the character of Jesse in the first season. As a viewer, I agree with Gilligan that would have been a mistake. For me, it is the odd play between Jesse and Walter that keeps me coming back. I find the Walter/Jesse dichotomy fascinating. Many of Walter’s moral disconnects come when he believes he is doing something in Jesse’s best interest. It is like watching a documentary on a Nazi officer ordering the deaths of hundreds of people and then coming home to be the doting father to his children.
The periphery characters do not interest me as much as do Walt and Jesse. I sometimes find them intrusive. Although there are compelling plot lines that obviously run parallel – what would the show be without the ever present danger of Hank Schrader, brother-in-law and DEA agent extraordinaire, discovering the goings on – but they are just props to propel the dark and light balance of Walt, Jesse and their respective descents from humanity.
Hank succumbing to the emotional trauma of facing off with bad guy Tuco, witnessing the death’s and mutilation of fellow DEA agents in El Paso and fighting for his life against the twisted Salamanca brothers is, to me, while good acting by Dean Norris, too blatant in its equivalency to Walt’s succumbing to the evil that resides in himself. Only in finding the goodness – the will to fight the bad guys – does Hank find his strength. It is finding the badness – the will to come out on top – that brings out the strength in Walt.
I do not care for most the women characters at all. Walter’s wife Skylar, played by Anna Gunn, is a whiney irritant. Walter’s sister-in-law Marie played by Betsy Brandt was given the unfortunate and weirdly out of place subplot of overcoming some form of kleptomania. The only interesting sub-play for Marie is her subtle obsessive compulsive act of lining up her artificial sweeter packets – her chemical dependence and reflective image of Walter’s perfectionism.
The woman character I do admire is Wendy. The horribly ravaged meth addict is the only character who remains true to herself. She is hard to look at and harder to understand, but she is really the only character who remains “moral”. Look at her, she is a decaying, filthy shadow of a human being, but Wendy is the only one who cannot bring herself to murder, not just because she knows the two drug dealers or because of the danger – it is just wrong.
All the other supporting cast are obvious symbolic representations of the parts of Walter/Heisenberg: Gus, fastidious and dangerous; Gale, fastidious and pure in his love of the science; Badger and Skinny Pete naive and dirty at the same time; Mike, the former cop and Saul, the sleaze lawyer, two characters who represent the worst of those who should represent the best. Even Walter’s son Walt, jr. (played well by RJ Mitte) shows a physical image of innocence trapped in a constant struggle of mind over body.
I know it sounds funny to say it took me until the end of season three to really want to be invested in the show. That is a lot of time spent on the off chance something will get better. I think the hook finally hit when Walter shot the drug dealer he ran over to save Jesse on that last episode. When he looked at Jesse and said that one word, “Run,” something clicked and I got it. I wanted to know if this story has just been a long build up to the complicated revelation that perhaps, just perhaps, Walter was always Heisenberg, just cleverly disguised beneath layers of built up mundane banality. I wanted to know if his other life as ordinary husband and father was really the coverup. I wanted to know if Jesse could ever come to terms with what he had done with his life.
Breaking Bad has become a habit I do not want to kick just yet. After I finish the rest of what is available on Netflix, the withdrawals will be difficult, but I will get a bump by reading what happened in the end. I have no issues with knowing what will happen before I see it. I read all about the plot lines after I started watching in the first place – it helped me stay with it. I have learned that the build up is worth the wait. For as Walt Whitman said, “The future is no more uncertain than the present.”
Church, yo. I’m hip.
*Breaking Bad airs on AMC at 9/8pm – returning on 11 Aug. All 5.5 seasons are available to view on Netflix streaming.
Once settled in our room, the reality of the situation finally hit Bashert and she began to cry. I was scared for her, but all I could do was be there. My heart was breaking for her, that is, until my patience wore out. Once the contractions started again in earnest, Bashert began to panic. The level of pain she was in was not what she had bargained for and she wanted her epidural NOW. I may not remember many things with extreme clarity, but her face when Nice Labor Nurse told her the contraction level she just experienced was only a seven? Wowzers. “Only a seven, only a SEVEN? What is the highest?” she asked the nurse. Nice Labor Nurse replied, “Ten.” Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, that was it for Bashert. Never, ever tell Bashert what the side effects or the upper limits are of something that involves her health in any way. She will suddenly be included in the top 0.001% of all people who had that reaction. Seriously. Ask her.
Nice Labor Nurse left the room after dropping that innocent little bomb and Bashert had another contraction. After it was over she asked me to check the monitor, “That was a ten, right?” I looked at the screen reading, “Nope, Babe, still a seven.” She was ready to throw in the towel. In between each contraction it was “Where is he? Why isn’t he here. How much longer? Please go ask them to get him here.” I was ready throw in the towel. I knew the guy was on his way in so I stepped out into the hallway pretending to talk to the nurses. I stayed in the quiet for just a minute or so and then with energy somewhat restored, I headed back into the battle zone. “He’s on his way up. It won’t be long now,” I lied through my teeth. But it was just enough to ease her mind a bit. All in all from the time we hit the birthing room to the time the guy arrived was only really only about twenty minutes, an eternity to Bashert.
The epidural procedure was interesting. Bashert was, for once in her life, impatient for someone to administer drugs through a needle. Her fear of all things needle was legendary. Needles bent at the touch of her overly tensed skin. Not really, but I remember countless times of having to hold her hand or cover her tear filled eyes for a simple blood drawing. I had fear in my heart for this going down well. But Bashert was desperate, so there was hope.
We sat her up on the bed and she leaned on me for support while the doctor began the procedure. Nenè, who had been dozing on the couch sat up to see what was going on. She was seated behind Bashert’s back. When the doctor pulled out the syringe and needle to be used for the epidural, Nenè’s eyes widened and mouthed, “Oh, wow!” She held her hands up miming the length of the needle as if showing the size of a prize winning fish. I smiled at her and let my eyes tell her in no uncertain terms was she to let Bashert know what was really going on behind her back.
The entire time the anesthesiologist was working he and I were trying to figure out from where we knew each other. It was so funny. Bashert is always the one who runs into people she knows. Really. She can leave the country and still meet someone she went to grade school with and here I was trading possible common places with her savior, the anesthesiologist. This reversal was a great distraction even though we never did make the connection. As Bashert says, “It was bashert.”
The transformation was heaven. For the first time in at least two months she could relax her body. It was like watching those psychedelic movies from the sixties where someone is tripping out and watching their hand float in front of their eyes. She was sooooo chilled. It was nice for us all. The anxiety level in the room decreased immediately and we all soon fell asleep. Most of us anyway.
Bashert, obviously had the bed. Nenè claimed the couch. That left the hard rolling chair for me. It was convenient to sit next to the bed and be able hold Bashert’s hand and talk softly with her; however, a comfy La-Z Boy it was not. When I could no longer stay awake, I pulled the chair up next to the bed as close as I could and folded my arms over the edge of the bed to rest my head. I can be a heavy sleeper, but every move that night translated to a very edgy Cee waking up at full alert. Man, I was tired. And stiff.
At some point during the night, the monitoring device Bashert was wearing ceased to make its beeping noises. Somehow that penetrated Bashert’s euphoric epidural haze and she woke me in a panic. She was terrified that something had happened to the baby. Since none of the nursing staff had rushed into the room at that point, I figured that nothing too bad was going on. They do tend to react in an emergency situation, you know. Anyway, I took a look at the monitor and I could still see the baby’s heart rate and the seismic waves of Bashert’s contractions, so we figured that either the sound had given up the ghost or someone had turned down the volume. Either way just seeing that little heart graphic pounding away was a relief.
Time seemed to have stopped in our hospital room. It was always just ‘now’. So when Dr. Ken and Nice Labor Nurse came in to tell Bashert it was time to really start pushing, I really had no clue as to the real time of the night. It was just now time to push. Bashert was not too happy about it since she was enjoying her first real night’s sleep in such a while, but trouper that she is, she complied. And promptly started feeling sick.
In our house, nausea is enemy number one when it comes to illness. We treat Phenergan® like white gold. Its wonderful magical powers to relieve a horribly upset stomach is priceless. So when Bashert began to feel sick to her stomach, she figured some of the lovely stuff would be in order. Oh, no…not this close to delivery. They did not want to introduce anything new with any hint of a sedative effect at this point. Bashert’s face was quite the study of disappointment when Nice Labor Nurse handed her the ubiquitous kidney shaped plastic bowl.
On and on the ‘now’ of the night moved. The contraction monitor stopped working, but Bashert could feel the oncoming contractions in a disassociated kind of way. There were no longer levels of measure, they were just contractions. This was a good thing because Dr. Ken was not pleased at the rate of Bashert’s progression considering the meconium in the amniotic fluid. He ordered the administration of oxytocin to speed things up a bit. Things plucked along nicely until Nice Labor Nurse backed off the oxytocin to slow us up again. Seeing our confusion, she told us that there was another mother on the floor in labor emergency. We would have to wait a little longer to see our son.
Activity in our room began again in earnest when a new labor nurse walked into the room. It was shift change. I looked at Bashert and she at me. Eyebrows raised in unison, we both whispered, “Oh, my g-d. Our baby is going to be delivered by Barbie!” I kid you not, Nurse Barbie had bleached blonde hair, nails painted fire engine red and more make-up on than Honey-Boo-Boo. We were scared witless.
Thankfully, our fears were immediately allayed. Nurse Barbie swept into the room and took charge. “Let’s get this baby into the world!” Nurse Barbie was confident and assuring. Bashert and I shrugged and went with it. The oxytocin drip was restarted and things went to town. Soon I could see little Yoda’s head crowning. Talk about surreal! I had never seen a birth, not even did I watch Nenè being born – the reality of it was too much for me, yeah, it is not like the sanitized stuff seen on television, not by a long shot. I was excited, scared, fascinated and freaked out all at the same time.
It was the weirdest thing to be able to reach down and lightly touch his head. The same head I had rubbed those late nights through Bashert’s abdomen. It was so strange to touch him and realize that he would soon no longer be part of only Bashert, but be part of the world. It really is an overwhelming thing to experience. I finally realized why the other partner is the one crying at the baby’s birth. The intimacy of the relationship between birth mother and her baby cannot be denied; it is a symbiotic relationship (not to spoil the moment but it is actually a parasitic relationship, but really? Ick.) The relationship for us on the other side of the uterus is a more etherial one until we actually get to see, hear, and feel the little one. The abstract is no more.
In preparation for Yoda’s birth and subsequent baby naming ceremony and during her creative textile spurt, Bashert made a kippah (yarmulke) for him. It was a tiny little thing about 3 inches round. We had fun making bets as to whether Yoda would have enough hair to use Velcro to hold it in place or if we would have to tape it to his bald head. When I saw Yoda’s head full of black hair begin to emerge, I leaned up and whispered to Bashert, “Velcro.” Poor thing, she looked at me like I was nuts. I could tell she was thinking “What in the hell are you talking about – I’m a bit busy here.”
Dr. Ken interceded by telling us the baby was coming. I looked back down and he was delivering Yoda, but stopped. I looked closer. The umbilical cord had wrapped around the baby’s neck, twice. Dr. Ken carefully slipped his fingers underneath the coils and cut them away. It happened fast and in slow motion all at once. My anticipation (and admittedly some dread) about being able to cut the cord was dashed, but the safety of the baby absolutely came first. After the cord was loosened Dr. Ken helped slide the rest of the baby out into the world. Quietly.
He did not not want Yoda to cry yet because of the meconium. If Yoda cried there would be the chance that he would aspirate it and that would be a bad thing. So as soon as he was fully out, the other attending Nice Nurse whisked Yoda away to the little portioned off area to make sure he had not done so anyway. The quiet was unsettling. The wait was unsettling. It seemed that from the beginning of this journey all we did was wait. I held on to Bashert but could not take my eyes from the concentrated work Other Nice Nurse was doing. When that first plaintive, mewling cry came out into the room, there was a collective breath released. All was going to be okay.
Other Nice Nurse, kept trying to get a diaper on Yoda to bring him over to us, but each time she did, the little booger pooped. Four diapers later, he was finally put into Bashert’s arms. Our barely six pound, little boy had finally made it. Delivered by Ken and Barbie, our Judah Kol, the voice of Judaea had arrived. He looked like Curious George after losing a street fight, but he was here and our wait was finally over.
The five minute ride to the hospital is a blur. I do remember slowing to a roll to let Bashert and Nenè off at the front door, peeling off to the parking garage and then running, yes, running back to the hospital. Back then I was a good
30, 40, okay, 50 pounds lighter and could well, you know, run. Even still, I was out of breath and sweating like a glass of iced tea by the time I finally located them up on the third floor triage area in a curtained off area.
Now as our luck would have it, Todd and Marge Chester arrived at the hospital at the same time as Bashert and Nenè were entering. Apparently the ride up in the elevator was quite the hoot (see bashert04 on the side link for her telling). I got to experience the latter part of that comedy of errors.
When I arrived on the triage floor, Bashert was in obvious pain and dripping wet. Mrs. Chester – Margo – on the other hand was bright and cheerful, flitting about chirping to everyone that she just knew her water had broken. I got a good look at Margo. She was tall and thin and wearing skinny designer jeans with high heeled boots. The thought of pregnancy had not even crossed her body’s mind yet.
Triage Nurse was in the common area passing on information in a loud stage whisper. “Mrs. Chester in exam area one is here because her water has broken. Ms. Bedlam-Smith in exam area two thinks her water has broken.” That was it for Bashert. All the anxiety and pain lifted any filters she had left at that point. She grabbed my hand and said in a very not whisper, “Thinks? She ‘thinks’ her water broke? I’ve got Niagara Falls between my legs and I ‘think’ my water broke?” Momma-to-be was not a happy camper. This did not bode well for our rapidly approaching birthing experience.
We could hear Triage Nurse making nice with the Chesters. “Let’s get you checked out, okay, Honey?” For crying out loud even I could see that Margo was dry as a bone and looked less pregnant than I did! Meanwhile, as they were checking out dear Margo, poor Bashert was lying on the exam table shivering, sodden and scared. All I could do was be with her and try to take her mind off of things until the doctor arrived.
I heard Triage Nurse start in with her stage whisper again explaining the various states of the women on the floor. When she got to Bashert, she again said, “She thinks her water has broken.” This time Bashert did not hold back at all, “Will you stop saying that! I don’t think my water has broken; I know my water has broken!” I could hear the bass voice of the doctor quietly responding to Triage Nurse. Thank goodness he finally got there. It did not take long after to get things straightened out as to who was actually birthing a baby that night. The doctor sent Todd and Margo off into the night to ponder how many stock options they could wrangle before their next dry run at childbirth.
You will notice that I used the pronoun “he” in reference to the doctor. Please recall that OBwan warned us that she would be out of town over the weekend. What night was this? Right. Saturday night equaled no OBwan. Bashert and I had joked early on about the “lesbians” ending up with a drop-dead gorgeous doctor on call when she went into labor. Guess what – the doctor on call that weekend turned out to be the living, blue-eyed embodiment of Ken. Even through her pain and fear Bashert had to laugh at that one.
Dr. Ken turned out to be very nice. Once he quickly cleared up the whole Todd and Margo thing he turned his full attention to Bashert. He was kind and reassuring and most of all he was able to put Triage Nurse in her place with a dazzling smile.
You see, Bashert does not do pain. Bashert’s middle name is Epidural. First name on the admittance forms: Epidural. From day one of our prenatal visits with OBwan it was clear that Bashert would be getting an epidural. OBwan, herself a three times over mom at this point, agreed whole-heartedly and made extensive notes in the file to that effect. Big bold letters: Bashert gets an epidural as soon as possible. Apparently, Triage Nurse did not think this was a good idea.
After Dr. Ken examined Bashert and gave us the news that there was meconium (baby poop) in the amniotic fluid and she needed to deliver in the next twelve hours, Bashert asked about the epidural. Well, little miss Triage Nurse, stepped up and interrupted, “Oh, no, you don’t want to do that! It will just slow things down.” All I could do was look at her with “Wha?” stamped on my face.
Dr. Ken let her have her say and then turned to Bashert directly, did the toe squeeze, flashed a smile and asked her if the epidural is what she wanted. I believe if she had not been having a contraction at the time, her response would have raised the roof, “YES!” Dr. Ken then said that he would make all the arrangements and they would make her as comfortable as possible until the arrival of the anesthesiologist. Triage Nurse huffed and finally went away. One stone, two birds. Bashert relaxed as well as she could for the moment. Her epidural was on its way.
Now that Dr. Ken had given the official declaration that Bashert really was in labor, we were moved to the actual birthing room. It was a relief to get away from the confusion and craziness of the triage area. The birthing room felt incredibly spacious after all three of us being squashed in the exam area. Even with the little area that was portioned off for working on the babies after they were born, there was quite a lot of leg room. Here there was a bed, a couch, a hard chair and the usual assortment of medical machines burping and whirring. We actually had access to a private bathroom which was great. Nenè set herself up on the couch and began dozing. Bashert and I were alone for the first time since we sat down to watch Sir Elton so many hours ago.
Music and babies. On Nenè’s due date I attended a Monkees concert – complete with opener Weird Al Yankovic. I wasn’t going to let a little thing like the beginning stages of labor stand in the way of a much anticipated concert. Heck, it was another day and a half before she got here anyway.
Bashert’s due date was a quiet Saturday evening at home watching Sir Elton John on PBS. Of course, it didn’t start out or end up that way, it would not be our story if it did. As we tell Yoda, we are allowed at least one wrong turn per trip, sometimes two…or three…or…
Bashert was having strong Braxton-Hicks contractions the week she was due. They started getting harder and more frequent enough for Dr. OBwan to confirm that she was heading toward true labor. Poor Bashert, she was so tired and hot; she was just ready to be done. During that week’s visit OBwan said that if Bashert didn’t deliver by the weekend, she would go ahead and induce labor on that coming Monday. I think the relief that the end was finally in sight sort of paved over the other information that OBwan was going out of town that weekend.
I was scheduled for two straight weeks of vacation beginning the next week, but knowing that the time was so near, I went ahead and started my vacation, at least from my night time job. My government job was not quite as flexible, so I had to work two more mornings. Those were a couple of really hard mornings. I was not able to confide in anyone there as to what was going on. (I found out later that I did have a secret ally, but at that time – who knew?)
Bashert was going stir crazy and kept begging to go off somewhere, anywhere to get out of the house. I was so nervous about going off in case she went into full blown labor. Now, I realize it would not have made any difference, you are where you are when it happens and you go from there. I think maybe my own labor experience had me wanting to keep her close to home. I lived 13 miles outside of town and about 20 miles from the hospital where I was to deliver. It took so long to get there I was a double nervous wreck. I didn’t want that to happen with Bashert. (Yes, I know I went to the concert, but I wasn’t doubled over in pain and I was actually closer to the hospital at the time!)
Friday afternoon she finally got me to go with her on a walk around the neighborhood, which really amounted to a walk to the road and back – about 50 feet. It was 350℉ outside and Bashert could hardly move she was so uncomfortable with her body and the contractions hitting her every 15 minutes or so. By the time we got back in the house, she was in such distress, I said screw this and bundled her off to the hospital.
About an hour into the waiting game there, our patronizing triage staff cheerfully told us that it really was not time yet and we needed to go home. Damn. That was a long night.
The next morning, Bashert’s urge to get moving again surfaced. She wanted to go downtown to the Farmer’s Market. Sure, I was going to drive us downtown to walk around outside in the heat when she could barely make it to the end of the drive at home. Yeah, not going to happen. She thinks it was because I wanted her to relax; it was more for my relaxation. My already on edge nerves could not take that outing. It was not until later that afternoon, she finally wore me down.
I put off going to the grocery for a while because I was afraid to leave her alone for too long. Even if we had more than one car, Nenè still couldn’t drive and I did not want to have to rush home from across town. But we were down to our last tidbits, so I had to go out for supplies. She had me cornered. If I went without her I would be constantly worried and careless in my rush. If I took her with me I would be worried, but still have all my limbs attached in the right places.
That was the longest damn trip around the grocery store I have ever experienced. Her contractions were increasing to the point where it was take two steps, grab the cart and breathe; take two steps, grab the cart and breathe… We finally settled for some subs from the deli and headed home. I was so ready to get back to safety.
Once home we settled in on the couch to watch the Elton John concert on PBS. Nenè wasn’t interested so she scooted on upstairs to her room to do whatever it is that a 16 year old girl, who doesn’t want to spend the evening with her parents does. We started in on our subs and the show began – on screen and off.
Bashert and I saw Sir Elton in concert many years back when he did his one-man tour and we were looking forward to revisiting all those songs. We were conversing about how odd it was that we didn’t know any of the stuff he was performing. We were laughing and saying, “Nope, don’t know that one, either” each time a new song started. It wasn’t until about three or four songs in when a recognizable tune started. It is not that I don’t appreciate new material, I was just tired and wanted to hear something comfortingly familiar.
My excitement and joy over finally getting my wish was squashed in an instant when I heard Bashert yell, “MY WATER BROKE!” I turned to look at her and my brain went blank. You know those stupid sitcoms where the normally competent husband goes all goofy? Well, that was me.
I was calm as could be when I had Nenè, but not this go round. Way different on this side of the uterus, I tell you, way different. My mind would not function in an orderly manner. I spent nine months being patient (well, mostly) and attentive (well, mostly) and here I was forgetting about the one thing I should care most about – Bashert!
When she yelled that her water had broken, all I could think about was her sitting on our big blue cloth couch! I kept insisting she get off the couch. “Get off the couch, it’s going to be ruined!” My brain had slipped into park. How about that for an attentive and caring partner? Yelling at pregnant woman in obvious labor to get up! Great, just great there Cee. (The Jackass made a joke in really bad taste when he had to clean up the car after I leaked all 20 freaking miles to the hospital – not the same thing at all.)
Nenè came running down the stairs after all the commotion carried up to her room. I snapped out of whatever twilight zone I was in and proceeded to guide Bashert to the front door. I could see that she was in some serious pain, but I needed to get her to the car. She kept stopping along the way. The ten feet to the door never seemed such a distance.
Now, let me say here in my own defense, we had been discussing along and along how Bashert put off thinking about the actual birthing process. She was okay with it in the abstract, but really did not want to know anything about the actualities. So give me some room for the next segment.
When we finally got to the front door, Bashert grabbed the frame and said, “I can’t. I can’t do this.” Well, my reference point was the conversations we held about her fears of actually giving birth, so that’s where I came from. I said with a little laugh, “Yes you can, Bashert. It’s a little late to back out now. You can do this. I’m here.” That did not go over too well. She shot me daggers and said through clenched teeth, “I meant I can’t walk right now. I am having a contraction.” Okay then – I shut up from then on out and we slowly step-by-step, contraction-by-contraction made it to the car.
We never did get to see the full Sir Elton concert.
Pheromones caused it all. Some kind of magnified parallax whereby all things mammal were attracted to Bashert for good or bad. Remember how the animals knew about her pregnancy before we did? Apparently, it spread to the neighborhood animals too.
At the time Bashert was pregnant, we had the original two dogs, Elisheva and Shit Dog. Elisheva had not one maternal bone in her 20 pound body. Really. She growled at puppies and had no use for children at all. She alone seemed impervious to the pheromone power of Bashert. She didn’t change must during the pregnancy except to possible get even more clingy than normal. E-girl had issues.
Shit dog was normally a fairly easy going guy save his ongoing and imposing Napoleon complex. He had no time for other small dogs; no they were beneath him. He preferred the company of large dogs, the bigger the better. He would put on airs about being able to stand up to the fiercest looking Rottweilers, but somehow magically be somewhere else when any altercation started. He was also known to run away from cats. His bark (high pitched as it was) was definitely worse than his bite. That is what made what happened all the more impressive.
One of our neighbors had the grand idea to keep an un-neutered Bullmastiff in an 1100 square foot (102 M2) townhouse. Those dogs do not have “mass” in their breed name for nothing. Jasper easily weighed a good 200 pounds (90 kilos) and his humongous head reached chest level. It is a cliché, but small children really could saddle up and ride. The dog was big. And territorial. And his idiot owner allowed him to walk free inside the courtyard.
One morning, a very pregnant Bashert put Shit Dog and Elisheva on their leads and walked out into the courtyard for their first potty break. As soon as Bashert got to the end of our patio, Jasper charged. He slammed Bashert up against the brick patio wall with visible intent of attacking. At that moment, all the courage of all the mixed breeds inside Shit Dog rose to the surface and he lunged at Jasper. I ran outside at the commotion and saw an amazing thing. Shit Dog was holding that freaking monster at bay! Between all of the shouting and Shit Dog’s devoted response the idiot owner was finally able to body slam Jasper away from the scene. (E-girl was no where to be found.)
A shaken and bruised Bashert made it safely back into the house and Shit Dog lived high on the hog for quite some time. Never did we think his bravado would actually amount to anything – he proved us pleasantly wrong. (As a side note, after some legal discussions, idiot owner finally realized she needed to place Jasper in a better situation for a dog his size and he went to live in the country.)
Outside of our home environment the pheromone effect took a different path, one of less resistance.
Before it became too uncomfortable to walk any distance, Bashert and Nenè would take evening strolls. It was not unusual for me to get a morning report that this dog or that dog would come up to them as the were on their walk around just wanting to bask in the glow of Bashert’s being. A few would trot along with them for a while and then return from whence they came. But apparently one night the moon, stars and all in the universe lined up correctly – Bashert became the piped piper of all the loose dogs in the neighborhood.
Around 8pm, I received a phone call from Bashert. This was on my desk phone as we still did not have cells and for her to call me at work was odd, especially when I heard the tone in her voice. “Cee-ee, I don’t know what to do…” I started to panic, but I could hear Nenè laughing in the background. What was going on?
“They followed me home, Cee, they all followed me home.” I was beginning to get the picture. She repeated, “I don’t know what to do” and added, “there’s seven of them!” I immediately sat straight up in my chair and said, “Please tell me you haven’t let them in the house! Do not let them in the house!” I asked her to put Nenè on the phone. “Nenè, please tell me Bashert has not let those dogs in the house!” Through choking laughter she confirmed that yes, there were indeed seven dogs and they still remained outside. She gave the phone back to Bashert.
“Oh, my g-d, Cee one of them is looking in the window!” That, I-need-to-take-care-of-every-stray-animal tone was slipping into her voice. I put on my air traffic controller tone to match hers and talk her down through situation. “Bashert, just do not engage. Do not look through the windows. Do not open the door. They will give up eventually and go back to their own homes.” I knew neither of them would go out and shoo them off.
“But Cee, they are looking at me” – gales of laughter from Nenè – “and now they are knocking on the door!” More laughter and a muffled voice in the background, “I swear they are knocking on the door Mom!”
“Bashert just back away from the window and turn out the front lights. That way they can’t see in and will give up.” “And tell Nenè to be quiet so they can’t hear y’all in there!” They complied and went into stealth mode. I remained on the line a few minutes more as the only outside contact and then had to get back to work. I was getting funny looks by then.
The next morning I got the rest of the scoop. After they turned out the lights and quieted down from the laughing, it took maybe five minutes for the Bashert-worshipping doggies to go on their disappointed way. I think it took Bashert and Nenè hours to get over the ridiculousness of them both crouched in the darkness hiding from those dogs as if they were unannounced guests and the house was a mess.
All I could do was shake my head and mumble, “Only you Bashert, only you.”
The number of her faithful followers never reached that number again, but to this very day I can attest to the fact that we have at least one dog (or cat) try to tag along when we go out for a walk. – a hormonal hold over I guess. She just has that animal attraction…