Andy – a novel (Excerpt #3) (2013)

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I had played this scenario over in my head thousands of times, it seemed. What sitcom or drama hasn’t done the episode when the panicked guy drives the pregnant, heaving wife crazily through the streets in order to get to the hospital just in time before the baby came? They never got in accidents. They never got pulled over. There were always car horns or sirens buzzing around but their car always made it untouched. Usually, there was some nurse–typically black if you hadn’t noticed–waiting at the automatic doors with a wheelchair. Probably some smoking scrubs-clad nurses off to the side, always suggesting irony. And it was always one of two times: rush hour or middle-of-the-night. In both cases, cars were everywhere and lights and oncoming vehicles and distractions and more heaving and talk of contractions. The radio was always on at first before the wife screamed that the husband had better turn it off before she beats the shit outta him. It always brought brief comic relief to the intense situation. In the 90s the man or the woman always got some phone call and there was a panicked search for the phone which was never where the owner had remembered putting it. Like in the glove box or the middle console or some purse the woman didn’t even realize she’d brought with her.
Oh, and the bag they’d prepared. Wasn’t it always standing by the door for when the crucial night came? If the family already had kids, the oldest–usually a boy with a bowl haircut and wearing ridiculous pajamas or corduroy pants or in some cases both–lugged said bag slowly as the sleepy younger sister gathered up stuffed animals and blankets and a journal (more recently a video game device) and she never put her seatbelt on by herself. The oldest boy, in a glimpse of his civil upbringing would instinctively hold the door for his pregnant mother, put the bag on her lap for some reason, and climb into the backseat of the (usually pale blue if it was daytime) station wagon and help the little sister with her seatbelt. Then she’d ask that he buckle in Buttons or Polly or whatever cliche name her stuffed bear/dog/pony had.
Meanwhile, the camera always panned to the husband’s grizzly face. Never clean-shaven and always a bit too sweaty. A collar that left much to be desired and eyes that rarely looked enthusiastic. Any viewer could see the man was thinking dollar signs (or lack thereof) or general worry for the stress any pregnancy brought on. He’d fumble with his keys–once I remember he tried to put the house key into the ignition and laughed maniacally at his absent-mindedness; it took the laboring mother-to-be to slap him into cognition for the scene to continue.
Every show used the same tired jokes about the waiting room and the ice chips. Some of the time the notion of the epidural came up–probably to generate in-home discussions about the morality of drugging a labored mother. It never failed that a camera would fade from a loving still image of the couple holding hands at a bedside or that younger girl character resting her weary head on the engorged belly before panning to the wall clock that would shift four-, seven, or ten hours ahead to indicate the suffering the woman was experiencing. When the image returned to the expecting family members, we’d see that the man’s beard was noticeably scruffier now and he’d been given a newspaper or magazine that was rarely not on his lap as he slept comically upright in a stiff chair. Upon waking he’d complain about how his neck hurt which undoubtedly warranted a non-verbal punchline stare from the aggravated mother (who of course had not slept during the last X hours).
In sitcoms it was always a two-episode deal. The first one ended with a variety of cliffhanger moments (the doctor says there may be a problem, the father is called away for a work-emergency, etc.) and the second episode dealt with the fall-out of the baby’s birth. They always saved the name of the baby for the second episode too. Some viewers really got into that. One show, I recall, even used the pregnancy as their arc of the entire season and held a nationwide baby-naming contest. Occasionally twins appeared. Never anything too grim happened though. I’m sure test audiences regularly shut down some plot twists such as the baby having an unexpected skin tone or a rare disease and/or deformation. Any fights stemming back as far as the couple meeting might have been shown in a montage only to be outweighed by a longer montage of hugs, kisses, and romantic moments. The auditory accompaniment was Coldplay-esque. The same black nurse usually wheeled the mother and child/ren out the same entrance as before. The car drove away toward its home and there was never any traffic.

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