While I sat in the hallway, locked away from the only person on earth I wanted to be with, my wife was apparently giving them hell in triage.

They took her blood pressure, which was fine, but when a resident came in ten minutes later and put the blood pressure cuff on, Sarah asked if it was necessary.

“Well, uh … ”

“Apparently not,” Sarah said, and ripped it off.

They said they had to put a fetal monitor on her for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, everything was fine, Sarah said, so she ripped that off too. They couldn’t wait to get her out of triage.

After an internal exam showed that Sarah was five centimeters dilated, she was finally admitted to the hospital. It was 6 a.m. I’d been sitting in the hallway for an hour when a nurse finally let me in. Sarah and I held hands as we followed her to our room and I heard about her adventures in triage.

In our Bradley class, Denyse had emphasized how important it was to be nice to everyone at the hospital, to call them by their first name and say thanks and all that. Sarah was too focused in triage to bother with that, and I hadn’t had the opportunity yet. The first nurse I met locked me out and then stonewalled me when I asked if I had time to move the car. This wasn’t going like we expected.

But someone must have told the admitting nurse that we were a real pain in the ass, because they gave us a great private room and a wonderful nurse, Kim. She asked my wife to get in bed, but Sarah said she wanted to be up and about. Kim was fine with it.

* * *

I got a bunch of towels, blankets, and sheets, and made a nest on the floor. In between contractions on the blue ball, Sarah curled up in the nest. She liked the floor. And the ball was like a member of the family. If someone had taken it away, she would have given death as well as birth.

Somehow I forgot to bring the birth plan, nor could I recall a single preference listed on it. Didn’t matter. Sarah was at ease, which put me at ease. When Dr. Harth showed up and saw that Sarah was in control, she left us alone; Kim popped in only periodically. No fetal monitor, no IV, no epidural, no nothing. There wasn’t one beep in the room. Just Sarah and me on the floor.

At some point she took off her pants. The sneakers stayed on.

Then everybody showed up. Ben and Ursina; Tom and Lois; Kenn and Julie—some more comfortable with the nudity than others. When Sarah’s dad arrived, he starting yelling at me for parking on the first floor of the garage, which was handicapped. “I don’t need a lecture right now,” I said. “I’ll pay the ticket if I have to.” It turns out I parked on the second floor anyway. Not handicapped.

Our room was Grand Central Station. Ben wouldn’t shut up. Isaac was trying to read us New Yorker cartoons. Tom and Lois were snapping pictures left and right. A bunch of med students walked in and called Sarah “Mrs. Ruby” and asked if they could watch because they’d “never seen anything” like this before.

“No problem,” my wife said, with her ass in the air. “But I’m naked, so let’s get on a first-name basis.”

* * *

Nobody ever tells you that in between contractions, you just sort of hang out and wait. Sarah almost seemed to be having fun. But she made a rule: Talk during a contraction, and you’re out. Ben got booted immediately. Kenn and Julie left the room on their own: Once they saw Sarah grab the ball, grab me, and start wailing, they freaked. All we could see were their feet scurrying out of the room.