Labor Day ought to include celebrating every woman who has survived having a baby. In fact, I see flags of every nation flying for all women who've gone into labor, because it really hurts like hell.
The first time I went into labor, we were watching some western on television. "Honey," I said to my husband as I doubled over with the fifth contraction. "I think this baby is coming."
"Oh," he said, watching the cowboys murder the Indians, "that's nice."
The contraction happened again and I thought the pain could not get worse than that. Of course I was so wrong. "No, I mean, honey, we have to go to the hospital now."
He finally came out of his western world and looked at me. "Feel this," I said, writhing as the contraction hit and my abdomen went rock hard. "That is a contraction, and baby, it hurts. We. Need. To. Go. To. The Hospital. Now."
"Oh," he said, in his wildly passionate, romantic way. Eat your heart out, Ricky Ricardo.
He then went to the closet and proceeded to look through his ties. His ties! "What would the well-dressed father wear to the waiting room?" he asked me. I was in too much pain to throw the lamp at him.
When we finally got to the hospital, they showed us into a Labor Room. I climbed into my hospital gown and the nurse checked me out. I informed her in the nicest possible voice I could muster, "I AM NOT HAVING THIS BABY NATURALLY. BRING ON THE DEMEROL. BRING ON THE EPIDURAL AND THE SPINAL AND WHY NOT A GENERAL ANESTHETIC? DON'T JUST STAND THERE, WOMAN!"
"There's no need to shout," she smiled at me, patting my swollen abdomen.
"OH YEAH THERE IS," I gasped.
She left the room, saying she'd have the doctor come in. My husband took a chair near the door. His eyes were wide with shock. I think he finally realized that this was it, our baby was coming, and it hurt me like hell, and not him. I think there is a reason Labor Rooms are pretty empty of possible weapons for wives to use.
The doctor came in. He was a distinguished fellow with gray hair. "How's your pain? he said pleasantly, like How was your bridge game?
"Excruciating, " I told him. "HOW'S YOURS?"
During labor, I think we women see men for what they are. Useless, helpless chickens.
"Let me go get you something to ease it," he said.
"WHAT A GOOD IDEA," I was now screaming.
He came back in the room with the nurse, who was holding a needle and syringe. Why weren't they running? They seemed to be walking through syrup.
Just then they looked at my husband, whose face had turned completely white. "Mr. Dougan? Are you okay?" the nurse asked. They both turned toward my husband.
"HE IS FINE. JUST FINE. HE IS NOT THE ONE IN LABOR. I AM OVER HERE!" I pointed out to them. But they had him by the elbows and were ushering him from the room. "Here, lie down on this gurney for awhile until you feel better."
He said later that he was going to pass out from watching me in so much pain. I personally think he wanted them to notice his new tie. Either way, I was left on my own gurney while my husband was being attended to by the Labor staff.
Fourteen hours of fun later, our daughter Katy came into the world. It had been no picnic for her, either. But proud father showed her all around to the family in the hall.
"Isn't this wonderful?" he asked as his father handed him a cigar. "Just wonderful. Nothing to it."
For every woman who knows what labor is, Happy Labor Day.
The reality of being a woman — by the numbers. Learn more