(Excerpt from Chapter XLI)
We had gone to the hospital about three o'clock in the morning. At noon Catherine was still in the delivery room. The pains had slackened again. She looked very tired and worn now but she was still cheerful.
"I'm not any good, darling," she said. "I'm so sorry. I thought I would do it very easily. Now — there's one — " she reached out her hand for the mask and held it over her face. The doctor moved the dial and watched her. In a little while it was over.
"It wasn't much," Catherine said. She smiled. "I'm a fool about the gas. It's wonderful."
"We'll get some for the home," I said.
"There one comes" Catherine said quickly. The doctor turned the dial and looked at his watch.
"What is the interval now?" I asked.
"About a minute."
"Don't you want lunch?"
"I will have something pretty soon," he said.
"You must have something to eat, doctor," Catherine said. "I'm so sorry I go on so long. Couldn't my husband give me the gas?"
"If you wish," the doctor said. "You turn it to the numeral two."
"I see," I said. There was a marker on a dial that turned with a handle.
"I want it now/' Catherine said. She held the mask tight to her face. I turned the dial to number two and when Catherine put down the mask I turned it off. It was very good of the doctor to let me do something.
"Did you do it, darling?" Catherine asked. She stroked my wrist.
"You're so lovely." She was a little drunk from the gas.
"I will eat from a tray in the next room," the doctor said. "You can call me any moment." While the time passed I watched him eat, then, after a while, I saw that he was lying down and smoking, a cigarette. Catherine was getting very tired.
"Do you think I'll ever have this baby?" she asked.
"Yes, of course you will."
"I try as hard as I can. I push down but it goes away. There it comes. Give it to me."
At two o'clock I went out and had lunch. There were a few men in the cafe sitting with coffee and glasses of kirsch or marc on the tables. I sat down at a table. "Can I eat?" I asked the waiter.
"It is past time for lunch."
"Isn't there anything for all hours?"
"You can have choucroute!'
"Give me choucroute and beer."
"A demi or a bock?"
"A light demi."
The waiter brought a dish of sauerkraut with a slice of ham over the top and a sausage buried in the hot wine-soaked cabbage. I ate it and drank the beer. I was very hungry. I watched the people at the tables in the cafe. At one table they were playing cards. Two men at the table next me were talking and smoking. The cafe was full of smoke. The zinc bar, where I had breakfasted, had three people behind it now; the old man, a plump woman in a black dress who sat behind a counter and kept track of everything served to the tables, and a boy in an apron. I wondered how many children the woman had and what it had been like.
When I was through with the choucroute I went back to the hospital. The street was all clean now. There were no refuse cans out. The day was cloudy but the sun was trying to come through. I rode upstairs in the elevator, stepped out and went down the hall to Catherine's room, where I had left my white gown. I put it on and pinned it in back at the neck. I looked in the glass and saw myself looking like a fake doctor with a beard. I went down the hall to the delivery room. The door was closed and I knocked. No one answered so I turned the handle and went in. The doctor sat by Catherine. The nurse was doing something at the other end of the room.
"Here is your husband," the doctor said.
"Oh, darling, I have the most wonderful doctor,"
Catherine said in a very strange voice. "He's been telling me the most wonderful story and when the pain came too badly he put me all the way out. He's wonderful. You're wonderful, doctor."
"You're drunk," I said.
"I know it," Catherine said. "But you shouldn't say it." Then "Give it to me. Give it to me.' She
clutched hold of the mask and breathed short and deep, pantingly, making the respirator click. Then she gave a long sigh and the doctor reached with his left hand and lifted away the mask.
"That was a very big one," Catherine said. Her voice was very strange. "I'm not going to die now, darling. I'm past where I was going to die. Aren't you glad?"
"Don't you get in that place again."
"I won't. I'm not afraid of it though. I won't die, darling."
"You will not do any such foolishness," the doctor said. "You would not die and leave your husband."
"Oh, no. I won't die. I wouldn't die. It's silly to die. There it comes. Give it to me."
After a while the doctor said, "You will go out, Mr. Henry, for a few moments and I will make an examination."
"He wants to see how I am doing," Catherine said.
"You can come back afterward, darling, can't he, doctor?"
"Yes," said the doctor. "I will send word when he can come back."
I went out the door and down the hall to the room where Catherine was to be after the baby came. I sat in a chair there and looked at the room. I had the paper in my coat that I had bought when I went out for lunch and I read it. It was beginning to be dark outside and I turned the light on to read. After a while I stopped reading and turned off the light and watched it get dark outside. I wondered why the doctor did not send for me. Maybe it was better I was away. He probably wanted me away for a while. I looked at my watch. If he did not send for me in ten minutes I would go down anyway.
Poor, poor dear Cat. And this was the price you paid for sleeping together. This was the end of the
trap. This was what people got for loving each other. Thank God for gas, anyway. What must it have been like before there were anaesthetics? Once it started, they were in the mill-race. Catherine had a good time in the time of pregnancy. It wasn't bad. She was hardly ever sick. She was not awfully uncomfortable until toward the last. So now they got her in the end. You never got away with anything. Get away hell! It would have been the same if we had been married fifty times. And what if she should die? She won't die. People don't die in childbirth nowadays. That was what all husbands thought. Yes, but what if she should die? She won't die. She's just having a bad time. The initial labor is usually protracted. She's only having a bad time. Afterward we'd say what a bad time and Catherine would say it wasn't really so bad. But what if she should die? She can't die. Yes, but what if she should die? She can't, I tell you. Don't be a fool. It's just a bad time. It's just nature giving her hell. It's only the first labor, which is almost always protracted. Yes, but what if she should die? She can't die. Why would she die? What reason is there for her to die? There's just a child that has to be born, the by-product of good nights in Milan. It makes trouble and is born and then you look after it and get fond of it maybe. But what if she should die? She won't die. But what if she should die? She won't. She's all right. But what if she should die? She can't die. But what if she should die? Hey, what about that? What if she should die?
The doctor came into the room.
"How does it go, doctor?"
"It doesn't go," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"Just that. I made an examination — " He detailed the result of the examination. "Since then I've waited to see. But it doesn't go."
"What do you advise?"
"There are two things. Either a high forceps delivery which can tear and be quite dangerous besides being possibly bad for the child, and a Caesarean."
"What is the danger of a Caesarean?" What if she should die!
"It should be no greater than the danger of an ordinary delivery."
"Would you do it yourself?"
"Yes. I would need possibly an hour to get things ready and to get the people I would need. Perhaps a little less."
"What do you think?"
"I would advise a Caesarean operation. If it were my wife I would do a Caesarean."
"What are the after effects?"
"There are none. There is only the scar."
"What about infection?"
"The danger is not so great as in a high forceps delivery."
"What if you just went on and did nothing?"
"You would have to do something eventually. Mrs. Henry is already losing much of her strength. The sooner we operate now the safer."
"Operate as soon as you can," I said.
"I will go and give the instructions."
I went into the delivery room. The nurse was with Catherine who lay on the table, big under the sheet, looking very pale and tired.
"Did you tell him he could do it?" she asked.
"Isn't that grand. Now it will be all over in an hour. I'm almost done, darling. I'm going all to pieces. Please give me that. It doesn't work. Oh, it doesn't work!"
"I am. Oh, it doesn't work any more. It doesn't work!"
"Get another cylinder," I said to the nurse.
"That is a new cylinder."
"I'm just a fool, darling," Catherine said. "But it doesn't work any more." She began to cry. "Oh, I wanted so to have this baby and not make trouble, and now I'm all done and all gone to pieces and it doesn't work. Oh, darling, it doesn't work at all. I don't care if I die if it will only stop. Oh, please, darling, please make it stop. There it comes. Oh Oh Oh!" She breathed sobbingly in the mask. "It doesn't work. It doesn't work. It doesn't work. Don't mind me, darling. Please don't cry. Don't mind me. I'm just gone all to pieces. You poor sweet. I love you so and I'll be good again. I'll be good this time. Can't they give me something? If they could only give me something."
"I'll make it work. I'll turn it all the way."
"Give it to me now."
I turned the dial all the way and as she breathed hard and deep her hand relaxed on the mask. I shut off the gas and lifted the mask. She came back from a long way away.
"That was lovely, darling. Oh, you're so good to me.
"You be brave, because I can't do that all the time. It might kill you."
"I'm not brave any more, darling. I'm all broken. They've broken me. I know it now."
"Everybody is that way."
"But it's awful. They just keep it up till they break you."
"In an hour it will be over."
"Isn't that lovely? Darling, I won't die, will I?"
"No. I promise you won't."
"Because I don't want to die and leave you, but I get so tired of it and I feel I'm going to die."
"Nonsense. Everybody feels that."
"Sometimes I know I'm going to die."
"You won't. You can't."
"But what if I should?"
"I won't let you."
"Give it to me quick. Give it to me.” Then afterward, "I won't die. I won't let myself die."
"Of course you won't."
"You'll stay with me?"
"Not to watch it."
"No, just to be there."
"Sure. I'll be there all the time."
"You're so good to me. There, give it to me. Give me some more. It's not working 7"
I turned the dial to three and then four. I wished the doctor would come back. I was afraid of the numbers above two.