There's nothing so unusual about loving the person who rescues you from the worst pain of your life, but my love for the man I know only as "Ed, the EMT guy" isn't that kind of love. True, before Ed stormed into my bedroom, the pain I was enduring was unlike any I'd ever endured; and true, shortly after Ed's arrival, the pain was all gone. But to say I love Ed because he had something to do with this turn of events is to place the emphasis on the pain, not the man.
Fifteen minutes earlier, I'd been calmly packing my things, between widely spaced, no-big-deal contractions that had been going on, no big deal, all day. Now, with almost no warning, I was on my hands and knees bellowing like a speared elephant, my 3-year-old was still in the bathtub, our sitter was still in a cab on her way to our house, my husband was still under the befuddled impression that I'd only screamed, "Call 911!" so we could hitch a no-stoplights ride in an ambulance to the hospital instead of trundling along in our car. Only Ed—bursting into the room so soon after the call had been placed that my husband was literally still babbling into the phone—seemed to realize, like me, what the real deal was: that I was having the baby right there and right then.
Did I love him already? Only for the reasons anybody like me at that moment would love anybody like him: because he was there, with the promise of rescue. But my specific love for specifically him was just seconds away. Like the pain, like the baby, it exploded upon me in the moment when he paused to say gently, as I was writhing and swearing and clawing, "I'm sorry, sweetheart. I have to take off your pants."
Then he yanked off my pants, his eyebrows shot up, and he yelled, like a football coach, "Push!" That was it—the baby hurtled like a cannonball onto the bed.
Of course, I loved the baby, Elliot, too—but that wasn't surprising. What was surprising was that my gratitude toward Ed was more like adoration. In the euphoric aftermath, we took his picture, and for weeks afterward I gazed at it, and, nine months later, I often still do. Because he saved me from pain? Technically, that was Elliot's doing. No, I love Ed because, with the grace, flair, and timing of some sort of Gene Kelly of EMTs, he gave me a perfect moment—compassionate, hilarious, and complete.