January 20, 1994

I'm driving home from work at the U.S. Army Health Clinic at Yakima Training Center, when I start feeling strong, mildly uncomfortable contractions. Of course, I've been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for several months now, first every 15 minutes, for the last month about every five minutes, so this really isn't anything too surprising. These just feel somehow different. But they're not really painful, so I go home, eat dinner, watch some TV and go to bed.

January 21, 1994

Around 3 a.m. I wake up. At first I'm not sure why, but I find out soon enough as a giant hand grips my abdomen and squeezes. I decide I don't have much chance of going back to sleep, so I run a tub of hot water, grab a book, pen and paper, and a watch, and settle down to soak and read. I time my contractions - first they're 3 minutes apart, then 2, then 1 1/2. Hmmm... it's almost 5:30 now - better get Dave to call in and let the Army know we might not be coming to work today. I wake Dave, he calls post, I get back in the tub, Dave goes back to sleep.

Around 7, the contractions are strong enough that I can't read through them anymore - it takes concentration to deal with them. I keep losing my place in the book.It's my first baby, and first-time moms always take forever, but just to reassure myself, I think it's time to go get checked out. I get up out of the tub, dry off, and go wake Dave. "Dave, I think it's time to go get checked out at the hospital." Dave rolls over... "Can I sleep for another half hour?" uhhhh... "No."

Dave gets up, we get dressed and get in the car. To get out of our neighborhood, we have to pass over a set of speedbumps. My contractions are strong enough that I make him stop, wait til my contraction passes, THEN go over the speedbump. We get to the hospital and go up to the maternity floor. I get checked out by the nurse; it turns out I'm 4 cm dilated and 75% effaced. As I try to get off the exam table to go to the bathroom, I'm basically paralyzed; everytime I move I have another contraction. Nobody told me about this part...

My OB doc determines that I'm in active enough labor that he wants to admit me. Anyway, it's not like the floor is even half full. I get admitted to a beautiful labor/delivery/postpartum room, change into a robe and gown, and start walking around the unit. Every time a contraction hits, I stop, hold onto the wall rail with both hands, back to the wall, and concentrate. A nurse decides I'm doing it wrong. She comes over and turns me around so I'm facing the wall, with my legs spread and leaning over. One contraction convinces me that this is a BAD PLAN (at least for me). I turn around as fast as I can and resume my original position. I walk and walk until my doctor comes and wants to check me.

My doctor says I'm at 6 cm and fully effaced, but my water hasn't broken yet. He decides to go ahead and break it, to try to move my labor along. I feel a pop and gush, and a whole new dimension of intensity with my next contraction. I have to stay in bed for half an hour for fetal monitoring now, which I don't like one little bit. As soon as I'm allowed, I get back up and start walking again. I wonder what my baby will be, and when I'll get to see it. I'm hoping it'll be really soon - this is not my idea of fun.

After my next fetal monitoring, I try to walk again, but my back and abdomen are hurting too much now. I sit in the rocking chair for awhile, just rocking back and forth. I wish I could read, but I need my concentration to deal with these contractions. I try to meditate during them - just blank my mind and live in the moment, without thinking of how long it's been or how long it will be. Just breathe, relax everything I can, and deal with the now.

I've never been a person who wants people fussing around when I'm in pain - all I want is to be left alone. That's the part that is really bothering me, that people are trying to talk to me or move me during contractions (which hardly seem to let up now), that they won't just leave me alone. One nurse comes to talk to me - she's very sweet. I try to make a joke... "I guess it's too late to consider adoption, eh?" "What, you want to give your baby up for adoption?" "No, I want to adopt it. This seems like a bad idea". She looks at me like I'm crazy - I don't blame her.

The pain seems to have shifted a little - it doesn't hurt so much now, but all of a sudden my stomach clenches. What the fuck??! Hmmm, this is new... I'm sitting there contemplating this new sensation, and a nurse comes in. She checks out the fetal monitor strip, and casually says "Oh, let us know if you get the urge to push." Eureka!! Aha, I must be having the urge to push. Time to break down the nifty neato keen multifunction hospital bed into a delivery chair.

I get propped up in the stirrups, the nurse checks me out and pronounces me 10 cm dilated, 100% effaced. Ready to go! Since this is my first baby, she decides to have me do a test push. "Ok, one, two, three,..., nine, ten..." My baby's head crowns. "Oh, crap. Don't push any more - your doctor went back to his office. I'll have to call him." She calls the doctor. I'm in my room, puffing and panting and 'blowing out the candle', trying to keep from pushing. I do this for half an hour (longest 30 minutes of my life!), with the nurse repeating "Blow out the candle. You can't push if you're blowing out the candle" and me replying "Yes, I can. I am!" because no matter how hard I blow, my abdominal muscles have a mind of their own and they want this baby OUT!

Just as I decide this is it, I'm pushing, my doctor rushes in, having a gown and gloves thrown at him by a (rather worried) nurse. He gives me a pudendal block (using a total of 20cc of Xylocaine), then decides to do an episiotomy. I'm not at all in favor of this, but would consent to just about anything at this point, as long as I get to push. He cuts me, and I STAND STRAIGHT UP in the stirrups saying "THAT'S STILL SHARP!!!"

Thankfully, I'm allowed to push now, and 8 pushes later, a dark head covered in hair is out. The doc suctions, then I am allowed to deliver the rest. My baby has a loose nuchal cord (the cord is wrapped around its neck twice), so the doctor unwraps it, flipping the baby around like a little pancake. Dave sees its little bottom, and says "Wow, what a set of balls!" Imagine his embarrassment when the doctor flips the baby right side up, revealing it to be a little girl...

2:10 pm, January 21, 1994. Welcome to the world, Rowan Michelle Thompson.

It's been nine years today. Unbelievable. I still remember the first time I saw you, with your dark hair, and your dark brown eyes. You had brown eyes right from the start, never that faded blue-grey that other babies have. I thought you were the most amazing, beautiful thing I had ever seen, and I still think so today. The feeling I had of "Wow. I made this. This little perfect person. Every little bit of her came from my body." I simply couldn't grasp it, I was completely in awe. I still sometimes feel that there must have been a mistake; I can't possibly be responsible for you (and your brother); someone will come and say it was all a terrible mistake and take you away, because I am not qualified to raise you. Who do I think I am, that I feel like I can tell you how to grow up? What qualifies me to care for you? All I can say is, I hope I'm not screwing up too badly, and that you can forgive me some day for the times I have, and still will screw up.

Happy birthday, Rowan. I love you.