Who doesn’t like a good birth story, am I right?? Oh. Not you? Whelp. Keep scrolling, Karen! The Okinawa goodness is just a few posts below. For those of you who are sticking around though, let’s dive right into this chaos.
Also, this post is definitely TMI and maybe a bit gross, so please skip if you’re squeamish!
Let’s first start out with a general timeline because this birth story isn’t like most. My due date was August 11, 2019 and at the beginning of my pregnancy, Ben and I were living in Japan with the knowledge that we would need to move to Virginia before I gave birth. This was all fine and dandy when Ben and I were under the assumption that we’d be leaving for the US in March. However, March suddenly turned into May which meant I’d be moving 7,600 miles across the world at six months pregnant. Not ideal, but doable.
Post move and after a month of vacationing at my parents home in Pennsylvania, we finally relocated to our new duty station, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, in mid June. It was at this point that the reality of our situation was finally sinking in. I was seven months pregnant without an OB, in a totally unfamiliar part of the country, tasked with moving all of our worldly belongings into a three story walk up apartment. Needless to say, I was becoming quite concerned. I was desperate to nest and relax a bit before baby Lesniak’s arrival but our situation made that virtually impossible. My only option was to suck it up and keep grinding away at this move so I could finally get prepared for parenthood.
When July rolled around and we were not only in the throes of unpacking but it was also SO FREAKING HOT I was officially over this whole pregnancy thing. On July 15th, with just about four weeks to go and zero ounces of patience left, I had an appointment with my OB - of whom I had met just four weeks prior - where I practically begged her to induce me. It was a no go (obviously) so I left my appointment feeling discouraged and somehow even more uncomfortable than before. I vividly remember crying throughout the latter half of my 40 minute car ride home because I felt like I might explode at any given second. Knowing that there was nothing I nor anyone else could do to help my suffering made matters that much worse. Pregnancy is no joke (shocker.)
Fast forward two days and I’m at home, pretty much planted my couch because motivation was at an all time low. On this day, I was expecting the arrival of my mother at any given second; she had embarked on a six hour drive from PA to help deliver the last few items of our home goods. We had a full week planned together where we would put the finishing touches on my home and do some baby prepping. This girls’ week was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits!
My mother arrived around 11:45 am and 15 minutes later we were headed out the door and downstairs to unload her car.
*Seriously, if you’re squeamish stop reading now*
As I made my way down the first two steps, I suddenly felt a burst of warm liquid between my legs that I had absolutely no control of. My first thought? I had peed my pants! It seemed like the only rational explanation at that very moment. To me, there was no way in hell that my water had just broke. I was only 36 weeks and 5 days into my very healthy and normal pregnancy, I wasn’t prepared and this baby wasn’t done cooking. Plus, two days prior my OB confirmed that there were absolutely zero signs I would be going into labor anytime soon and doctors are always right, at least that what I had thought...
I made a quick joke to my mom about peeing my pants and she just stood there utterly confused and somewhat horrified. At this point, aside from the unexplained liquid, I didn’t feel absolutely anything in terms of contractions so I quickly rushed back inside to both shower and convince myself that I was not going into labor.
Once clean, I figured I should probably give my OBs office a call - ya know, just incase I *might* be in labor (still very much in denial at this point.) It took me 15 minutes and several phone calls to get through to a receptionist who informed me that, yeah, I absolutely needed to get to the hospital. Yikes. It was at this time too when I started to feel veryyyyy minimal contractions. My nerves started to kick in and I realized that it was officially time to call Ben (yes, I still hadn’t called him! The disbelief was real, y’all.) Unfortunately, I couldn’t get through to him either. Just my luck. My contractions were beginning to get worse so I had to make the difficult decision to head to the hospital, a torturous 45 minute drive away, without Ben. I grabbed my half packed hospital bag - I cannot stress enough how unprepared I was - and we high tailed it to Chesapeake Regional Medical Center.
En route to the hospital, I finally got ahold of Ben who of course raced to meet me there. It was at this time too that I started to feel a bit bummed. So far this birth story was unlike anything I had ever imagined: I was rushing to the hospital without my husband, unprepared, not even full term, in a state of shock. The only thing I knew for certain was that my contractions went from mild to insufferable in seemingly an instant. By the time I made it to the hospital, maybe 1.5 hours after my water broke, I could barely walk into the Labor and Delivery ward.
Once checked in, things began to happen so quickly that I can barely remember the timeline of events. What I do remember quite vividly though is the pain. OH. MY. GOD. I can’t even put into words at how much pain I was in by this time, it was the kind of pain that makes you scream “GIVE ME AN EPIDURAL” at everyone and anyone you encounter. Not my finest moments... But in my defense, when I first arrived at the hospital I was 6 cm dilated. Most women get their epidurals far before this point so cut me some slack!
My labor was moving at lightening speed, so quickly in fact that I was dangerously close to missing my epidural - ya know, most women’s worst freaking nightmare! My OB had to chase the anesthesiologist down the hall because we were running out of time. I had progressed to just about 9 cm, one shy of being ready to start pushing, so it was now or never in terms of pain meds. Even though I was already so close to delivering this baby, I couldn’t have survived another second without some form of pain management. Fortunately, my guardian angel (the anesthesiologist) showed up just in the knick of time. Also, for those of you who may wonder - I know I did - the epidural honestly did not hurt. Once you’ve felt late stage contractions I can assure you that nothing hurts comparably!
Once the sweet, sweet nectar of the epidural was coursing through my veins (cannot speak highly enough about it) I was my old self again. For real. I didn’t feel a single thing and after the pain I had just endured I’m pretty certain I was in nirvana. For the next hour and a half or so I chit chatted with my mom and Ben as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. My OB then informed me that I was ready to start pushing, it was go time.
Pushing in and of itself was a relatively fast and painless experience. We did had a couple tense minutes though when the doctor realized that the cord was wrapped around our baby’s neck. This meant we had to get her out ASAP but luckily for me the thousands of squats I had done during my pregnancy (I’m not kidding) for this very moment helped me deliver her quickly. That’s right pregnant ladies, don’t skip your squats!
At 6:12 pm on July 17th, 2019, six hours after this ordeal began, we welcomed our 6 pound 2 ounce daughter into the world. Our overwhelming love for miss Zoe Amelia Lesniak was instant and we knew our lives would never be the same...
Why share my birth story? This experience is something I’ve grappled with for the past four months... You see when it comes to labor, most people would say I had it pretty “easy.” It was quick, I didn’t need a c section, my epidural worked, I had no tearing, and my baby was born both safe and healthy. I know I talk lightly about the experience but you know what? I hated it. Having my daughter is the best thing that’s ever happened to me but delivering her was nothing like I had imagined. I always thought giving birth would be an empowering experience... But the reality? It was terrifying and I never knew I could feel so vulnerable nor endure so much pain.
It’s been impossible to not feel guilty in the aftermath. Guilty because so many women have had it worse than me. Guilty because my daughter was so unbelievably worth it. Guilty because I should just “get over it” and “move on.” Society expects us mothers be okay with childbirth, the focus remains primarily on the beauty and newness of a newborn. But with time, I’m realizing that my feelings and needs as a new mother are valid too. I shouldn't have to sugar coat my labor experience to save face. Birth is beautiful, chaotic, messy, scary, empowering, painful. Birth is COMPLICATED. So for those of you who struggle with your own birth story, just know that you are not alone! Our stories may be unique to each and every one of us but we all share a common bond. Also, I really hope I didn’t scare any future mamas by sharing my story, that was not my intention. Giving birth is difficult but I can also attest to the fact that motherhood is SO worth it!
Thanks for reading,
We're Kara, Ben and baby Zoe also known as the Lesniaks. We’re a Marine Corps family currently stationed in Yorktown, Virginia after a three year tour in Okinawa, Japan. Enjoy our adventures, travels, photos, thoughts, and life together!
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