Birth Story of Joshua Connor Arnal
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My baby turned one last month and I have been reflecting on the past year and reminiscing about his birth. I have been hesitant to write about his birthday because it was such a personal experience and one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Words just haven’t seemed to be able to capture everything that I was truly feeling or experienced.
After five years of infertility, getting pregnant and being able to give birth was an unexpected gift. We adopted my oldest son in August 2015 and in March 2016 we found out we were pregnant. I have never heard God physically speak out loud to me but when I read the pregnancy test I clearly heard Him say, “wait, wait for me Chelsey.” It literally took my breath away and I just cried as I sat there on the toilet.
God’s plan with adoption and getting pregnant have been bigger and better than anything I could have planned for myself. I have struggled to have patience through His process and have learned a lot about waiting and about the immense love that God has for me. He is faithful and has a plan more beautiful than we can ever imagine.
I knew Clayton wanted a boy. I don’t think I have ever heard or read anyone talk about how men are affected by infertility but I know that Clayton experienced as much pain as I did as we prayed and longed for a child. One of the things that was the hardest for him was his family tree. He struggled with doing family history and was deeply affected by the possibility of us never having a child and the family tree stopping with him.
I don’t think I have ever told anyone this but I was afraid to have a little boy. I had this strange feeling that if I had a boy it was so that I would always have a piece of Clayton with me. With Clayton having cancer for the past couple of years this was a real fear that I struggled with. I knew we were having a boy pretty early on in my pregnancy because I was comforted with a dream. I was assured that Connor wasn’t given to me in remembrance of Clayton but that he was a perfect gift and meant to join our family at this exact time.
Clayton and I were making our bed together one morning and I started sobbing. I cried as I told him we were having a boy. We were weeks away from knowing the sex of the baby by sonogram but I told him about my dream. I spent a few days ‘mourning’ the little girl that I had been envisioning but then was able to get really excited and started planning for our little boy.
With Clayton’s cancer I had done a lot of research on natural healing and during that time I also ran across natural birth and the benefits. When I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to learn all I could about having a baby without medication and a vaginal birth.
I need to say a big thank you to all the women who proudly shared their birth stories with me, especially the women brave enough to film their expeirence and share it with strangers. As I prepared for labor, I watched countless videos and it was not only educational but inspiring.
Now let’s get to the actual birth story.
I felt like I was in labor for weeks. Yes weeks.
I was dilated at a ‘five’ for almost two weeks before I went into labor. It was pretty miserable. I had a lot of contractions but they never lasted long enough to push me into full labor.
When Connor passed his due date of November 15th I honestly wasn’t worried. A few people, ok, a lot of people, thought I was crazy to continue to wait but I knew it was the right choice for me. I had done enough research and felt confident in my knowledge that babies come when they are ready with only a few situations when they need assistance and I still had faith that I would go into labor naturally.
I tried all the natural recommendations to get labor started from spicy food, walking, even sex but I refused to drink castor oil. On Sunday November 27, my amazing doula, Holly, came to my house and we tried a variety of things to get my contractions to stay consistent and actually go into labor. She put me in different positions using her rebozo wrap, I bounced on my ball and she setup my breast pump so I pumped as much as I could Sunday and Monday.
My midwife wouldn’t let me go past 42 weeks so I was scheduled to be induced on Tuesday November 29 at 7:00AM. When Monday came around I was pretty frustrated and sad that I would have to be induced. Little did I know, Connor would finally step up and begin to enter the world.
Monday night I started having more consistent contractions. They were by far the strongest I had felt. I got in and out of the shower many times as the hot water was comforting but I also tried to get some sleep in between contractions knowing that the next day was going to be a big day.
Tuesday morning I got up and made a big breakfast. The hospital was very clear about not eating but I made a personal choice against this. I felt really comfortable with my knowledge of natural birth and knew that I wanted energy and a healthy meal before I started my labor and delivery process.
After breakfast, we grabbed my hospital bags and got Gabriel ready to stay with his cousins for a few days. By the time we got in the car to head to the hospital I knew I was labor. And you know what? I was super excited. I just remember feeling so relieved that he was finally coming on his own. It felt like ‘game time’ and I was filled with adrenaline and ready to get started. I had been preparing and planning and praying for this very moment for months and was just overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement.
We dropped my oldest son Gabriel off at my sister in law’s on the way to the hospital and I remember griping the overhead door handle and trying to get comfortable with each contraction. Having contractions five minutes apart driving in the car was not fun but I had tears of joy and couldn’t wait to get to the hospital to have this baby.
Speaking of the hospital, let me let you in on a little secret. I hate hospitals. Yes, I said I hate hospitals. Mainly because they contain things like needles and blood which I have been terrified of since I was a child. As I went through infertility treatments, needles and I became a little more (a teeny tiny bit more) comfortable but they are still something I try to avoid at all costs. It may be an irrational fear but it is extremely real and gives me high anxiety to the point of nauseousness. Anyone that knows me, most likely feels that I had a natural birth to avoid an epidural just because of the needle. There were many other reasons, but this is partially true.
I tried really hard to convince my husband and my family to let me have the baby at home but I lost this battle. I finally agreed to have the baby at a hospital and overall I was happy with that choice. But in my birth plan, heading to the hospital was something that I wanted to do as late as I possibly could. In my ideal world, I would have walked in and my delivery would have been so quick I wouldn’t even need an IV port. Unfortunately the hospital required this and it was the first thing they did upon my arrival. It wasn’t that painful, it was just an annoyance. And if you think I need a lecture about why an IV port is important, even with a natural birth, my sister is a nurse and I have been fully informed. I see the reasons, but I still hated having one in my hand.
When we got to the hospital I was dilated to a ‘five’ but my contractions were very consistent, coming every 3 to 5 minutes and lasting for about 40 minutes each. I was offered pitocin but instead I asked if I could have my membranes stripped. My midwife agreed to do so and I went from a ‘five’ to a ‘seven’ immediately. It was just after 8:00AM. After that, things seemed to move along pretty quickly. I labored in my room for about 3 hours. I walked around the room, I used a peanut ball, but my favorite position was standing on the side of the bed. Each time the nurses tried to make me lay down I just screamed. It was so much more painful lying down.
So many friends have asked how I endured the pain. During my training – yes I call it training because honestly that is the best description of the months leading up to the birth as I prepared to have this baby – one of the things I learned and tried to absorb was to embrace the pain and mostly not to fear the pain and I didn’t. I know that during the worst contractions I mentally was so focused I can’t remember much else. And honestly the memory of the actual pain is very faint.
I read a lot of books during my pregnancy and many of them were about other cultures and how they have had natural births for centuries in all types of locations and environments. One moment during birth I remember laying in bed, grabbing onto the bed rail and screaming “I am so glad I am not in the dirt!” I don’t think that anyone really knew what I was talking about and my nurses must have thought I was a crazy person but at that moment I was very thankful to be in a clean hospital room and not outside hugging a tree as many women have done before me.
As I prepared for my natural birth I listened to a lot of different hypno birthing tapes. As “woo woo” and maybe even a little strange as they were, I truly believe these were extremely helpful in my mental state and in my preparation for birth. One of the mantra’s was something like “your vagina is a flower, you open gracefully and fully”. Well in the middle of labor I remember yelling “I am a fu&%ing flower!”Again, another instance where the nurses and people in my room probably thought I had lost my mind but I was sincerely trying to channel my inner flower. In the moment I was probably really serious, but looking back I just have to hysterically laugh at myself.
I was very clear with my midwife, doula and the hospital that I did not want an epidural so even if I was begging for one, that I wanted them to give me time and to let me push through the pain. I don’t remember one time actually ever wanting or asking for the epidural. I went in prepared and ready and it truly was a beautiful experience even in the most painful moments.
One thing that really bothered me while I was pushing was my midwife, who if I already haven’t mentioned it, was not my favorite person. She didn’t hold the same philosophies as a traditional midwife in my opinion would or should and we argued my entire pregnancy. She worked under a traditional OBGYN and I honestly don’t think she was on board for my natural birth. I even tried to switch to another midwife at one point but apparently insurance and doctors do not like this. Anyway, while I was pushing I felt really connected to Connor. I knew that he had a job to do and I had a job to do. I was fascinated reading and learning about how God has His hand in every single detail of birth and how babies know exactly what to do. It was one of the many reason I went into my natural birth with so much confidence. At one point I remember talking to him out loud and saying things like “come on baby” but my midwife stopped me and abruptly told me that he had nothing to do with this and I just needed to push. My heart was a little crushed by this comment but I knew Connor was doing his part and was working with me.
The other few things I remember most about his birth was how hot I was. I ended up being completely naked as I went into transition and through pushing. Clayton was given the task of waving a piece of paper and fanning me to cool me down. After about 15 minutes of this I could just see him wanting to stop because his arm hurt. I of course was in so much pain that if he even thought about complaining I would have ripped his head off. Luckily he didn’t and just continued to fan me.
One thing I absolutely hated was having monitors on my stomach. They were one of the worst parts of my labor and if I get the opportunity to have another child I will fight really hard not to have these on.
Around 11:00AM I started to have the intense urge to go to the bathroom. They called my midwife back in, I pushed for about 30 minutes and welcomed Connor to the world about 11:30AM.
Because he was delivered at 42 weeks, my midwife informed me that I would not get to immediately hold him. I was really disappointed with this but understood the medical necessity. My vision was to actually pull him out myself. I loved watching other women have the opportunity to do this during their birth and I couldn’t wait to pull him out and hold him on my chest.
But that vision quickly changed when he was delivered. When he was born, he pushed my pelvic bone out of place and as they took him aside to clean him up I was in excruciating pain. It was almost worse than the actual labor. My lower back hurt so bad that all I wanted to do was stand up. It was so painful laying down but they needed to deliver my placenta and kept telling me to lay still. I remember being in so much pain I honestly didn’t even want to hold Connor.
Ironically after all the struggle and fight to have a natural birth in a hospital, I was in so much pain that the midwife encouraged me to take some pain medication. I agreed and it took away the pain enough for me to calm down and enjoy holding my new baby.
It was absolutely incredible. I wish I could fully describe the feelings I had.
I felt an overwhelming feeling of protection for Connor.
I felt love and gratitude.
I felt empowered.
Having Connor changed me. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.
After his birth, I knew I could do hard things. Really hard things. It has given me strength during late nights and just the challenge of becoming a mom to two boys in two years.
I am so proud of my body. It really is incredible what our bodies can do. I have never felt an appreciation or a love for my body like I do now, extra weight and all.
I am grateful that I had the opportunity to give birth to Connor and assist my Heavenly Father in creation. It is by far my greatest accomplishment and I will cherish his birthday forever.