Onyx's Name & Birth Story
To celebrate his third birthday: the story of how our sweet boy Onyx James came Earthside.
Onyx the name, pronounced [aww-nix]
It all starts in the summer of 2016. Ty and I had just started dating and were wild + free, bbq-ing on beaches, letting the wind style our hair with the windows down as we drove from beach to vineyard to orchard to the States for a week long road trip through Washington and Oregon. We decided on the 4th of July in a little beach tent that we would move in together for September 1st. We did just that and leading into my 30th birthday (September 23rd) I decided I needed some adventure. I decided to road trip solo, with a truck to camp in, to Fort Nelson, BC to see a friend of mine, Jim. Jim and I had travelled to Central America in 2012 and he had introduced me to the campecino communities of Ahuachapan and Metapan, where poverty was great and corruption was even greater. I, being very passionate about international development, was making a big choice to leave my comfy marketing job and to move to El Salvador the following Spring, to run Otra Fe’s programs that help farmers, improve educational opportunities for girls and provide economic opportunities for the community.
Tyler flew in from his job up north to meet with Jim - because of course if I was going to be moving to El Salvador, we thought they should meet. And then the next morning we journeyed off for a birthday trip. First stop: Laird River Hot Springs, the 2nd biggest hot springs In Canada. And then up to Watson Lake.
The next morning - literally my 30th birthday - I awoke with a knowing. Tyler went off to the only store in town to get a pregnancy test and VOILA! We were having a baby! The interesting glitch was that I was meant to move to El Salvador in May of 2016 for this new dream job, but when we did the math, we realized that we would have this baby in May of 2016. Central America isn’t necessarily the best place for us to have the baby, me alone and working for this project, so I had to make the tough, but quite honestly, the ultimately easy decision to not take my dream job. Instead, I vowed I’d make momma-hood an adventure and somehow find my way back to the ability to travel and work in the International Development world. (Little did I know then that that exact thing would happen and before O’s second birthday I would find us in Nepal to work with women and girls through my work with Her International. Lesson? Trust trust trust.)
So, here we were, in the Yukon, baby starting to settle in, and we decided to slowly road trip back home and digest this new information. We were about 20 hours north of Kelowna at this time and stopped for the night at a little cabin in Toad's Lake, a surprise that Ty had planned for me. It was an adorable cabin with a lake in front, and we spent an incredulous evening bbqing and bubble bath-ing, overall still in a daze around the fact that we were going to be parents!
Around that time I was feeling very sensitive to the energies around me and had purchased an Onyx stone earlier that week to assist with the protection from energies that weren't mine to take on. I bought a little necklace to put it in and wore it all the way up to northern BC. Somewhere in the middle of Watson Lake and Prince George I discovered it was missing. So for the next 15 hours of our road trip, we talked about the Onyx stone a LOT. Where was the Onyx stone? Did you see my Onyx? and finally one of us said, hey that would make a cool name.
We knew we wanted James to be part of the name because Tyler's middle name is James, and for me, it's a strong family name (my dad and two of my nephews have it) so it floated around my head a lot through the pregnancy...Onyx James. I had a lot of other names floating around too though, so we didn't actually decide on it until about four hours after Onyx was born. And yet now I couldn't imagine him as anyone else. My little awww-nix.
La La Labour Land
[Let me put in a note here that for some reason, at the beginning of my pregnancy, I strongly felt that I would be having this baby early. Probably because I wasn't prepared for any of it. Sure enough, Onyx came at 37 weeks, 5 days.]
Leading up to labour I drank a LOT of raspberry leaf tea in my 3rd trimester, I ate 7 dates a day religiously (because I had read somewhere that this helps to prepare the cervix) and for the last two nights before baby came I used Evening Primrose Oil - four capsules orally and vaginally.
My birth team was interestingly all tied to Joe Rich, the woods where I was living when I re-met Tyler. It was a place of huge transformation for me and was very special, so I feel grateful for these ties. Marty, my doctor, was my landlord in the carriage house where I lived in the woods. He was the papa of Yogi, my favourite Golden Retriever. My doula, Sara Spada, she lived just down from us, but I never met her while I lived up there; however we were both aligned around spirit and raound the fact that this birth was not just my sons - it was mine too. The birth of a new facet of Tamara, of my soul. And then, of course, Tyler, who I re-met while living in Joel Rich, who loved how I lived up there and who fully supported a return to the woods at some point.
So when I talk about “Marty” I’m talking about my doctor, Sara = my doula, Ty = the baby papa.
Let me first say this - my pregnancy was not all sunshine + rainbows. I went through a dark night of the soul initially, where I stayed in my room for about two months. I puked every time I smelled food cooking or other scents wafting in any way. I was kicking a somewhat party-party lifestyle and habits and I wasn’t sure what I was feeling. It was hard. It was dark. I started googling ‘pregnancy depression’ and found out there was a thing called prenatal depression that is very common and yet much less talked about than postnatal depression. I definitely had it and it took resilience and strength for me to walk in the fire those days. Yet I look back and, well, it was my becoming.
Around the five month mark I started doing prenatal yoga. At home and in a class. And a lot of the flow started coming to my life. I started feeling better. Brighter. Stronger. And around six months, we did that ‘babymoon’ thing and travelled to the smallest island in Hawaii - Kauai. I felt amazing there and hiked everyday barefoot. I started to feel like myself, but a stronger version of that. I started to really connect with this little being inside of me. And Tyler and I started a nice journey into the land of happy endorphins and oxytocin.
What I would love to say to those pregnant women who don’t feel like a beautiful butterfly yet? Dear one, you are becoming. It happens and it doesn’t always happen pretty. Pregnancy is not all golden glow. It is hard. You are growing a HUMAN. Please be gentle with yourself. Please allow others to treat you. Please people, treat pregnant women like the glorious goddesses that they are.
It was around 35 weeks that Marty checked me and exclaimed "Holy shit!" He could already feel the head and said baby had dropped. At that point, he said I was about three centimetres dilated. Tyler and him got a kick out of him saying it all with such enthusiam, “You have child bearing hips momma” and we all laughed about it for a moment, but then Ty and I walked out of the appointment like "Are we going to have this baby today???" I started walking a little funny and we were a bit in shock. But Marty told us to continue to pursue regular activities so on we went. Over the next couple of weeks I did yoga every day, we kept hiking, I even golfed, and we had a BBQ with friends over. The questions started early once we told people how our appointment went, so the next week was bright with the echoing chorus “When is he coming?!”. I just surrendered to the fact that it would happen when it happened. NOTE: We knew it was a he because at our 20 week ultrasound, we noticed there was something that looked very much like PEEEEEEEE in the picture. His was peeing! On camera! We guessed and they told us that was right. My my my, now I see that is so his character to do something like that - his little mischievous self.
Over the last weekend that I was pregnant, we went to our friends Anthony & Lisa’s for a BBQ and I remember eating a lot and loving it, but then I was a little sick that night. I wasn’t too worried, but found it a little odd. I just felt so “full” in many ways and probably shouldn’t have ate so much. Over the weekend I had maybe one or two "Braxton Hicks" contractions, but they were so little and so weak that I didn’t really know what they would feel like when it was the real deal. I do remember waking Tyler up early Monday morning to tell him I think I had a BH and he said, "That's great baby!" and rolled over to go back to sleep.
On Monday night I attended my Birth Mum group, a sweet session with other pregnant ladies where we dug deep into the spiritual aspects of becoming a momma. I started it when I was about 20 weeks pregnant and I remember seeing a woman who was 36 weeks pregnant and she was just so ready to go. I was shit scared at that time and couldn’t imagine being ready to go through labour! But in this particular Monday night class, I was now the one that was so ready to face labour. I can remember the scared face of this 20 week pregnant woman who was sitting in that day and absolutely reveled in the cycles that we move through in this amazing time in a woman’s life. That night we talked about how at a certain point you just gain this acceptance of the process and actually want it to happen and then we did a relaxation mediation, but for the first time in a long time I just simply couldn’t ‘drop in’. I was feeling so different internally and it honestly was too much of a distraction to even follow Sara’s voice into a guided meditation. After class, I was talking with a girlfriend of mine for almost 45 min. and at one point another lady from our class walked up to us and said, “Well we won’t see you next week, so good luck!” And I laughed. I wasn’t due for another two weeks and thought, well maybe we will, we’ll see. But I think I knew she was right. I was just feeling so...full and baby was low.
So after class I went home and Ty wasn't there. I called him and said, "you better come home soon, I feel like things are happening.." so he biked home and brought his friend Ash in for a moment - who I got to meet for the first time. I was so distracted who knows what we talked about that day. Tyler and I watched a movie and had popcorn - our favourite pregnancy ritual - and went to bed. The two nights prior we had put in the Evening Primrose Oil but our doula said to stop because Tyler was due to leave that week for a work week away and so we stopped and said we were going to wait until he came home.
Around 2 a.m. I woke up and knew I had a real contraction. This was no BH. I laid there, feeling a few move through and very quickly had to flip onto my hands and knees and start groaning through them. For about half an hour Tyler grumbled that these were just Braxton Hicks. He was tired and grumpy and the last thing we wanted was for the baby to come when he had to leave. But at a certain point I couldn't talk through the contractions anymore and had to breathe and moan through them so he pretty quickly got the picture that this was in fact happening for real and happening tonight. At 3 a.m. I started timing the contractions, but I had to pass the paper to him as they were anywhere between 9 min apart to 4 min apart. I wasn't able to sleep between them, as I hear many women are. I was only usually able to lay down for a moment before having to get back onto my hands and knees. I knew then this was my labour position that felt the best for me. I started having some violent illness coming from both ends. It wasn’t pretty and it must have been something we ate that day as Tyler also was sick. So the two of us, in our little bathroom, taking turns on the toilet. Not a pretty moment. Birth is not all dancing your baby out to the sweet sounds of the moon.
At some point, we decided I should get in the bathtub and that maybe that would help my illness. I got into the tub and it did make me feel a little better, as baths have always done. While I was in the bathtub, Ty called our doula Sara and when she showed up around 6:30 a.m. I was a lot calmer and able to talk. We decided it was time to go in soon and gathered a few things up like our hospital bags and our moss bath mat. I laughed as we went out the door because my "birth plan" was sitting, unwritten, on my desk, waiting to be thought about. I meant to get to it that week and hadn’t, but Sara assured me we would be just fine and that we needed to get going.
Side note: Through hazy memories, I remember Tyler bringing me coconut water in a can, unopened at some point while I was trying to get my stuff together with Sara and labouring on my bed and by my dresser. She laughed and said "Oh Tyler, no!" And went and got a glass with a straw. After that point I never had one moment without a glass and a straw throughout the entire labour, which was so nice. Thank YOU DOULA. Partners, a FYI, the last thing a lady wants to do or is able to do is open a can at that point, so always bring a glass and a straw!
I sat in the backseat on our three minute trip to the hospital and had a contraction as we were driving there. Tyler was driving in the front, excited, now he was awake and really ready to go, knowing this was truly happening, and I was on my hands and knees in the back, groaning through another tough contraction.
When we got to the hospital we parked downstairs and then Tyler had to move the car up so I sat near a bench labouring through a tough contraction. I remember faintly thinking it was odd that everyone was going about their days - people were walking to and from the hospital and there were cigarette butts by the bench outside and I thought that was just so weird. How could the world be going around like normal while I was about to push a baby out of me? We got upstairs and by the time I made it to the maternity floor it was about 8 a.m. and the nurses were in their morning meeting, all sitting around the desk. I just remember being a bear of a woman, walking up, fully labouring through a contraction, and I can still see the circle of scared / annoyed faces looking back at me. It was bizarrely quiet and they all kinda looked at me before someone jumped up and got us into a bed to get checked. They called Marty and when he got there and saw me labouring on my hands and knees he said, “This mountain mama is going to have the baby this morning!” I was 6 cm dilated! They told me at that point that if they broke my water I would have the baby right away. However, all through my pregnancy, my biggest concern was that I wasn’t going to feel like I had a right to exercise my voice to authority if I birthed in the hospital, so at this point I decided to do just that and I said I was not interested in intervention. I felt so strong and sure of myself then, like this was all progressing really well, why mess with it?
We got into our room around 9:30 and I remembered that I had had a dentist appointment at 10 that morning so we laughed and I had Tyler call them to reschedule. They said that having a baby was the only exception for cancelling in such short notice. We then started setting up our private room - getting our music set up on the iPad, playing my whole random birth playlist which had hilarious motivational music like "Eye of the Tiger" and then chill music like The Lumineers, Johnny Cash and Krishna Das. Tyler got out some of our essential oils and began putting Frankincense and Clary Sage on me, while I was labouring the whole time on my hands and knees, or standing and leaning on the hospital bed. Our moss bath mat came with us to the hospital and I would either stand or kneel on it, tracking moss all over the room, much to the hilarity and surprise of the nurses and doctors. And the entire time I was clenching a fluorite stone that was given to me at a New Moon ceremony only days before I went into labour by a total stranger I had been drumming with. I believe Marty's exact words when he walked into our room later that day was, "I just followed a trail of moss down the hallway to get here. I have to say that’s a first!"
For a few hours I laboured through contraction after contraction. Tyler had to go down to the car for something - to move it I think. While he was gone, in between contractions, I, off in a labor land daze, told Sara the story of how I fell in love with Tyler. The song Stolen Dance by Milky Chance came on and I explained to her that he was dancing on a hill at a music festival, with no one around and no care in the world about who was watching, with a cob of corn in his hand and this chicken and a burrito that he had cooked in his other. I fell in love with how free he was. He was so present, so in the moment, loving life, and just so free. It was the first time that I realized that this was the moment I fell in love with him. It was such a beautiful moment of my labour and it still brings tears to my eyes. Freedom has carved a path into my life over the past few years and this moment clicks for me. Of course it was always about that. Even if our paths have taken different turns, we both value freedom above all else.
The other thing I kept feeling was the knowledge that this new little soul was coming to me, that he chose me, that he was trying to protect me and keep me safe already even from the womb. I could feel him expressing that it was going to be okay. I remember locking eyes with Tyler at some point and saying, “He says it’s okay. We’re all going to be okay.”
After a few hours we finally decided that it was indeed time to break the waters as they had kind of broken on their own, but baby was blocking the way. Every question was clearly articulated to me and I finally said, YES, let's break the waters. When Marty did that, there was a huge rush of fluid and I remember the relief. Not only had I exercised my voice earlier, this was my decision now and it felt good. I know at that point I could feel, it was going to go quick now. I never had a doubt that we weren’t going to do it that morning.
Then the complication came. Isn’t there always one? The hill to climb, the ship to steer? Marty told me that my cervix lip had not fully moved to the side yet to allow the baby to come through. This meant that I had to go through each contraction, but that I couldn’t push even though the baby was so close. He was bearing down on me, but if I pushed I could really tear something. For me, this was the hardest hour-ish of my life. I sat on the toilet seat and Tyler sat in front of me, and every time I had a contraction I would lean on him and hold on for dear life and try not to push so I wouldn't rupture anything. The nurse kept checking for baby's heartbeat, which felt like every minute. I recall being frustrated by that and another reason why I would go with a midwife next time. At this point the contractions started to come one on top of another at this point - cluster contractions. I distinctly remember, at one point in that madness, gazing up in the bathroom at the top of the wall and there was a sign that said "FIRE" (for a Fire Alarm of course) and I had to laugh. I knew this was symbolic - my message - my time - could I walk through the fire of this moment? Could I release and allow myself to push through this? Could Tyler meet me and support me in this? As Ty and I were going through some of these very tough moments together, I remember looking at him and tearing up, looking deep into his eyes, into his soul, knowing that he felt the same way - here we were bringing a baby into the world together. The three of us were dancing as one. During those moments Sara and the nurse left us alone so we could have this sacred connection together. I could feel Onyx with us so strongly then and asked what he wanted his name to be. I floated in and out of names like Ocean and Sky - or Onyx. At that moment he told me that he would come quickly and try not to make it too hard and I told him we would be here waiting with happy, open arms, waiting for him. I told him that he was safe and loved and even now, three years later, I still say that to him as much as I can. You're safe. You're loved. This was the worst part of the birth physically - the most pain. But it was a very spiritual meeting of our hearts, as we danced in that ethereal space, waiting to welcome our son into the human world.
Marty came to check me again and this time he said he thought he could move the cervix lip over. He did! And it was time to push. At first, I HAD to push up on my knees, my big booty in the air, hanging on for dear life to the back of the hospital bed. I remember Sara instructing me on how to push. Deep breath in, deep breath out, push push push push, three times over and then rest. I did this on my knees for awhile, but then Marty wanted me in a different position to move the baby, so I finally turned to my back. Sara knew I had wanted to squat the baby out so she mentioned using a push bar, but Marty said, "we're going to have a baby instead" and on it was. So, I pushed on my back for a bit. Nothing was really happening and Marty saw that the baby had his arm up by his head. He looked at me and said, “Tamara - I'm going to have to do an episiotomy. He knew I didn't want one of these, but in order for you to not tear into your rectum, this is the choice.” At this point, I think I would have done anything - I was somewhat sure that I was going to die. So he did the incision and I closed my eyes and from that point on, I don't think I opened them until Onyx was born. I pushed and pushed and everyone was so supportive. Sara on one side of me and Tyler on the other and with each push they were saying such soothing things like, “It's soooo close Tamara you're doing such a good job.” I remember Tyler saying things like, “Oh my god, babe you are so amazing” a lot. However, it wasn't happening and I was starting to worry that something was seriously wrong, “Like be real with me guys, am I actually doing good?!” Finally Marty looked at me and said “Tamara, with this next push you're going to have a baby. But first, Dad needs to get some sugar,” and I glanced up at Tyler to see he was white. Very very white. He muttered something about orange juice and stumbled over to get some. After a drink or two, he was back and ready to catch the baby. Marty had to slap his hand away and say, "You don't have a glove on, you can't touch!"
All consuming awareness
At this point, it was like I had grown into an all consuming awareness - completely feeling + yet witnessing everything. I had no interventional medicine, just a TENS machine that Sara had used on me through contractions, and my thinking mind completely shifted to my feeling body. Between contractions there was no pain, nothing. But the contractions were huge, so big, so painful. It swapped back and forth so much though - from pure agony and ecstasy in the fire of the moment and then .... nothing. Time to rest. This in itself surprises me as the most amazing part of a woman's body. Without the in between rest, I can't imagine what we would do. We need contractions to feel the relaxation and the relaxation so we can gear up for the contractions. They were both as important and it’s amazing now that I see the distinction between the contraction and expansion of those moments. I feel into this for all things in life now. Easily, this is the flow of life. Discomfort, growth, pain, and then rest, bliss and presence. Why do we judge one so badly? They’re both essential to the process.
Finally it was time. I pushed, hard, twice, and Marty got Onyx's head out and then finally with one last push the body came out and Marty caught him!! I’ve never felt more relief in my life than that final feeling of pushing him out. Marty brought him up and put him on my chest right away and my little guy looked up at me, covered in vernix and whimpering a little, and I looked up at Tyler, and we all - at that point - were bonded for life. A family of three.
After that it got incredibly quiet. I believe Onyx and I looked at each other in amazement and I just felt like the world just shook and heaved and yet people were going about their daily lives. Nurses were cleaning up and Marty was stitching me. I was just sitting there falling in love with my baby and then I think I coughed and the placenta came out. I remember Marty holding the placenta up for me to see and Sara saying it was such a beautiful placenta. I remember Tyler taking Onyx over to the nurse and the nurse measuring him - 7.5 oz and 51 cm long. I remember a little bit about how he latched on right away and was very alert and ready to suckle and Sara by my side, helping me to do this thing called breastfeeding.
When people say that the moments where you have your children are the best moments of your life, I believe them. It is the unshakeable fact that we are mammal beings that grounds us to this earth and this human experience. We are wild women, heaving our young out and healing their wounds along with our own. We are feral creatures in the moment, dancing to a dance that has been happening for centuries and it truly is our one most primitive task. To pro-create, this is the most physically fascinating thing I’ve experienced. But to feel the soul of this human land in his body, on my chest, ready to face what life brings him, this is the most magical and spiritual experience of my life.
This is the reason we’re here.
I am very much a “mind your own womb” woman, but for me, this experience was the most physically, emotionally and spiritually transformative thing that I have ever done and will do.
My sweet Onyx, you are three now and you’ve captured an entire world around you. You are up down and all around, but you’re ours. We love you and one day I hope you read this and laugh and cry with us.