My husband, Grant, worked from home that day, wrapping up loose ends before his planned month of paternity leave. Through the morning into the mid-afternoon, he worked downstairs while I enjoyed laboring mostly on my own, in the comfort of our bedroom. At some point, I reached out to Liana and let her know I was in labor. I tried for more info as to the quote I was supposed to read. She said at this point I no longer needed it, nevertheless I was still curious. I jokingly asked her for a page number, because wouldn't that be fastest? She told me to look on page 62. This is what I found:
We both laughed.
I spent the next hour doing this Kundalini Celestial Being meditation complete with chanting and coordinated hand gestures. While this is unlike my typical practice, it was the perfect ritual to call Opal Nyx into this world.
Later, Grant joined me, and I labored with him until the early evening. We were in touch with our doula and our midwife, updating both throughout the day. Because I had been up the entire night before, I felt totally exhausted. I ate all my meals, and even took a very short walk outside, but found I was just too tired and needed to rest. My waves were 7-12 minutes apart for 30-45 seconds. Each one was different, and I hadn't expected them to have their own distinct flavor. I noticed that rest and lying down would slow down my laboring, but I felt physically incapable of doing any more than I was because I needed to preserve my energy. Sometimes the waves would quicken to five minutes apart, and last up to a minute and half or even two minutes, but they remained inconsistent. At around 4pm we finally we asked our doula, Melanie, to come. Not because it felt like we could no longer manage on our own, but because it seemed like it would be helpful to have an extra set of hands. Melanie came at 5pm and immediately took care of us. When she arrived, my body responded and I could feel my labor progress. The surges were stronger and required all my attention as I held her hand and sunk my head into Grant's body.
The sun started to set and night came. The moon was full, another sign my daughter was an earth moonchild connected to the cosmos and born of pure magic. She would fulfill her namesake, Opal Nyx Saltarelli. Opal, derived from the Sanskrit upala, meaning precious stone or gem, and Nyx, a misunderstood Greek goddess of the night portrayed as a "shadowy figure." Her appearances are seldom in mythology, but she is described as a beautiful and powerful figure, who is feared even by Zeus. In our understanding of a world where Good and Evil and Right and Wrong have a prevailing polarity, we have forgotten that all light comes from darkness. To me, Opal Nyx is the embodiment of this Truth and all that it holds - both destruction and creation.
My labor progressed and what started as a bloody show turned into the complete loss of my mucous plug and eventually heavier bleeding. I was going through a pad an hour, then a pad a half hour. We continued to communicate with our midwife Lindsey, who at that point decided to come over and check on Baby. Lindsey arrived close to midnight and found that Baby's heart rate was good. She checked me and I was 8-9cm dilated. What a relief after 18 hours of labor on no sleep! From there, Lindsey slipped into the background making her preparations, and told me to continue whatever I was doing because it was working. The bleeding was simply a result of cervix dilation.
With the help of Grant and Melanie, I labored all over the house: in our bedroom, downstairs in our temporary "birthing center," in the shower, bathroom, on a birth ball, squatting, sitting, side-lying, even using the TRX workout bands that Lindsey had wedged into the door jamb. Mobility was important. A couple hours later Lindsey’s two student midwives, Ashlee and Jennifer, arrived to assist Lindsey and set up the tub. I slipped into the birthing pool where I would be for the next hour and a half. The warm water intensified the contractions but allowed me to rest more deeply between. It was now that I began to push. This phase was a blur. I remember admiring my carefully prepared altar adorned with beeswax candles, my collection of crystals and gems and bells and other sacred objects, and beautifully arranged photos of the women in Opal’s maternal and paternal lineages. The altar honored three generations of women before us, who had done what all mothers throughout time had done. And Grant, Opal and I would not be here without any of them.
photos by Lindsey Meehleis, @lindseymeehleis
The pushing continued for what felt like a very long time. The bag of waters was still intact and at this point I could reach my finger inside and feel the top of the bag and Opal’s head. She was that close. But as they say, labor is two steps forward and one step back. I shuffled along pushing and pushing, feeling her reaching forward into this world and then reconsidering and retracting back. As this dance continued, I watched myself become another person. The noises that came from my body, the grimaces my face made, the way my body writhed and moved as the waves expressed themselves throughout my being. This was the process of me letting go and becoming someone else.