I had been waiting to write this post until the autopsy results came in, thinking that how Griffin died would be important to telling the story about his birth, but I’ve come to realize that they are two separate stories. The painful loss of our son was a very distinct part of the beautiful song that was his labour, but the reason behind the loss was not.
The reason his sweet heart stopped beating may never be known to us, but I can never allow the questions of why (or more succinctly, why Griffin? why us?) to prevent me and others from seeing the beauty that he brought to the world. And that includes his birth day.
Craig was away on a course from the time I was 38 weeks until I was a few days overdue, so we weren’t trying to bring on labour before my due date, especially considering how small Emily had been at a week overdue. Most of my pregnancy I had measured right on at every appointment, but for the last few visits, I started measuring a week ahead, which we all attributed to Griffin having a growth spurt (and this seems to be accurate, given his size!).
The morning of Wednesday, August 8th started much like many of our other mornings. Emily had been sleeping badly while Craig was away, and so had ended up in bed with me again at some point during the night. She watched some cartoons on my laptop while I tried to get some extra rest and enjoyed the sensations of Griffin waking up in my belly.
Looking back at it, I can see that my body must have known that labour was eminent, because I could not sit down throughout the day, always finding something to be doing. I cleaned out my car and got the double stroller in the trunk and my diaper bag for-two packed and in the car.
Around 4:30 my mom left with Emily so that Craig and I could spend the evening relaxing once he got back, but as I stood at the end of the walkway and waved them goodbye, I felt the first contraction. I had had occasion contractions from time to time that were just a crampy feeling in my lower abdomen and a pressure in my bum, and this one was exactly the same, so I passed it off as nothing.
But 5 minutes later? The same feeling again, that lasted for a minute. And so they continued.
Craig finally got home at 5:30, and by that time, the contractions had gotten stronger, but the timing was still the same and I could talk right through them. I sent him upstairs so that he could get some sleep IN CASE this was real labour (I still wasn’t believing), but half an hour later, the back labour was starting to get painful enough that I wanted to try getting in the tub in search of some relief.
I consider 6pm to be the time I went into ‘active labour’ although it’s hard to pinpoint with me because I never get contractions that are longer than the 5-1 pattern.
After an hour in the tub, I got out and laid in our bed for a while, trying to find a position that was comfortable and eased the back labour a bit (no dice). Craig needed dinner and I actually volunteered to make him something (HA!) but he decided to go out and pick up a pizza. While he was gone I hummed and hawed and eventually decided to have the midwives paged as the contractions were getting considerably more painful, and hadn’t let up from their pattern at all. She told me later that it was 7:43pm that the page come through. We talked on the phone for a while (even talking through some contractions – my body can be so confusing), and eventually Lilly decided that she would start getting ready and be at our house around 9pm.
Craig and I got the linens on the bed switched over and some of the other labour stuff out, and then he went back downstairs while I tried to relax and breath through contractions upstairs. We tried the hip squeezes for back labour that had been so helpful with Emily, but they did nothing at all this time.
By the time Lilly arrived, my contractions had started to pick up and get closer together, and when she checked me for dilation, I was already 5cm. She got out the doppler to check on Griffin’s heartbeat, but every time she had me lay on my back for a check I’d have another contraction and have to roll on my side. Her doppler also kept shutting off after 10 or 15 seconds, so she tried another set of batteries.
Honestly, after the easy pregnancy I had had and the short amount of labour I had been in, none of us thought the problem could actually be that Griffin had no heartbeat. It had to be something else.
After trying a bit more with the doppler, Lilly checked me again, and I was already 8cm (after maybe 20 minutes had elapsed since the last check), so she said that we had to (or should) go to the hospital for a non stress check, but that we probably wouldn’t make it back to the house in time for a homebirth. No big deal, I just wanted my baby at that point.
We live only a few blocks from the hospital, so we were there in a minute or two, and I was rushed through the ER and hospital in a wheelchair, that Hollywood image of a woman in labour. But that’s where the fairytale stopped.
The fetal monitor at the hospital was only picking up a heart rate of 120bpm, which was likely mine, but it had been a possibility that the baby and I’s heart rates were so close that it couldn’t differentiate them, so they brought in the OB and the ultrasound machine.
A baby’s little heart is always so obvious on ultrasound, a little pulsing black dot, but this time, with my baby? There was nothing, a stillness.
They looked and looked, even breaking my water and putting in a scalp monitor, but there was nothing to pick up.
At that point, the OB turned to us and told us what I already knew. Our baby had died and there was nothing they could do. I rolled over to my side towards Craig and we mourned for our little boy, but in my shock and disbelief, I don’t think I wept then. Slowly, everyone left until it was just Craig and I and our midwife left in the room.
Throughout the monitoring and ultrasound, my contractions had changed to pushing contractions, so when Lilly said that whenever my body was ready I could push him out, I said, “I’m ready”.
I don’t think it was just my body telling me to push. My heart was telling me that there was still hope, still miracles that could happen, and my brain was telling me that that pushing him out was one last thing I could do for him, my final job.
I think the clock read just after 10pm when I started pushing. I was still laying on my side turned towards Craig, so I just pulled up my top leg myself and started pushing. Lilly would hold up my leg between contractions, and after 3 or 4 contractions, his head was out. I had to roll over onto my back so that she could ease his shoulders out, but otherwise, he came out so easily.
But there was no cry. Just a mother trying to rub life into her child in vain.
It may seem strange to some, but I can see God in so many of the moments of Griffin’s birth.
In Craig arriving home earlier than expected.
In the short 4 hour labour I had (compared to the 21 hour labour with Emily).
In the fact that we sent Emily to my mom’s that afternoon.
In the timing of when we found out. We didn’t have wait for hours after learning there was no heartbeat.
In the quiet night at the hospital. We were in our own private bubble with him.
There is more than that relating to the entire situation, but those are the God moments of Griffin’s birth day.
I’ve tried to explain it to people a couple of times, but it’s hard to find the words to explain how your worst day can also be one of the most beautiful. But Griffin made it that way. He was so perfect and beautiful that his birth could have been nothing but. There was nothing to do but embrace him and love on him, knowing that our time with him was short.