In the year 2000, Good Friday fell on 21st April. I know that because I had a baby that day.
I was booked in to be induced at 37 weeks because I had suffered a still birth the year before, the baby’s heartbeat unaccountably ceasing at 33 weeks. Pregnancy was now very stressful. Fearing the worst might happen again. I’d visited the hospital for numerous check ups, just to make sure.
In fact I’d had 16 extra scans to listen to this baby’s heartbeat and I couldn’t wait for it all to be over safely.
When you’ve had a still born baby, pregnancy is never the same again.
I woke up very early on the morning of the induction and was immediately sick in the bathroom with nerves. I’d never been induced before, had always had the benefit of being taken surprise by labour. Contemplating it in advance, after such loss the year before, was overwhelming.
But when we arrived early at the hospital for the induction, it was pandemonium on the maternity ward – all the spontaneous labours seemed to be happening that morning. They told us we’d have to go home and come back at tea time. I was devastated.
A Good Friday afternoon service was taking place in our church though, so after wandering the town for a while, feeling the heavy weight of anticipation all the more, wondering if the baby would ever be born safely, we decided to slip in at the back just in time for the worship to begin.
It was Holy Communion. The giving of flesh and blood for the life of the world.
I can safely say it’s the only church service I’ve ever sat through during which I entered into the early stages of labour. I didn’t particularly fancy giving birth on a cold church floor, however.
Thankfully it was obviously a very low key start, with nothing progressing much, so although I could barely walk, we reluctantly returned to the car and went home feeling as though it was going to be a very long Good Friday.
Once at home, sleep was welcome, spring sunshine flooding the bedroom – a brief respite in what felt like it could be the longest of days.
By evening we were finally back in hospital and the atmosphere was calmer. Thankfully it looked like my baby was at last going to be born.
I was still in a sort of natural labour, and had been for hours, so it turned out that delivery was mercifully swift and straightforward, the body doing its own work of bringing forth life.
After contractions got properly going, he arrived in just 78 minutes amid wonderful disbelief, crying and rejoicing all mingled. It was such a different experience from the year before. Then there had been only crying.
After the effort of being born, our little boy slept peacefully in the cradle of the quiet evening with no fuss at all whilst everyone around him went mad with relief and jubilation, even our wonderful consultant, who was meant to be on her day off.
He’d arrived. He was safe. Everything was done. Joyous phone calls and alleluias. Good Friday evening ended in a haze of thanksgiving and amazement and we took him home the next day.
And so it was that the very first morning he awoke in his new home was Easter Sunday morning. Resurrection morning.
It had also been a Friday when we found out our other little son was going to be stillborn, as we stared in profound disbelief at an inert heartbeat monitor. A Saturday of the deepest sorrow passed in between and he was delivered early on a Sunday morning.
It’s quite a thing to undergo a crucifixion and a resurrection in childbirth, to lose life and then bring it forth again.
The year before, the vicar had come to bless our still born son and mark him with a cross of water, recalling baptism where we are deeply immersed before we come up again for air. Our son had never taken his first breath, but we believe he went straight into eternal life with his heavenly father.
Then our vicar had gone back to church just in time to lead the morning service. That’s what vicars have to do sometimes.
That our stillborn son was born on a Sunday did not escape notice. Sunday is always resurrection morning – the first day of the week – but sometimes, often, resurrection is delayed.
Between a Friday and a Sunday a lot can happen. Or perhaps it seems that nothing will happen.
It is Good Friday evening. All is quiet in the garden of the tomb, apart from the weeping, which will now linger till Sunday morning…