The Darkest Night of the Year: Losing Gryphon Edmund Quinn-Simmons

The very first thing I bought for our son, Gryphon, was a print for his nursery. It’s made by an acquaintance of mine, Robin Plemmons, and it’s a quote by Frederick Buechner that reads,

 “Here is the World. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”


I hadn’t yet found the right frame for it but I figured I would find something by April. Gryphon wasn’t currently on the outside of my body—he was due to emerge from my uterus at the end of April—April 27th to be exact (though do babies ever arrive on their due date?), so I thought I had time.


Why do I do that? Why do I fall back into the horrible pattern of thinking I have all of this time?


On the darkest longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice, around 8:50 in the evening, in room 900 C at North Fulton, I was given 400 mg of cytotech to begin the process of birthing our son, Gryphon Edmund Quinn-Simmons, at least 12 weeks too early.  It would take 4 more doses and almost another twenty hours before my body finally relented the next afternoon.

“Your body just wasn’t ready to give him up,” the nurses and midwives said, the sadness palpable in everyone’s countenance. All the pain without the beauty of the life after. Gryphon was brought to us wrapped in a blanket and Philip and I sat with him for a time just weeping and remarking over how perfect his little sweet mouth was, and look, his nose is definitely mine. Holding him I could feel my heart straining out of my chest to meet him as I laid him to rest there for a bit.

I feel like I have crochet oven mitts for hands.

Sitting here, writing this, an imaginary mirror appeared to my right, and in my periphery I could see my reflection and my reflection was there: me, crossed legged in my pajamas; pale teal hair standing up everywhichaway; laptop balanced across a mustard yellow IKEA Euro pillow; only, in the reflection, my hands have oven mitts on them.

 My reflection says,

 “It’s from all the pain. You’ve held so much pain in your life, burned so many times from what you had and have to handle, and you evolved a way to survive with it.”

Maybe this is why, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I feel like my hands are huge, like they have swollen to the size of my whole self and I could easily touch the ceiling. Touch the ceiling with my huge oven mitt hands. Maybe that’s why.

 Monday, December 10th, Gryphon had a heart-rate of 144 BPM. He was moving around and Philip and I couldn’t keep the grins off of our faces. Then afterwards, Lynn, the midwife told us that there was an issue with his umbilical cord. “The ultrasound shows that he has a single umbilical artery or a two-vessel cord. We are going to send you to the Fetal Maternal Specialists so that they can take a closer look.”

 Our appointment was December 20th. At 2:15pm. We went.



Coyotes were whimpering, three of them,

Outside my window the last time I think I felt him move.

I think I feel him now even though

Daisy with the beautiful accent said,

“I’m so sorry

I don’t see


Cardiac activity.”

Hands squeezed tight then

Mine inside Philip’s wrapped outside strong

Oceans spilling out of our eyes

Becoming the letter “vee”

The point a waterfall

To soak the fabric of our clothes below.


Here are soundwaves

Visualized for you on the screen

Of a child you will never hear

Of a child you will barely see.


Mia (the midwife I’d never met)

Gives her condolences

From wide brown eyes

Filled with wide deep care

All while wearing a Santa outfit under her medical coat

White pom-poms, like fluffy horns in her dark brown hair.

“I wish I had the right words to say…” she says and

I stare at her Santa boots so black, “sometimes these things happen.”

She cares, I can feel it, but from a long way away.


No activity.


Remember the feeling

Like birds wings

Fluttering on the inside

My bird’s nest

Too early to hatch from.

Much too early to hatch from.


It’s Christmas Eve. The house is quiet but for the sound of Ric Hordinski’s guitar playing “A Little Lower Than The Angels” from Over The Rhine’s “The Darkest Night of The Year”. Check it out. Listen to it with your eyes closed. Then, when you’re done, please do me the honor of listening to the song by Jane Siberry called “Calling All Angels” (and no, it’s not the dumb Train song).


There is so much more I want to say and yet nothing at all at the same time.


Oven mitt hands

Patchwork quilt heart

Reworked and rebuilt

Different from my start, though

Tin Man I am not.


This back and forth motherhood

Leads me to a new blank document

I never saw coming

Because I always think I have time

Why do I do that?

Why do I always think I have time?