Continued from last week…
“We could not revive him.” I can still hear those words ringing in my ears, like it was yesterday.
Because of the mysterious circumstances of Jacob’s death, an autopsy was required to rule out foul play. The coroner told me he believed Jacob passed away before the bassinet was knocked over. He suspected one of the toddlers sensed something was wrong and tried to help, but ended up turning Jacob’s bed over on its side.
But, why didn’t Jacob cry? Why didn’t he simply move his head to the side? I asked those questions over and over. The most plausible answer – SIDS, although the death certificate read probable asphyxiation.
The medical examiner later told me Jacob also had a heart defect rare in one so young. He was sure it would have caused my baby much pain and suffering as a teenager. Perhaps his early death was God’s way of keeping all of us from suffering at that point, the examiner surmised. He even asked to take samples of Jacob’s heart for a pediatric cardiologist to study. I was happy to let him, if it meant that perhaps in the future it might help another child.
What is SIDS?
SIDS is a medical disorder that is silent and sudden and can occur in infants who seem perfectly healthy. It’s often called “crib death” because of its association with the sleeping child.
SIDS is the leading cause of death in babies from 1 month to one year of age. Most SIDS’ deaths occur between one month and four months of age with 90 percent of the deaths happening before six months.
Statistics show boys are slightly more likely to die from SIDS than girls.
Thankfully, SIDS numbers in the U.S. have been declining since 1994 due to the increase in safe sleeping guidelines presented to new mothers and fathers through hospitals and local health departments and parenting groups.
Visit the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at www.safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov to learn more about the best safe sleeping environment for your newborn. The site has a plethora of information, handouts, sleeping diagrams.
In many ways I still live with the sadness of my SIDS story, but I overcame it, too, with a new perspective on what really matters in life. At that moment, I knew the amount of money I made or the car I drove, the company I kept, or the house I lived in didn’t matter. What truly mattered was how I would live going forward to make my life worth the pain I experienced – to make Jacob proud of me.
I knew healing would only come to my heart if I made a conscious effort to do good, inspired, things. I knew I wanted to be remembered as kind, loving, happy, and gentle. I never wanted the pain to keep me down or drive me to bitterness and loneliness.
So, here I am 24 years later, happy as can be. I have six kids, a wonderful husband, a job tailor-made for me, and multiple communities I love. I still cry; sometimes I cry a lot, but not like it was at first.
I can still smell my baby, and see him. I remember how happy he was the last day I dropped him off at daycare. Perhaps he was happy because he knew he was going home. Who knows.
I do know the memory of our loved ones is the greatest legacy they can have. Live every day to make them proud. Live like it’s your last day to do good. Live the way you want to be remembered.
Let’s bring awareness to SIDS every day, not just in October, because one more baby dying in its sleep is one more too many.
• Stephanie Bell is Executive Director of Pierce County Family Connection.