I had the opportunity to get one family's story on how a SIDS tragedy stole her eight-month-old son back in the spring of 2011, the day before Easter.
We’ve all heard about it, read about it, maybe even know someone affected by it, or sadly, you’ve lost your own child to this horrible tragedy known as sudden infant death syndrome. SIDS is a diagnosis given when an infant under the age of one dies suddenly and there is no medical explanation for the death; occurring most commonly (90%) between the ages of one to four months, but can occur anytime during the baby’s first year of life.
Charlie was born to Allison and Rob Lee, parents who, by textbook standards, did “everything right” during their first pregnancy. Allison had all of the up-to-date- apps for her iPhone and acquired all of the books related to a healthy pregnancy and delivery; she was packed full of knowledge, ready to bring her first-born into this world with fervor!
Charlie was born via C-section on a heated August day in 2010. Weighing in at six pounds, 11 ounces, he was the epitome of a healthy baby. While still recovering from her delivery, Allison immediately starting breastfeeding her newborn and established a good nursing routine. As her days recovering in the hospital came to an end and she was to be discharged to go home and start her life with her new budding family, Allison recalls the hospital staff reviewing SIDS information with her and her husband: back to sleep is best for baby. The hospital staff also gave her a five-page handout on how to help prevent SIDS from occurring to their child. But sadly, like most mothers who have not been affected by SIDS and have the mindset, “it won’t happen to me, “she never took the information given to her, true to heart.
As the days and sleeplessness nights formed while having a newborn, Allison learned how to care for Charlie like a loving first time mom. Not only did he reach all milestones, but he reached them at record speeds. He was a healthy baby, up to date on all immunizations, never came into contact with cigarette smoke, was breastfed, and yes, was always placed on his back to sleep. But despite all of the Lee’s efforts to protect their baby from a SIDS tragedy, it struck their family; just like 4,500 other families across our nation, just in 2013 alone.
Sadly, the day before Charlie’s first Easter celebration, and cresting eight months of age, he passed away in his home.
When Allison recalls those early days with her son, she of course has gone over every scenario in his short life. What could have gone wrong, she asks herself? She never smoked, she breastfed, she made sure his caregivers (Charlie’s grandparents) were aware and up-to-date on how to care for Charlie and potentially avoiding any catastrophe that could come his way.
Unfortunately, the medical community doesn’t have an answer as to why the Lees lost their son, just like others in their position are left with un-answered questions as well, but the medical experts are constantly striving for more research and most importantly, more preventative measures.
After losing her son, Lee speaks with passion on how important it is that parents put nursery items such as a video/voice monitor and a Snuza Halo (device that sounds off an alarm when your baby stops breathing for longer than 15 seconds)
at the top of their registry list. Mrs. Lee also stresses continuing to educate yourself and all involved in the care of your child regarding SIDS. Such as never using crib bumpers; as cute as they are, can cause a potential suffocation hazard along with pillows, blankets, loose bedding, and any soft toy or object. As well as not smoking during and after pregnancy, giving your child a 50% lower risk of SIDS by immunizing, and a 60% lower risk of dying from SIDS by breastfeeding.
Before Charlie’s death, Allison was aware of SIDS and how to prevent it from taking her own child’s life, but the issue had never been more heightened than it is to this day; with the loss of her own child. Now that Mrs. Lee has collided with SIDS in her own home, with her own child, she is undeniably aware of a mother’s pain, whether it be from a miscarriage, still birth, death at birth, from SIDS, or occurring at any stage of a child’s life; she knows their pain. And she also knows the parents who have lost a child, her and her husband included, want their child’s legacy to be remembered, not forgotten. She implores you to continue to talk about their child, or continue to share with them something that reminded you of their angel. And if you’re close to the parents who lost a child and you don’t know the “right” words to say, just be present for them, be a shoulder to cry on. It’s okay to say nothing. It’s okay to not know the depths of their pain. And it’s okay to cry with and for them.
Allison and her family could tell you research numbers from now until eternity; they’re more than dialed on statistics, but their message is more complex than just data alone. Their message is simple: treasure every moment with your child. Through every cry, diaper change, long sleepless nights, getting peed on, to even getting thrown up on; cherish those moments, because she no longer can. And worried you’ll be “that mom” who takes too many pictures? Allison says to be “that mom”, because that’s all she and her family have left of their sweet angel now, memories and pictures.
Lee recommends a book, How to Help a Grieving Friend by Stephanie Grace Whitson. Other than being a book that was written with raw emotions, it’s a book that helped Allison and her family cope during their loss; helped them know they weren’t alone or worse, crazy with how they were left to grieve their loss.
Despite the grief she feels daily from her son’s loss, Allison and her family continue to carry Charlie’s memory on forever and she sees his remembrance everywhere; whether it’s in his sister Marlie’s smile or in his brother Max’s eyes; Charlie lives on.
There are hundreds of resources for parents, grandparents, and caregivers to learn more about SIDS. Please visit these and other websites alike to learn more and how you can help spread the message of this condition that is grievously taking too many babies each year.