I Lost My Baby To SIDS — Here's My Experience & How I Cope
Bereavement, loneliness, heartache, love, and despair all took on a new meaning in July of 2015. I was a new mom; I had just delivered my son three days prior, and, boy, did I go through the wringer during the pregnancy: My nights were long, my mornings were filled with sickness, and I spent a lot of time wondering if it would get better once the baby came.
But once my son came, I had suffered an unimaginable loss. One that still hurts me, two years later. Here's my story and what has helped me cope.
My experience with childbirth.
On July 22, 2015, I woke up thinking this would be just like any other normal day. I woke up to get my boyfriend up for work at 4:30 a.m. since he regularly slept right through his alarm. I lay back down and suddenly felt a sharp pain in my side. I got in the shower thinking it was just Braxton-Hicks contractions but soon realized that wasn't the case. It was time. From 4:30 a.m. to 4:33 p.m., I experienced every possible emotion and sensation—anxiety, pain, anger—then, at 4:34 p.m., my son was born.
"Are you ready to hold your son?" the doctor asked me as he laid a beautiful baby on my chest.
I just started crying. In that moment, every second of anxiety and fear was worth it because my baby was finally here. It hit me like a ton of bricks.
The day my son passed away.
My stay at the hospital was two days, as I needed blood transfusions due to my anemia. But the day after I went home from the hospital has become a day that will forever haunt my soul. I was awoken around 6 a.m. by my crying newborn baby, who needed to be fed. After feeding him, I put him in the playpen next to our bed, and we all fell back asleep. Nine in the morning rolled around, we had breakfast, and I showered.
After my shower, I put the baby in the swing, so I could clean, and start my schoolwork. Later in the afternoon, I was able to put my attention back on my son—and I played with him until I needed to go to the bathroom. So I got up, put him in his playpen, and went. But at 3:30 p.m., I realized my son was unresponsive. I yelled, "Call 911!" to his grandpa, who had just walked into the house, and I started performing CPR on my newborn baby immediately.
I remember getting tired after around 15 minutes of compressions and having his grandpa take over while I asked the 911 operator, "Will my baby be OK?"
"Ma'am, I cannot tell you an answer to that, but as long as he isn't turning blue, I think he'll be OK," the operator told me.
"He isn't. He's still warm as well," I squealed, as the police officer escorted by three EMTs walked into the bedroom and ushered me out. I jumped in my car and beat the ambulance to the hospital.
At around 6 o'clock, a doctor walked into the room with a few nurses and put his hand on my shoulder. All of a sudden, the hairs on my arms stood up, and I begged him for good news.
"I'm sorry, but we were unable to save your son."
How I coped after the loss.
I will never forget those words. They are imprinted on my mind, and when I think about that moment, my heart sinks all over again. We were escorted from the hospital by a state trooper, who was taking us somewhere to make statements. As we left, a swarm of people surged around us—people from my family, people from the father's family, friends I hadn't seen since high school. I didn't know how they knew. I still don't.
It took a few months to get the autopsy back. When we finally did, we realized no one was to blame. There's nothing we could have done. My son was a victim of sudden infant death syndrome1.
Some days I want to stay in bed and cry. Others, I want to take every adventure and live my life to the fullest. I'm still living on an emotional roller coaster. I might be laughing when something reminds me of my son and I'll just get sad. Certain songs make me feel weak and queasy, but then some days I actually want to listen to them. I'm going to be OK, but I'm just still a little broken.
People always ask me how I stay so strong. The truth is that I don't. There are so many moments when I'm screaming at the sky or acting like the world doesn't exist. Everyone has tough days. That's what death and loss do to someone.
If you know someone who lost a loved one, don't make the mistake of thinking you can't bring up the loved one. People worry about that a lot—with me especially. Losing a child is such a sensitive subject, and people are afraid to mention him.
My response is always, "My son existed. He was here and God needed him in heaven, so he took him back. I am not going to fall apart if you mention him. I won't get angry. I might show you pictures or videos and tell you stories from the time that he was here, but I'll never be upset that you brought him up."
Where I'm at now.
Almost two years later, it affects me differently now. I hurt less, but I think more. So many "what ifs" go through my head, but overall, I'm happy. The thing that has helped me the most was to focus on the positives. I know it's cliché, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. That belief has helped me so much. When my anxiety gets to me, I write or I go for a run. I remember the people who love me are here for me. I remember that somehow, time heals.
Amber Lynn Gillis is currently a student studying criminal justice, based in New Jersey. She enjoys going on cruises, and has aspirations to work for the Department of Homeland Security one day.