After a three day hospital stay we were released back into the world to bring up our little rainbow baby, Zoe.  As we arrived home that afternoon, baby in tow, hospital bags in hand, and emotional baggage overflowing, we were greeted by the many smiling faces of our family. It felt so good to be home with Zoe in my arms and her big sisters nearby. I knew Zoe’s big brother Leo was nearby, watching us revel in the joy of new life from his safe place in heaven.

Shortly after arriving at home, we were met by a nice representative who was delivering a monitor to us. We had no idea what was coming as we were just made aware of this option the day we left the hospital. He came into our home, the home that we had meticulously prepared with every safety consideration for Zoe, especially in her crib, her safe haven.  The place where we hoped to never find her dead the way we found her brother who co slept with us. She had absolutely no cords nearby, no crib bumpers, no blankets.  It was perfect. If she were to die of SIDS too, then we could be absolutely sure that we didn’t somehow contribute to a dangerous sleep environment.

The nice man came into our bedroom with a rather large device (larger than we anticipated) and began quickly telling us how to use the sleep apnea monitor that the hospital agreed to pay for over the next three months. I began sweating and felt disconnected from my body. He was asking me questions to make sure I understood him and I kept answering wrong.  I was overwhelmed.  From the second this man said that our daughter would be hooked up to a monitor with a huge cord in her crib, I tuned out.

This monitor, that was supposed to help us know of Zoe was in distress, seemed dangerous to me. A cord in her bed?  What were they thinking?  He went over false alarms, electronic interference, portability, logging activity, you name it, he went over it. This man was very thorough and informative. But I couldn’t imagine endangering Zoe with a cord in her crib. And what if my cell phone was within 10 feet of her, would she get hurt, would we get a false alarm?  I had a full blown melt down.

Everything I thought I had done for Zoe was compromised by this monitor. I cried. I cried hard for about an hour. I was so sad and scared and I was angry that our son died and that my life was so filled with fear. What happened to the joy we reveled in an hour before?

A voice in my head very calmly assured me that the joy was still there. We could try out the monitor for the weekend and if we didn’t like it, we didn’t have to keep using it. I pulled myself together and told my husband that I would give the monitor a try. The monitor was set to go off if Zoe’s heart rate was above 230, below 70, and if no chest expansion occurred for 15 seconds.  I was going to discuss the monitor with Zoe’s pediatrician the next day at her appointment. Part of me felt that I was going overboard with this device.

That night, my family fell asleep, everyone tucked into their own beds, Zoe in her crib right next to my bed.  Around 7am I awoke to the blaring sound of the apnea alarm; it was a single beep which meant it was a heart issue.  I jumped up as fast as I could and picked up Zoe, un-swaddled her, and tried to wake her from her sleep.  I feverishly said prayers that she would wake up while my heart paused, preparing to break all over again.  Then she cried the most beautiful cry I had heard.  We didn’t lose her, but the alarm did sound because her heart rate dropped lower than 70bpm.  The entire family surrounded Zoe’s crib as quickly as I had jumped up.  It was incredible, even our preschoolers were woken up and checked on Zoe.

Our pediatrician reassured us that baby’s heart rate can drop below 70 and still be okay, so long as there is no recurring pattern.  We knew, the moment we jumped out of bed that morning, that we were going to keep this monitor.

So now, as I prepare to return to work and turn in the apnea monitor, I am filled with fear all over again, but this time I wonder how I’ll survive without the monitor!  Parenting after loss can be so scary at times and so spiritually rewarding at other times.  It’s important to live in the moment and try to find the positive that is embedded in our fears and anxieties.

Have you overcome any anxieties that turned out to be gifts?

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