I’ve been thinking a lot about “my story” and how I could articulate it in a way that isn’t just the sad reality of a SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) loss. The more I thought about it, the more I reminded myself that my story isn’t only filled with sadness, loss, grief, fear, confusion, “what if’s”, “should haves”, and “would haves”; my story is filled with love, hope, faith, trust, community, renewal, and regrowth.

Angela1stpost

 

In 2013 I was a mother to two beautiful daughters and was soon to be the mother to our family’s third and final baby, our first son, Leo. After a long pregnancy with a bit more than the normal aches and pains, Leo came into this world, on my birthday, no less. He was born alarmingly purple and silent. I had no idea what was happening but what I could see, scared me. I watched the doctor as she unwrapped the cord from my son’s neck. I saw the looks on my husband’s and mom’s faces, and I wondered, in fleeting disbelief, if we had just lost our son. Blessedly, he began crying softly and I heard relief in the doctor’s voice as she confirmed to the nurse that the cord had been tightly wrapped around Leo’s neck three times. I returned to my usual post-partum happiness and began celebrating our son’s life as we had planned.

 

I had no idea that, in less than one month, I would be introduced to an entire community of mothers and fathers whose fate was not the same as ours at birth. I knew little to nothing about stillbirth. I didn’t know yet how lucky we were that our son took a breath of life, when so many others didn’t. I just went on living in my innocent world where babies were born healthy and outlived their parents.

 

On April 10th, 2013, my husband and I celebrated the chaos, the love, the happiness, that was our little family. We were married 9 years, had great careers, a purpose in life, wonderful friends, and three gorgeous and vivacious children under age three. As I nursed little Leo back to sleep around 11pm that night, I remember thinking how happy I was and how truly blessed I was to be living my life. I dozed off to sleep with Leo in my arms and my husband took him from me and cuddled him in our bed. He didn’t want me to drop the baby or accidentally smother him.

 

Early the next morning, around 1:30am, my husband awoke with Leo in his arms, but Leo wouldn’t wake up. We called 9-1-1, I began assessing and performing CPR on Leo and within two minutes EMT’s arrived at our house. As all of this happened, our girls lay tucked in their beds, sleeping soundly. EMT’s whisked Leo off to the hospital as my husband and I underwent some very serious questioning by local police officers. It dawned on us that we were being investigated for our son’s condition. We had no idea whether or not he was alive nor were we allowed to go to the hospital with him. Whatever it was, we had complete faith that the doctors could fix what was wrong with Leo.

 

A few hours later, we were allowed to go to the hospital to hear how Leo was doing. We were holding onto our innocent belief that everything would be okay. The police stayed at our house collecting evidence as our parents arrived to watch over our daughters who were still sleeping. Fear and sadness welled up inside me as we were escorted into a little room off to the side of the ER. There was a box of tissues, a phone, and a giant painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the wall. I knew we were going to get bad news but I didn’t think that it would be the news that we actually received. After a few minutes sitting with a nurse, who didn’t say much, the ER Doctor came in, sat next to my husband and me, and gave us the worst news we never could have imagined. He said, “We tried everything we could to help your son, we worked on him for 45 minutes, but I’m sorry to tell you that your son expired.”

 

Suddenly, our perfectly planned life was catapulted onto another path that we knew nothing about. Our hearts were filled with every emotion you could name. We went through that first week without Leo, still under investigation, and with no answers as to why our perfectly healthy 26 day old son passed away. We would later be cleared of any suspicion and learned that it was SIDS that claimed our son’s life, which isn’t much of an answer.

 

Through this intense and confusing sadness we were comforted by hundreds of loving people from all over our community. People would come to our door just to ask if they could pray for us, they brought us meals, flowers, they kept us company, helped us prepare Leo’s funeral, watched our daughters, cleaned our house, you name it, they did it. We hadn’t asked for any of it and yet, there they were. I knew then, that God was showing me how kind, gentle, and loving the world can be. In the face of our devastating loss, we were being filled with love and lifted up by our community. I began to connect with the loss community and learned how often babies don’t make it, how lucky we were to have 26 days with Leo, 3 years with our daughters, 31 years myself! A whole world opened up to me and I was connected so deeply to other mothers and fathers who knew my sadness without having to explain it.

 

Hours turned to days, days to weeks, and in June, my family took another blow. My 67 year old father passed away in his sleep unexpectedly. With our grief compounded, it took all we had to keep moving along through life, counting on God to show us the way. We learned that we didn’t have the control we thought we did. We did everything right for our son and he died anyway. How do you get past that? How do you move forward in life and trust that your other children won’t suffer the same fate? We didn’t have answers, just trust. So we kept putting one foot in front of the other in search of peace.

 

In January 2014, 9 months after Leo passed away, we found out that we were expecting again. We knew in our hearts that we wanted to have three living children and were excited and terrified at the same time. At 15 weeks gestation, we learned that we were having a baby girl. Again, we were torn. We didn’t know if we could handle having a living son after all we had been through with Leo but we also didn’t know if we could handle not having one. Alas, the choice was not ours to make.

 

As my pregnancy has progressed, I’ve become more entrenched in the loss community, have shared my anxieties, my blessings, my lack of direction or understanding, with some of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. I am continuously blessed and educated by all of your stories which empowers me to continue to share mine.

 

Our daughter, Zoe Pearl, is due at the end of this month. I am honored to share my journey with you, messy as I know it will be, as I navigate my way through parenting a rainbow after a SIDS loss.

 

Today, I stand before the world, a wife, a mother to two living daughters, a mother to our son in Heaven, pregnant with our third daughter who we deeply hope and trust will outlive us. My “perfect” life lies buried at the cemetery with our son and through the love of our community both in San Diego and online, my life; my broken, shattered, worn down life, somehow feels perfectly mine all over again. I find myself a little more with each step I take and with each second that ticks by, I’m closer to seeing Leo again.

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