imageAaaaaah, Friday the 13th. The day that promises to be unlucky, cursed, jinxed, and filled with superstition. I used to wonder if pregnancy was a 9-month series of Friday the thirteenths.

When people find out you’re pregnant, they are compelled by an obnoxious unknown force that somehow convinces them that the story they’re about to share is completely appropriate and that you’d benefit from hearing it. Everyone has their old wives tale to tell, their horror story that they promise is so rare it couldn’t ever happen to you, the legend of their sister’s husband’s co-worker’s wife who had a near-death birthing experience but is “perfectly fine” now, and news of some family they heard of in a far away city who lost their baby to SIDS.

2013 promised to be the best year of my life. People were abuzz with superstitious talk, going as far as to say that people were waiting to get married or have kids because the unlucky year ended in the cursed number 13. It was too late for me, though, I was already 6-months pregnant with my third child by the time the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve.

I remember telling people that I wasn’t superstitious and that I was ready to kick 2013’s butt. I had my beautiful boy on my birthday that year. He was perfect, he was the final member of the Riggs family, he completed us, or so we thought. That blasted number 13 reared its ugly head and the best year of my life quickly became the worst. On April 11, 2013, at only 26 days old, we lost our precious boy to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

I don’t know how I survived that year, or the next, or even this week, but 2013 had won. All of those crazy stories of superstitious tales and bad luck filled my mind and flooded my heart with guilt and grief. If I hadn’t raised my hands above my head during pregnancy maybe Leo wouldn’t have been born with the cord around his neck. If I hadn’t taken antibiotics in my first trimester for strep throat, maybe he wouldn’t have potentially developed a theorized undetected brain stem abnormality that the leading research says might be the cause of the underlying SIDS vulnerability. If I had followed the ABC’s of safe sleep, maybe he would be here today.

Somewhere between parental guilt, post traumatic stress disorder, grief, pregnancy hormones that still raged through my system, and those damn pregnancy horror stories swirling around me like a tornado, I blamed myself.

I should have…
I could have…
I wish I would have….
I wish I hadn’t….

And the worst of all; What if?

Furiously searching the Internet for answers, researching SIDS, opportunities to get involved in furthering SIDS research, support groups, legal information on why child protective services was involved, compassion training for police officers, safe sleep, back to sleep campaign, the difference between SIDS and suffocation, the difference between SIDS and SUID, sudden unexplained death of a child (what!?), sudden unexplained death of an adult (will I ever feel safe again?!), ABC’s of safe sleep, what is heaven like. The searches were endless.

More often than I care to recall, I was faced with pure ignorance, which I refer to as “innocence”. “All of my kids co-slept with us and they were just fine” (consider yourself lucky, not better than me at co-sleeping), “SIDS is just a nice way of telling parents their baby suffocated” (not true, by the way!), “SIDS still happens?” (Really? It’s not smallpox, yes! It happens), “Oh, well, I breastfeed my babies to prevent SIDS” (that’s just another myth, my son was exclusively breastfed and SIDS has not been proven preventable).

Somewhere along the way these seemingly benign superstitions, curses, and tales turned into a horrible inner dialogue leading me to self destructive overeating and leading the lucky “innocent” people who don’t know what child loss feels like, who can’t empathize or don’t know how to show compassion, to feel an inflated sense of security when it comes to infant or child mortality.

Just because it hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean you’re an expert at prevention. Loss is harder than anyone could ever accurately convey in words. Let’s remember how fragile life is and let us be gentle and not dog pile on those suffering from loss.  Our guilt is already off the charts without all of these wild tales filling our heads

Life happens when reality and compassion intersect. I hope your reality is filled with love and compassion because, God knows, in our community – the loss community, we already feel enough pain.

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