Afterwards, visit her wonderful blog Chick Chat where she blogs about being a mum, books and anything else she might tell you over coffee. To read more about Levi, visit Angel Scraps, a blog dedicated to inspiring others to scrapbook after losing a loved one.
Now here’s Toni’s story:
What do you do when you see a stall selling Red Nose Day products? I used to be one of ‘those’ parents who would turn away. I just didn’t want to know about it (you’d be surprised how many people hurry by, looking the other way)
Back in 1996, I knew nothing about SIDS. I thought it was the same thing as suffocation and I didn’t personally know anyone who’d lost a child to SIDS. But on July 22nd, my son Levi and I became statistics. He was one of 23 babies to die of SIDS in WA that year. One of 212 in Australia. One of 26 in July, 1996.
It happened like this…
I put him to bed as usual, but very warmly dressed. It was a cold day and the house was draughty, so I had him in my bed, on his tummy, on a sheepskin and with a doona tucked over him. Far too warm, far too covered… but I didn’t know that.
He `slept’ for much longer than usual and, eventually, I went in to pick him up. I really needed to go into town with my friend and get milk and bread. It was school holidays and the bigger kids were eating me out of house and home. Just a normal day.
Until I opened my door and saw he was way down, completely under the covers. I felt my scalp start to prickle and I threw the doona back. I could see right away that he wasn’t right. He was very pale and looked like a little wax doll.
My heart stopped. I scooped him up and he just flopped in my hands. For the tiniest of seconds I thought to myself “No! He’s just playing a trick on me!” but, of course, he wasn’t. I ran out of the house screaming, jumped into my friend’s car and we drove away with me frantically trying to resuscitate him. Although, in my heart of hearts, I knew it was already too late.
I remember briefly thinking, “Oh my GOD, I just left all the kids alone in the house!” but then I dropped that thought; there was only room in my head for what was happening with my 48 day old baby.
We got to the closest medical help, a doctors’ surgery, and I burst in yelling “Someone get me some help! NOW!”. Four doctors who were having their lunch, poor things, came running over and took him from me. They whisked him away and I followed them. I had to see what was happening. A nurse tried to have me come away, but I promised her I wouldn’t get in the way, and she let me stay.
I watched as those four doctors tried frantically to revive him, until at last one of them came over to tell me there was nothing they could do. I knew anyway. He was gone when I picked him up.
We were taken into another room to wait for the police to arrive. They were two young officers, who’d never had to deal with anything like this before and you could tell they were really shaken by what had happened. As for me, I felt like I’d fallen into some horrible B-grade movie. Things were dream-like and surreal and at the same time so very, very real and immediate. I didn’t know what to do.
I was being asked all kinds of questions that I couldn’t answer and there were no proper thoughts in my head, only this great loud bell, clanging “MY BABY IS DEAD! MY BABY IS ACTUALLY DEAD!”
After what felt like years, we were told we could go to the hospital with him (to the morgue, though no one actually said that word out loud.) So my friend drove us and I held Levi on my lap. We joked about what would happen if a policeman pulled us over for not having the baby in a carseat. Funny how your sense of humour kicks in at the worst of times. There were people everywhere, walking about in town, enjoying the afternoon sunshine and we were driving past them, with a dead baby in the car. Weirdest experience of my life.
When we got to hospital, we were met by my midwife. She was completely devastated, but so professional. She organised to take photos of Levi, which I didn’t want to do (not because I didn’t want photos, but because I didn’t have the mental energy to think about it) so she took charge and did them herself. Thank God she did, because not ONE of the photos I had taken of him in the past six weeks turned out, thanks to a faulty camera. So those are almost the only photos I have of him. Ironic, much?
We were able to sit with him until I was ready to leave. It was dark when I finally started to think I should really get home to the other kids (a friend had gone to the house to sit with them). So, after a lot of crying, kissing and cuddling, I handed my baby back to my midwife and left the hospital, with empty arms.
About a year later, I contacted SIDS and Kids in WA and met, for the first time, a bunch of other parents and the most wonderful team of `counsellors’ who gave me the ray of hope I’d been looking for. I’m absolutely certain they were the biggest help in healing my heart – just being able to share with a bunch of people who knew exactly what I was going through and feeling ‘normal’ for the first time.
Through them, I started doing phone support, attending meetings, workshops, and even speaking to emergency responders, midwives and parent groups. I loved doing the volunteer work and only gave it up when I fell pregnant in 2001. I felt it was just too hard for grieving parents to be faced with a pregnant woman.
SIDS and Kids has been running the Safe Sleeping Campaign since 1991. In that time, the incidence of SIDS in Australia has dropped by almost 90%. The recommendations they make have been backed by many years and untold millions of dollars in research by experts all over the world.
This is what they say:
How to Sleep your Baby Safely:
1. Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side
2. Sleep baby with face uncovered (no doonas, pillows, lambs wool, bumpers or soft toys)
3. Avoid exposing babies to tobacco smoke before birth and after
4. Provide a safe sleeping environment (safe cot, safe mattress, safe bedding)
5. Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping environment next to the parent’s bed for the first six to 12 months of life.
If you have any questions or concerns about any of these five practices, phone your local SIDS office on 1300 308 307. They’ll be only too happy to talk to you.
Please – don’t end up as another statistic.
This post is part of FlogYoBlog Friday. Please visit Where’s My Glow? for more inspiring stories.