A rare photograph of little Levi during the first six weeks of his life

THE Sleep Challenge post for this month is being handed over to my dear friend and mummy blogger Toni. Toni is a SIDS mum and has so graciously agreed to tell the story of her little boy, Levi, to help other mums. Please grab your tissues, hold your babies tight and, if you wish to leave a comment at the end, remember this is an extremely personal story and please be respectful.
 

 

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.
FYBF

Tagged with →  

36 Responses to GUEST POST: A mother’s heartache

  1. Meredith says:

    I love you Toni Laws. XO

  2. Oh Toni. I am sobbing. This is so beautifully written.
    I can’t imagine it. I just can’t.
    My kids slept in my bed as babies.
    I can’t believe it. I am just so sorry …
    Thanks so much for sharing this story.
    It must have been incredibly difficult ..
    Love
    Leanne

  3. Elisha Squire says:

    My heart is aching with sadness – Thank you for sharing your story . xxx

  4. scrappin girl says:

    Toni xxxxxxxxx

  5. Becky says:

    Thank you for sharing xo

  6. Louisa says:

    Toni, thank you so much for sharing this heartbreaking story. I hope someone reads this and it saves a life, though nothing can bring back your boy x

  7. rachel says:

    i really don’t know what to say just (((hugs))) i can barely see the keyboard to type through my tears….
    i have this irrational fear that my boys will be taken from me in the night whilst sleeping and i panic if they sleep even a moment longer than usual – your story shows me that my fear is not so irrational after all.
    bless little levi and bless your family toni xxx

  8. Cherie says:

    🙁 Much love Aunty Toni.. You are an amazing lady.. Ox

  9. Toni says:

    I just want to thank Kellie, for hosting this, and being so supportive and encouraging.
    And I want to thank everyone who’s taken the time to comment as well — I know how hard it is to find the words and I really appreciate each and every comment.

    It’s my fervent wish that no other family should ever have to go through this.

  10. Barb says:

    What an honour to the memory of little Levi. Hugs to you Toni for your bravery in telling your story, here’s hoping to a better understanding of SIDs in our society. x

  11. Caz says:

    Thanks Toni. You are a brave and lovely lady to share this. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it was to walk away from the hospital. Caz

  12. river says:

    Beautiful story Toni. I hadn’t known about Levi before this….
    I have to wonder about the sleeping safely list though.
    I understand their concerns, but what about a baby who won’t sleep at all unless he is on his tummy? I had one of those. Tummy sleeper from day one.

  13. Georgia says:

    Toni,
    Thank you for sharing your story and Levi’s story. Your post has me in tears, I can’t begin to imagine what you have been through. I so admire you for helping others who had lost their babes whilst living the loss of your own. xx

  14. Rochelle says:

    Oh Toni, honey. You are my hero for sharing this story with us.

    I am so pleased that you were able to rise up and carry on with the integrity you have shown by volunteering to help others and sharing your story.

    Thank you for sharing & being the champion you are sweetheart xoxoxo

    Love to you & your family.

    Ro

  15. feli says:

    (((HUGS)) Toni. Thanks for sharing your story. I am reading it at work and I am in tears in my office. Thank goodness there is a door to close.

    Every night i worry about the Lil’ Tiger and SIDS. My partner thinks I am crazy to be worried but your story may change his view. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  16. Mrs Woog says:

    I am writing this with a tear in my eye.

    Thanks for having the strength to share Your and Levi’s story

    xxxxx

  17. Kel says:

    Toni, you are so brave and strong and thank you for sharing your story. I think it shows what a wonderful person you are that you continue to remember Levi and support other families in their time of need.
    I wish you and your family all the best for the future x

  18. nellbe says:

    Oh 🙁 When I was in grade 6 many moons ago my friend at the time lost her little brother to SIDS. I never knew what it was at the time but it always stuck with me. Ever since I have supported the Red Nose fundraising and always will. It is a horrific thing and I hope no family has to go through that again.

    Thanks for sharing your story Tori and hugs for you and your family.

  19. Michelle Harding says:

    Toni,
    My sincere thoughts are with you & your family, you are a wonderful person for sharing your story so that other parents can learn from this.
    May your beautiful little Levi be always watching over you & the family from Above Much Love xxx

  20. Glowless says:

    Oh, Toni, my heart breaks for you. I have visited your site before and seen your lovely scrapbooked pictures.
    I’m always amazed at how our sense of humour kicks in to soften the edges of pain sometimes – my family have very morbid (some would say warped) humours and have made the most inappropriate jokes at times, but it is what gets us through.
    Thank you for sharing your story again.

  21. Wanderlust says:

    Oh Toni, baby. I can’t even imagine how painful that must have been (and must continue to be). I am amazed at your resilience and your compassion for others as shown by your volunteer work and advocacy (through sharing your story) to make sure other parents don’t go through the same loss. I wish I could just wrap you up in the biggest hug. So much love to you, my friend.

    And @ Krafty Max, if you’re not going to read the post, at least have the decency to find out the topic before leaving your spammy cut and paste “follow me” comment. Did that on my post (also a difficult topic) and many other posts I’ve seen. Riles me.

    • Kel says:

      Let’s just say, Kristin, that Krafty Max has now graduated to the trash folder! Spamming on such a topic is extremely disrespectful.

  22. Tracy says:

    Thank you for tissue warning, I needed them. Thank you so much for sharing your story Toni. I can’t imagine the pain you must have gone (and must still go) through. You are incredibly strong, with your volunteering and telling your story to help others. I was always so worried about SIDS with my kids, thankfully there is so much information given about it now. Enormous hugs to you and your family.

  23. Red Nomad OZ says:

    I’ve always bought the Red Nose day products, but I had NO IDEA of the personal impact of this horrifying syndrome. Thanx for sharing this and helping increase awareness and understanding.

  24. KG says:

    Stopping by from Lady Blogger! This story is so touching and so sad. I have a 6 week old baby and I’m constantly worried about SIDS! Im always making sure he’s breathing. It’s really really scary.

  25. Jade says:

    All love to you, Toni.
    This could have been any parent’s story.
    I’m sorry it has to be anyone’s; I’m sorry it’s yours xx

  26. This is such a heart breaking post. I could barely get through it. i am so sorry for the loss you suffered, there must be no greater pain you could experience.
    Thank you for sharing.

  27. Thank you for sharing your story, Toni. It’s so important for others to hear, and I think it’s amazing you were able to give others such great support. Wishing you all the best. xx

  28. Yeran says:

    I’m in a flood of tears right now. My heart aches. I have never been so affected by a blog post before. Big huge hugs Toni. Would it be ok if I share this post?

  29. sarah says:

    I can imagine no worse suffering than losing your child. Crying tears for you thankyou for sharing your story x

  30. Kirsty says:

    What an emotional story – as the mother of a 15 month old this really affected me – thanks for sharing your story and increasing awareness of SIDS.
    Kirsty recently posted..I’m Grateful for…Time-OutMy Profile

  31. What a brave, heart wrenching story, thankyou so much for sharing such an important story n by doing what you are doing, your helping others. One brave lady xx

  32. ally says:

    What an astonishingly brave post. And what a courageous woman you are.
    Thankyou
    ally recently posted..~ what are you? ~My Profile

  33. Kelly Arndt says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I have had two miss-carriages, one after I had been on medication and the pregnancy wasn’t planned. I felt so guilty and found the losses so hard. One I had seen on screen, and having seen the heartbeat, losing that tiny baby was all the more devastating… But I know it can’t compare to losing a baby after six weeks, and I thank you for sharing your story with us, and for trying to warn us on how we can try to avoid the heartache of SIDS. I now have four children, and one in particular, always worried me, because she wouldn’t stay on her back. Almost from day one, she would roll onto her stomach! My doctor told me the main worry is if you placed a baby on it’s stomach and it wasn’t as strong in the neck, he/she may not be able to turn his/her face out to the side. I always made sure that Jorgia’s feet were right at the bottom of the cot, and that her bedding only came up to her upper chest, but still, it kept me awake nights, trying to turn her onto her back and make her stay there!
    Toni, I am so sorry, again, for the loss of your darling, Levi.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge