Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Story: The Funeral

On Thursday my Dad, Sisters, Jamel, and his girlfriend met Mike and I at the funeral home. I was wearing a pair of Mike's sweatpants and tennis shoes, I had no make-up on, and my hair was in a messy ponytail. I didn't care what I looked like, it took all the energy I had to even take a shower that morning. The funeral director led us into a small room with an oval table that not all of us could fit around so some of us had to tuck away in corners of the room. He told us that Olivia would be arriving anytime, but I still hadn't heard from the medical examiner.

The first thing he wanted us to do was pick out the plot. He pulled out a map of the cemetery and explained the cost of each area, the benefits, and the availability. I just remember being amazed at all of the different options and prices. This was the money I thought I would be spending on Olivia's schooling or wedding, not her grave site. I kept telling him that I didn't want anything fancy, I didn't want a funeral, I didn't want this to be sad, and that I just wanted close family to say goodbye and be done with it. I mean, how do you have a funeral for an 11 month old who's biggest accomplishment was patty cake? I knew inside that I was being ridiculous, but it was how I felt. No one should have to plan a funeral after something so traumatic... you're just not in your right mind.

The director drove Jamel, Mike, Chelsea, and I around the cemetery so we could physically see the spots and I chose a plot halfway up the hill next to a tree. It would be an easy spot for people to remember when they came to visit. Then we went went back inside the room to discuss headstones and I chose one that had a baby rocking in a tree. The medical examiner called during the process and told us that she didn't find anything, that it would more than likely be ruled as SIDS, and that the detective would call me once the case was closed and everything was finalized. The last thing we needed to decide on was the casket. They had two options. The first casket made everyone break into tears. It was shaped like a regular casket and when you opened it, it was covered in bright pink silk. I don't know who would be able to bury their child in something like that. I chose a more simple rectangular casket that looked more like a bassinet. We were there for over 8 hours so I had plenty of time to think, and by the end of the day I had decided that Olivia deserved a proper service and burial. 

After everything was planned and we were free to go, I thought it would be a good idea to stop by my place real quick to grab some things since we were so close. Mike went in first and removed everything that was hers. Her highchair, rocking chair, books, photos, clothes, anything that I would see that would make me think of her, and put it in her room. It was as hard as I had thought it would be going into that house so I grabbed what I could see, fed the cat, and got out as fast as I could. We were hungry so we went out for dinner. It was the worst experience of my life. Everyone around us was happy and going on with life like nothing had happened. Families were playing and feeding their little ones, and I just wanted to go up to them and tell them how lucky they were and to appreciate every moment with their kids. Mike and I felt like we were in a dream.

The morning of the funeral was an okay day. I was actually excited to see Olivia one last time. I had made a beautiful video of her for the viewing, and had watched it enough times that it shouldn't make me cry anymore. My friends and my family had come from Utah and that had helped, and I wanted to dress up. It was the most normal I had felt in a while.

The funeral home did a great job at making her look beautiful. She was wearing the dress I had bought her for Easter and the turquoise cardigan I had bought the night before she passed away. She had a pink bow in her hair, and was holding her favorite doll (her bath time baby). She was surrounded by a few of her favorite toys and some of my favorite pictures of her. The DVD was playing in the background. So many people came. People who I had just met, people who I had known for a while, and people who had come from other states. I can't even explain how much the support meant to me and helped me get through that moment. The hardest part was closing the casket. I couldn't breath, my knees wouldn't hold up, and I just remember my Dad holding me up and crying in his arms. My Baby. Jamel and I rode together in the backseat of the car. Olivia was in between us. The bishop said a few words and then my Dad dedicated the grave.

As we were leaving, I felt relieved. That past few days had been horrible. We had been reuniting with friends and family, having dinners, and going about life while Olivia was in a room somewhere with someone doing who knows what. I finally knew where she was, what was happening to her, and that I could visit anytime I wanted. I could finally leave town without feeling like we were leaving her alone.

Someone had mentioned in a conspiracy theory about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that one of the parents wasn't acting like someone who lost a child should be acting. He said that he was caught smiling on camera and that there was just no way a parent would smile after losing their child. It made me really annoyed. No one knows how they would act in that situation until it happens. Before Olivia passed away I had thought about what I would do if something ever happened to her. I thought that I would kill myself, never get out of bed, or cry until I died. That's not real life. When something like this happens, especially unexpected like this, you do the opposite. At first you're in shock, then disbelief and denial, then the friends come around to distract you and keep you happy. The first week after Olivia passed away was all business... I was going through the motions entertaining family and planning a funeral. It was after the family and friends had left and Mike had gone back to work that I actually realized what had happened. That's when the grieving really began.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Story: Day Two

After leaving the hospital, My family and I headed to Mikes house. There was no way I could go home and I honestly thought I would never be able to step into my house again. Mike ran to the store for some food, his Mom came by, and everyone just sat around not sure what to say or what to do. No one could really eat either. There were a few phone calls that I knew I had to make, the hardest would be the phone call to my younger brother Skyler; he lived with us from September to February to watch Olivia for me and she just adored him. I knew he would be heartbroken, and I wasn't ready to say those words. It was so weird, but I didn't want anyone to know... I don't know if it was the questions I would get, or the attention, or because I didn't want people to have to go through the pain.

I called Skyler first, then my Mom, Aunt Charlotte, and sent out some texts to my closest friends and other family. I may have had Mike make some phone calls too, I'm not sure. Posting to Facebook was the hardest, it took me two days to say anything, but people were starting to find out and I knew I needed to say something. The love and support was immediate and overwhelming, SO overwhelming that I just got to reading some of the last emails and comments a few months ago! The words of encouragement and friendship meant so much, even though most were hundreds of miles away. My family left and then it was just Mike and I. I didn't want to sleep because I was afraid that I would see her face and then wake up to find that she was really gone, but I was so exhausted. I remember laying on the couch in Mike's arms and just crying myself to sleep, and I left the TV on all night just in case I woke up... it would distract me from any bad thoughts and I would be able to go back to sleep.

The next morning I woke up and went downstairs. This was usually when I would feed Olivia on the couch, just the two of us, while the rest of the world slept. I couldn't help but wonder where she was. When my Grandparents passed away it was really hard, they had raised me, but I knew they were in Heaven and it was their time to go. Losing a child is not that easy, faith wasn't easy. I needed to know for sure that she was okay and I needed to know where she was. I found myself questioning everything that I had ever known. What I knew for sure was that her body was with the medical examiner and that they would be performing the autopsy today. Would they find something? Would we get answers? Do I want answers? What if it was something I had done? Was it something she ate? Was it her ear infection medicine? I could never live with myself if I knew that I could have prevented it. I played the week over and over in my head looking for symptoms or signs that something was wrong... something I didn't see, but there was nothing.

I needed a distraction so I found the pamphlets I had gotten from the hospital and started searching for funeral homes. Did I want one to be close where I could visit her often but would pass frequently or far away, out of sight out of mind, unless I chose to think about it. I settled on a funeral home on a hill near my home, and made an appointment for the next morning. I knew I would have regretted not having her near me.

That's all I remember about that day. I'm sure that Mike and I lounged around the house, and I remember getting a lot of flowers. I asked my family to meet us at the funeral home, and invited Jamel. I still couldn't stand the thought of going home so I asked my sister to pack some of her things for me to borrow. I called the medical examiner a few times, but had no answer, they kept postponing the autopsy. There was nothing I could do but wait... for answers, for this to be over, and for my heart to stop hurting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Story: The initial shock

I'm going to start my story with the night before Olivia passed away. It seems like the date that I always remember is March 13th, the night before, not the day she passed away. I picked her up after work and went to Target to find her an outfit for our family pictures that we had scheduled for the upcoming weekend. She was tired and the last thing she wanted to do was go shopping so I quickly found a cute white shirt, some jeans, and a turquoise cardigan. As I pulled into my complex Mike called, but I asked if I could call him back since we had just gotten home and I wanted some cuddle time with Livvy before I put her down for bed. I tried kissing and cuddling her, but she was so independent and wanted to play instead. I sang our little goodnight song and put her to bed.

The next morning was like any other morning. I tried to get ready while she tried to get my attention. We were running late and things were crazy like always. On the way to work I heard the song 'You're gonna miss this' on the radio and posted it to my Facebook page. It was a cute little song about living in the moment and enjoying the craziness, and I thought it was fitting for our morning. I met her Father in the mall parking lot, our usual meet-up place, handed her over quickly,  blew her a kiss and headed to work. I went to McDonald's for lunch and got a kids meal so I could get Olivia one of the My Little Pony toys and was so excited to see what her reaction would be when I gave it to her. As I pulled back into the parking lot at work my phone rang, it was Jamel. I almost didn't answer it since I needed to get back to work but as a Mom, had no choice.

It still takes my breath away when I think of that call. All I heard was sirens and Jamel crying. He couldn't tell me what was going on and I just remember screaming 'What's going on? Where's Olivia?' Finally he spoke the words that 'She isn't breathing, he checked up on her during a nap and she wasn't breathing, they were on the way to the hospital.' I remember dropping my phone to my side and pacing, I couldn't believe this was happening. I knew that I shouldn't drive, and I was at least 30 minutes away. She was going to be okay though, she was on the way to the hospital, they paramedics were with her, there was no way she wasn't going to make it. I put the phone back to my ear and asked him where they were taking her. He told me and I told him to call me as soon as they knew anything, I was on my way. I ran inside my building hysterical. My boss was on a phone call in the lobby and I told her that my baby wasn't breathing and I had to go. I ran back outside and called Mike to come get me.

While I was waiting in my car crying, my boss came outside and asked me if I needed a ride to the hospital. I told her that Mike was on his way. She took me back inside the building, got me some water, and assured me that everything would be okay. I felt like I was in a nightmare. I tried having a conversation with her and tried taking my mind off of what was going on, but I couldn't focus. I knew how serious this was and I had heard of SIDS, there was no way she was going to be okay. Mike picked me up after about 15 minutes and I knew she was gone. No one had called me, it had to be bad news. I called Jamel but there was no answer so I called again. When he answered, all I heard was crying and I just started screaming at him to tell me, tell me she's gone, tell me she's okay, tell me anything! Then a man got on the phone. He introduced himself as the doctor and told me that he was sorry. They had tried everything, she was warm when she got there, but there was nothing they could do, she was already gone. I asked him 'How? How? She's a healthy 11 month old, this doesn't happen to healthy babies and she had reached 6 months!' All he could tell me is that sometimes this happens to healthy babies and he was sorry.

I hung up the phone, closed my eyes, and bawled. There was no way this was happening to me... it was a dream and I was going to wake up. Mike was crying and I was worried that we weren't going to make it to the hospital okay, and I really didn't care. If I died I wouldn't care, I would be with my baby. I called my Dad and asked him to meet us at the hospital. 

When we pulled up I was numb. I got out of the car and couldn't walk, I dropped to my knees and Mike and I cried in the parking lot for a few minutes. When we finally pulled it together enough to get to the ER I was in shock... I looked around at all the people. No one knew the kind of pain I was in, everyone else was going about their day just the way I had that morning with no worries, and they would go home and see there kids. Why was this happening to me? It couldn't be. I still kept thinking that I was going to walk through those doors and Olivia was going to be there. Maybe they had found some way on our drive there to bring her back.

We were met by an older woman. She gave me her condolences and I knew that Livvy was really gone. I told her that I didn't want to see Jamel. I was so angry at him and I didn't know what I would do if I saw him. He was with Olivia, so she took us to a small family room in the back and then went to get the doctor. I remember sitting there shaking, I couldn't cry anymore, and my shock had turned to pure anger. I remember seeing the doctor, but I can't remember anything he said, just that they tried. Someone else came into the room to talk to us, but I can't remember who that was either. They brought us a platter of food and some water but I had no appetite. Then the paramedic came in. He had explained that they got there and she was warm, explained some things that they tried (I can't remember any of them), and then he asked if I wanted to see her. I had thought about it up to this point, but if I saw her it would be real. I was so scared. I was afraid that she would be hooked up to machines and I didn't want that to be my last image of her. I was afraid that she would be cold and hard and wouldn't feel like my baby. I was still in so much shock that I really couldn't think. I asked him if she looked and felt like my baby, and that I wasn't sure, but him and Mike told me that I would regret it later if I didn't see her, and he told me that they would wrap her up in a blanket for me.

The police and detectives took Jamel into another room for questioning, so the paramedic led Mike and I into the room where Olivia was. Livvy was swaddled in a blanket on the table. She looked so tiny. I picked her up and held her for a minute, and they were right, I would have regretted it if I hadn't. It was so impersonal though, the detective and paramedic stayed in the room with us and after a few minutes I was very uncomfortable and asked to leave the room. When we stepped outside my family was there, and we all went back into the small room. I don't think I stopped shaking for hours. They wouldn't let us leave until we had met with the detectives, I was questioned by myself about every detail of Olivia's life, and then given pamphlets about planning a funeral and how to cope. Funeral? I just wanted to go home, sleep, and wake up from this nightmare.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Baby products that claim to prevent SIDS

As soon as I found out I was pregnant with Jet people immediately started talking to me about SIDS monitors and products that claim to prevent SIDS. I went back and forth over whether or not I wanted to try any of these products. I was unaware before Olivia passed away that some of these products even existed, such as the SIDS baby monitor and sleep apnea monitor, and because Olivia wasn't in my care when she passed away doctors hadn't even mentioned them to me. After doing some research online, talking to doctors, and even a paramedic who had responded to SIDS cases, I decided that a SIDS monitor wasn't for me.

SIDS monitors are not regulated by the FDA and to have the claim that they prevent SIDS, they need to be regulated. The FDA has never approved a product to prevent SIDS and is asking companies to stop marketing their products with these claims until they have received FDA clearance or approval. The FDA has said "These products are absolutely not necessary and they can be very dangerous". I have also read many stories from parents about SIDS monitors that have false alarms and it's more stress than it's worth, being woken up many times in the night thinking that your infant has stopped breathing. The paramedic I spoke to told me (and I learned in my CPR/First Aid class) that once a child has stopped breathing for the amount of time it takes the SIDS baby monitor to alert you, the child will most likely not be able to be resuscitated, and if they are they will have brain damage.

Other products to watch for are baby sleep positioners. I had bought one when I was pregnant with Olivia because it claimed to prevent SIDS only to find out that 13 infant deaths in the past 13 years had been caused by sleep positioners.

For more detailed information on statistics and what the FDA is saying about these products see the FDA website.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Preventing SIDS

Yesterday, I wrote about the SIDS age range and gave some tips on how to prevent incidences of SIDS in older babies. Today, I want to discuss SIDS prevention for infants ages 1-12 months. Again, there is no 100% way to prevent SIDS, but there is a lot that you can do to lower your baby's risk. Since parents have been practicing the following steps, the SIDS rate has dropped 50%.

Put your Baby on his back to sleep - A babies risk is very high if they are sleeping on their stomach or back. These positions put the babies face in the mattress making it harder to breathe. If you're worried about your baby spitting up or choking, it is very rare and can happen if the child is on their stomach as well. Usually babies will swallow or cough up liquids automatically, but if you're still concerned, talk to your doctor about elevating your infants head.

Make sure anyone who watches your baby puts your child down to slip on their back. Don't assume everyone knows that these can lead to SIDS.

Once your baby is old enough to roll over onto their stomachs to sleep, let them. It's good to let your child choose their own sleeping position.

Use a firm mattress - Always lay your baby down to sleep on a firm surface. All baby needs is a fitted sheet - don't put pillows, blankets, comforters, stuffed toys, or bumpers in you infants crib.

If you're concerned about the safety of your mattress contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission - 800-638-2772 or

Don't smoke around Baby - Babies born to Mothers who smoked while pregnant die from SIDS three times more often than those who's Mothers do not smoke. Secondhand smoke has also increases the chance of SIDS. Don't let anyone smoke around your Baby.

Do not let Baby sleep in your bed - I have spoken to so many parents in the past year who let their infant sleep in their bed, and they will shrug it off and say 'I know it's bad, but....'. I get it... I never thought this would happen to my family either, but it does happen and it's SO important that your infant sleeps alone in a bassinet next to your bed or in his crib alone.

Breastfeed - Breastfeeding can lower the risk of SIDS by 50%, though experts aren't sure why. Many think that breastmilk may protect Babies from infections that lead to SIDS.

Immunize your Baby - Evidence shows that babies who are immunized have a 50% less chance of dying of SIDS than Babies who are not immunized.

Consider using a pacifier to put your Baby to sleep - Again, researchers aren't sure why pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS but it does. Don't force your Baby to take the pacifier if he doesn't want it and don't put it back in his mouth once he/she has fallen asleep.

Don't overheat your Baby - Dress your Baby in light, comfortable clothes and try to keep the temperature between 60-70 degrees. If you're worried that your Baby might be cold, use a Halo Sleepsack Swaddle sleeper sack.

Beware of items that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS - Most of these items aren't proven safe or effective. SIDS monitoring devices can go off for any reason and will cause more stress and worry than not having one.  (I will go over SIDS monitors in more detail in another post)

Don't give honey to a child less than 1 year old - Honey can lead to botulism. Botulism and the bacteria that causes it have been linked to SIDS.

If you ever have any questions about the safety and health of your infant, please contact your Pediatrician.

Friday, January 18, 2013

SIDS Age Range

When can you stop worrying about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? I had thought that the SIDS age range was from birth to 6 months. I never worried about it too much... I knew basic causes and believed that it would never happen to me. I do remember breathing a sigh of relief at 6 months because at that point I couldn't prevent her from rolling herself over and it was nice to know that now she would be safe, and I was happy to finally start putting a blanket on her in our cold house and letting her sleep with her Teddy. The crib was plenty big and she could get up and move if she couldn't breathe right?

Actually, the SIDS age range is 1-12 months. Babies between the ages of 2-4 months are most at risk, and 90 percent of SIDS cases are under the age of 6 months. Still, 1.3 deaths of 100,000 children aged 12 months or older die for unknown reasons. It is SO important that you continue taking measures to prevent SIDS up to 12 months, and even longer to be safe. Olivia was very mobile. She kicked off blankets when she was hot, I would put her down on one side of the crib and she would wake up on the other, and she go from back-sleeping to tummy sleeping, but she wasn't able to recognize when she couldn't breathe.

I know that it's hard to use some of the prevention tips once your child is older but here are a few steps you continue taking once your baby becomes mobile:

-Use a firm crib mattress. Softer mattresses may cause your child to sink, therefore making it hard for them to breathe

-Don't overheat your baby with too much clothing or an overly hot room. 60-70 degrees is a good range.

-Keep pillows, fluffy blankets, comforters, stuffed animals, and other soft objects out of the crib. There are so many Breathable Baby Mesh Bumper you can choose from, and you can use a blanket sleeper like this one Halo Fleece Sleepsack Swaddle Set - Pink to keep them warm.

-Never allow people to smoke around your baby

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What if my child likes to sleep on his/her tummy?

As a new Mom I had no idea what I was getting myself into when it came to lost sleep. The first week was easy. As most parents know, newborns will sleep ANYWHERE through ANYTHING, but after the first couple of weeks that stops and you're left with this restless, screaming baby, who just doesn't want to sleep. Olivia had really bad tummy issues up until about 3 months. I was up every couple hours with her and it would take at least an hour to get her to go back down; as a single working mom I would have done ANYTHING to get her to go to and stay asleep. I know how hard it can be to lose a ton of sleep and still have to function the next day.

It has been proven that babies cry less when placed on their tummies to sleep. It will calm them easier, and they are less likely to wake up during the night. Tempting right? Before you give in, check out the table below: 

Cries more
Wakes more
Harder to arouse
More likely to over-heat
Re-breaths more
Increases carbon dioxide
Has more apnea
Spits up more
More likely to choke
Greater risk of SIDS death

* Changing concepts of sudden infant death syndrome: implications for infant sleeping environment and sleep position. American Academy of Pediatrics. Task Force on Infant Sleep Position and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Pediatrics 2000 Mar;105(3 Pt 1):650-656.

Still tempted? As you can see that while placing your child on their tummy to sleep can be good for your sanity, it's definitely not worth the risk! It has been proven that belly sleep has up to 12.9 times the risk of death as back sleep. This is the easiest and most effective way to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. Please share and help educate new parents and caretakers. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Help end SIDS!

When my daughter passed away of SIDS in March of 2012 I was shocked to see how little research had been done to find out the causes and what we can do to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. The most horrifying and confusing words I have ever heard in my life came from the doctor at Kaiser that day when I asked how something like this could have happened to a perfectly healthy 11 month old baby. All he could tell me was that 'Sometimes this happens, even to healthy babies.' That's it, that's all I got. I hoped that by searching online I would find more answers, there were none. It turns out that my baby WAS placed in a playpen with pillows and blankets which may explain the reason her life was cut short, but what about the 6 month rule? Shouldn't she have been safe? Throughout my research I found that SIDS can take the life of children up to 2 years of age, some even older. It can also happen to children who are sleeping on their backs with no pillows or blankets in sight. How does this happen? And why isn't there more research being done to find answers? Please see the message below from Mark Peterzell, the SIDS institute chairman.

Because of efforts by the Institute and other organizations, the sudden infant death rate is at an all time low. Since 1983, the rate of SIDS has fallen by over 50 percent. Sadly, there are still about 2,500 deaths per year in the United States, and thousands more throughout the world.
We believe that within our lifetime, we can eliminate SIDS as a cause of infant death, but only with the financial and personal support of corporations, foundations and concerned individuals. There are many ways institutions and individuals can contribute to this effort which are available through the Institute's website or through its office. Please join us in this fight. The death of even one more infant is intolerable! Together we can end the tragedy of SIDS.

- Mark Peterzell, SIDS institute chairman

There are so many parents who are unaware of SIDS and how to prevent it, including the people who were watching my daughter that day. There is absolutely no reason that children should lose their lives because of something that may be so easy to prevent, if only the word could more easily be spread. It is my goal for 2013 to spread the word about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and to raise the funds needed to end this tragedy. 

Please help by sharing this with your friends and family, and if you can, you can donate to SIDS research by clicking on the following links:

Make a donation or Shop to fight SIDS