Yes, the time has come to blog about The Thing That Will Not Be Named. OK, fine, I’ll name it: SIDS. I’m tired of having it cause me so much worry, and yet not blog about it.
SIDS has basically terrified me since I was pregnant. Since before, actually. The thing that scares me the most is right there in the name: “sudden.” Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The idea that it strikes babies suddenly, without warning, and then they are just … gone … Yeah, it’s kept me up on more than a few nights, to say the least.
My anxiety about SIDS went into high-gear when Baby Boy was born. He was so unimaginably perfect and fragile and yummy and MINE. But when Darling Husband laid him, all swaddled, in the clear plastic bassinet next to my hospital bed, I felt the nerves starting.
Sure, it was nighttime, and sure, I’d been awake for the entire hellish night before, but I knew right away I couldn’t relax. I couldn’t stop watching him. Making sure his chest was rising and falling. I was convinced that the only way I would sleep was if a nurse was stationed RIGHT THERE to watch him breathe. Unfortunately, they don’t do that — not even in Canada with our super-awesome healthcare.
So I laid there and watched him breathe, and only slept for an hour or two all night. I couldn’t understand how I was expected to sleep, and just … just TRUST that he would be alive when I woke up???
I wish I could say that I relaxed when we took him home from the hospital, and I did … somewhat … but not really. I still obsessively checked his breathing. He slept in the Playard bassinet right next to my bed, but I wouldn’t rest until I could SEE him from a lying-down position. I slept on about three pillows so that I could open my eyes and see him without having to sit up.
Always watching his chest.
Always listening to him breathe.
Always jolting upright if his breathing seemed erratic.
Always touching him lightly if his breathing seemed too quiet.
Always convinced he was too hot.
Always turning on the fan.
Always worrying that sleepers were too warm.
Always touching the back of his neck to see if it was sweaty.
Always pulling blankets far, far away from his face.
After the first month or so, my fear of SIDS eased up a bit. I think it was probably from exhaustion. And getting used to him. And realizing that he wasn’t going to spontaneously combust if I turned my back.
But the fear never went away. It is only in the last month or so, when Baby Boy grew out of the dreaded “SIDS is most likely to happen between 2-4 months of age” zone, that I calmed down a little more about SIDS. I relaxed about letting him sleep on his stomach (because I can’t stop him). He can roll himself over easily now. He is getting bigger and stronger every day. I remind myself that we don’t have any of the risk factors (except stomach-sleeping). I am trying to not let the fear consume me.
Even now, as I type this, Baby Boy is napping in his crib in the next room. I have the baby monitor right here, but it never picks up his breathing noises (even though it’s on the highest sensitivity). His door is shut, because otherwise he wakes up at every little noise, and I can’t open it to check on him or he will wake up immediately and be a cranky mess.
I’m not going to lie — it’s HARD to have him in there, and me out here, wondering and hoping and praying he is OK. I still think about SIDS, and worry about SIDS, and I’m not sure if other mothers do to this extent. It’s getting easier to calm myself down about it, as he gets older and creeps towards the “safe zone” of being one year old, but … it’s just hard.
OK, I just went and checked on him.
I couldn’t help it.
I could feel myself getting chest pains just from writing about it.
He’s still sleeping peacefully … with his fan on … in his lightweight outfit … with no blankets … and no crib bumpers … and nothing else in the crib … etc., etc., etc …
That’s what I hate most about the SIDS fear. It’s that the experts give you a huge list of things to do to help lower the risk, but it could still strike, even if you do everything exactly right. No one knows exactly what causes it. They may never know.
All we can do, as parents, is follow the recommendations, pray that our babies stay safe, and then try to relax about it. I’m still working on the third thing …