My husband and I have lived life on the hilltop, and unfortunately, we have lived life in the lowest of trenches.
Our rapid fall from above was brought on when our son was a mere five-months-old. He laid fast asleep beside me and never woke up. Let’s just say, SIDS freaking sucks.
We all know, the single, most important job as a parent is to keep your child alive. So when you’re unable to do that, you feel like an utter failure — individually as a parent and together as a team.
You go through the why’s, how’s and what if’s on a minute-by-minute basis, trying to make sense of what should have never been.
Since I was co-sleeping with our son at the time of his death (and my husband wasn’t), it was excruciatingly easy for me to blame myself.
During this time, my husband knew my fears, and he didn’t allow my mind to wander into the vast range of dark, unanswered questions that seldom laid dormant.
“Did he suffocate? Was he asphyxiating on breastmilk and I, his own mother, didn’t wake up? Was his nose trapped in his sleep sack?”
Thankfully, my husband rebuked my dreadful way of thinking and redirected me with his reassuring words, “That did not happen. Stop doing this to yourself.”
He would tell me this over and over, until I was convinced enough to give myself a break.
However, as days turned to months, I sadly learned just how lonely a house full of grief can truly be.
Our coping mechanisms couldn’t have been on more opposite sides of the spectrum if I represented the color white, and he represented the color black. Which, in turn, molded us into two completely different people. And, for the first time, we weren’t in this together.
Weekly tiffs escalated into daily brawls, filled with snap backs and low-blows. But nothing could have prepared me for the day when he hurled a bottled-up set of resentful words my way. He screamed, “If it weren’t for you, he would still be alive!”
Ouch, there it is.
I knew this day would come, and here we are. And let me tell you, a butcher knife to my gut would have felt more humane. I’m not one to fall speechless, but this left me flabbergasted.
Doesn’t he know how much I loved and adored that little boy? Doesn’t he know that I replay his last night and final morning over and over, on repeat, desperately searching for a piece to the puzzle that I’m missing?
In our case, I’d have to say the shittiest part about SIDS is the uncertainty. His autopsy showed no visible signs of suffocation, but sadly, this can’t always be detected unless the intent was one of foul-play.
A part of me wanted to hate my husband for snarling this newly-found, resentful monster in my direction, but another part of me undeniably understands.
If our son would have died in anyone else’s care, including my husband’s, I know I’d harbor that same resentment against them. I don’t think I would be able to help it.
Losing a child is something so terribly awful and wrong. Truthfully, you almost need someone to blame, just so your mind can catch a break from trying to make sense of it all.
To this day, my husband and I are left with a life of unanswered “what if’s.” If we allow ourselves to linger through the dark and all-consuming thoughts of what could have happened, it would swallow us whole.
We’ve learned not to obsess over what “might” of been on that morning, because what good does it do for us to obsess? It wouldn’t make our son any less dead, and it wouldn’t make us feel any more alive.
However hard it may be for us to take off our thousand-pound, blame cloaks each morning, we do it. We do it for ourselves and for each other. We do it for our son and our living children. But most importantly, we do it for the couples who aren’t quite where we are yet. How easy would it be for us to throw in the towel, for him to throw in the towel and point the finger at me?
But he doesn’t. For that, I will always love him.
This article was originally published on