I fed Jackson his early morning feeding at 5:30am and he went back to sleep.

I was returning to a full-time schedule at my job so I woke him up at 7:30am to “top him off.”

He wasn’t really all that hungry so he nursed a bit but then leaned away from my body and looked up at me. I said, “Are you all through?” and he gave me a big smile. I said, “You just want to play don’t you?” He smiled again and said, “Oooh.” 

I picked him up and propped him up in the boppy on my knees facing me.

I told him the story of the 3 Little Pigs. He loved that story, especially the part where the big bad wolf said, “Little pigs, little pigs come out!” And the little pigs trembled and said “Nooooooooohhh, we’re not gonna come out.”

But, alas I had to get going or I wasn’t going to make it to work until noon! I put him in his blue bouncy seat and threw on some Old Navy jeans, a white sleeveless shirt, a chain belt, and flip flops. 

By the time we got to the sitter’s house, he was sleepy. I waited on the porch after ringing the bell. I turned the carseat to face me, bounced it on my thigh, and admired his little face, and arms, and legs. He was wearing a pale yellow onesy with a beach scene on the chest. I hadn’t put shorts or pants on him. Just white socks.

Dolly answered the door and I carried the car seat to the couch and set it down on the dark brown cushions. I didn’t take him out of his car seat. I could see his eyelids were drooping and he might fall asleep if I didn’t disturb him. 

Oh how I wish I had taken him out, held him one last time, and told him I loved him. 

Ever since that day, I’ve wondered if things would have been different if I had gotten him out of the car seat to play for a while rather than go down for a nap and never wake up again. I’ve also wondered if he might have lived if I had not put socks on him. It was early June. It was probably too hot for socks. Overheating, I learned after the fact, is a factor in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Why on earth did I put socks on him??? Another one of the endless Why’s and What If’s.

In reading about child loss, I learned that all parents feel guilty about their child’s death. The guilt is natural because we think we should have known something was wrong or we should have done something differently … it was our job to take care of our child, and we didn’t do it. Thus no matter the circumstances, we feel guilty.

I also learned 98% of the time, the parent of course, had no way of knowing anything was amiss nor the ability to change their behavior in any way that would alter the outcome. And in the 2% of cases where the parent maybe did do something that may have been a factor, in 99.9% of those cases, the parent was not AWARE of doing harm nor doing anything INTENTIONALLY to cause harm. They may have been uneducated or under-informed on a certain topic (as I was about SIDS) but they didn’t do anything on purpose to cause harm. And therefore the guilt is unfounded. 

Even though I intellectually know I did not cause Jackson’s death or do anything wrong per se, I regret the socks to this day. What I feel isn’t guilt, but it’s not 100% acceptance either.

The mantra I’ve chosen (again and again because guilt always tries to creep back in) is this, “I did the best I could with the information and resources I had at the time.”  

I hope you’ll embrace this mantra too, so you can stop feeling guilty for not predicting or preventing your loved one’s death. Question to ask yourself, “Did I do anything to intentionally hurt my loved one?” Odds are, the answer is no. And you could not have done anything differently to prevent what happened. 

You did the best you could with the resources you had… And a crystal ball wasn’t one of them.

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