Thursday, 23 May 2013

Worries, Prayers and Lullabies : Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

I am being a tiny bit brave today. I have thought about writing about this topic for a few days but decided against it. I don't do 'serious' topics very well. I feel much more comfortable in the 'humour' category. I want to make people smile. I want to make people happy. I feel a bit out of my depth writing about anything other than trivial. But sometimes you can't quiet your head, and the thoughts trickle down your arms, into your fingers .. and suddenly you're at your keyboard feeling an overwhelming need to say your piece. So here I am. 

Early this week Sudden Infant Death Syndrome dominated the news. It would seem the advice is to not co-sleep with your baby. My Twitter feed was awash with people, much more intelligent than me, explaining that the study was flawed. The general consensus was anger that we are being told what to do or what not to do once again and that the study was misleading and panic causing. 

I am what you would call a worrier. I am the most anxious person you will ever meet. I panic and over dramatise and worry about everything .. and I would worry if there wasn't anything to worry about. I panicked for nine long months about the labour. Because of a previous family tragedy I worried an inordinate amount about my baby being still born. I frantically explained this fear, through tears, to every midwife I met through my 3 day labour and explained to my partner that all I wanted him to say once my baby boy arrived was "he is alright". 

And he was. 

My next thing to worry about was Cot Death. During one of my nights at hospital a lovely nurse came to speak to me in my little curtained off room. I said I was terrified of Cot Death. She gave me a leaflet and in my notes it said "Stephanie is anxious about Cot Death". Well what new parent wouldn't be? I was too scared to even read the leaflet. I knew what it would say. Put baby on his back. Make sure he isn't too hot or too cold. Don't put a hat on them at night or indoors. Don't put cuddly toys in the cot. Put the baby's feet at the bottom of the cot. Make sure they can't wriggle below the blanket. 

A couple of days later our little family came home. My partner and I admired our new arrival in his nursery. We decided to take a few pictures for the archives. We put him in his pretty cot, we put a gorgeous little blue hat on him and a couple of his bears near his head. We took a photo, which was when the maternity support officer arrived. 

Upon entering the room she said:
"You shouldn't have toys in the cot... it can cause cot death"
"You shouldn't have a hat on him indoors... it can cause cot death" 
"It is a little hot in here..which can cause ..." 

We tried to explain we were just taking a photo. 

What she didn't know was that I had given birth on the Thursday and it was Tuesday.. and I had not yet been to sleep. 

I had sat up watching my new baby boy with an overwhelming anxiety ... convinced that if I didn't take my eyes off him he would be ok. She told me I needed to get some rest and I burst into tears explaining to her that I couldn't sleep because I was "too worried he would stop breathing, but that's normal right?" 

"No dear," she said "It's not normal". 

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome scares me more than words can describe. Sometimes I watch the news and I despair. I think how am I meant to protect my boy from all the evil in the world? Maybe we could both stay in here forever. In our comfy room, hiding from the scary world. I could keep him safe then. The idea that something could come into our house,  into our room, and there is nothing I can do to stop it... is truly the most terrifying thought I have ever known. 

Three months on and I do not think I have truly had a deep sleep. I wake up several times in the night to check his chest is bobbing up and down. I try to listen to his sleepy sighs. If I am unsure I will press my palm on his chest and wait for his little arms to jut out in a sleepy shock. I am obsessed with his body temperature at night.. is he too cold? Is the room too hot? Should he be in a vest? Or in more clothes. I co-slept with him many times when I was breast feeding in the first eight weeks but would wake up alert, as if coming out of a nightmare, petrified that I had rolled too close to him.  

I am not intelligent, scientific, well read or knowledgeable enough to comment on SIDS in the way other bloggers might, all I can do is come from a personal position. 

I can only hope that my fears of this heartbreaking syndrome do not affect these precious first months with my baby. I do everything in my power to protect my baby... to follow the guidelines... to be safe... but I know I need to accept that there are things in this world we can not control. We can merely treasure the time we have together and pray that if the worst was to happen, we will have the strength to get through it. 

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