In today’s episode of Always Andy’s Mom, we go international for the first time. My guest is Eddie’s mum, Jennifer from the UK. Jennifer reached out to me over Twitter last month. It is her goal, as well as mine, to help change society by removing the stigma of talking about child and infant death. We, as grievers, need support from everyone around us and only by spreading the message far and wide can we hope to achieve this goal.
Imagine for just a second being new, first-time parents of a happy, growing baby. As new parents, you tried to prepare for everything. You spent hours decorating the nursery, picking the perfect name, buying cute baby clothes, deciding whether or not to find out the sex of the baby before delivery. Initially, you may watch them closely, making sure they are really still breathing, but after time, the worry fades. Your baby is happy, healthy, and growing so fast you can hardly believe it. Then, without any warning whatsoever, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) snatches your baby, and the happy, full life that you had known is completely destroyed.
For today’s guest, Jennifer, that nightmare is exactly what happened to her and her husband, Chris, when their 3 month old son, Eddie, died. They were crushed and completely devastated. Their very identity was shaken. They went from a happy family of three back to a couple again, an unhappy couple who just wanted to know how this could happen to them. Soon after Eddie’s death, they even started a charity in their home country of the UK, which they called Teddy’s Wish, in order to fund research in the study and prevention of SIDS deaths.
One hundred years ago, parents may have worried about their infant surviving to see their first birthday since one out of ten children did not reach this milestone, but now, that is not something that worries us. Parents may hear about SIDS, but we assure ourselves that if we take enough precautions and make sure we do ‘back-to-sleep’ that this will not happen to us. We can protect our babies from accidents, and modern medicine will protect them from illness. They will grow up to be healthy and happy.
Jennifer and Chris, and thousands of parents around the world, know that this is not always true. These are parents who have had babies die before birth, during birth or in the months afterward in ways that could not have been predicted or prevented. Aside from their research goal, Teddy’s Wish now has another focus. It offers support for all of those devastated and hurting parents. It offers retreats and other services to bring these families together. We may not yet be able to answer the ‘how’ or ‘why’ questions, but being able to live in community with others who have experienced the same type of loss can be so comforting.