Monday, February 13, 2012

I am THAT mom

When we came home the answering machine was filled with messages, but we couldn't get the machine to play, so we never heard them. Everyday the mailbox was filled with sympathy cards which I displayed in the living room near a memorial I set up for Aiden.

I tried to get groceries a couple times but would burst into tears in the middle of the store and i would walk out, leaving my cart in an aisle. I eventually got used to crying in public, and at least I could buy groceries for the kids. The first time I made it through the store without crying was a big accomplishment. I hadn't embarrassed myself that day, that was until I got to the checkout line. In front of me was a woman I had gone to high school with, she tried to quietly point me out to her boyfriend and tell him that my son had just died, but I heard what she said. She never said a word to me though. Once again i was crying while unloading my cart full of groceries, but at least this time the people around me knew why.

I remember feeling completely alone, no one understood what I was going through and a lot of people avoided me like I had some terrible contagious disease. They probably just didn't know what to say, but it made me feel very ashamed.

The death of a child causes a lot of guilt and shame. I felt like people were judging me, blaming me. I was the mom no one ever wants to be, I was THAT mom.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Going Home

A week and a half after Aiden's death my husband was released from the hospital. Although I wanted to stay and be taken care of, it was time to move out of my parents basement and go home. Reverend Ling met us at the house and we prayed.

Normally my house was filled with the sounds of children playing, but it was very quiet. We sat in the living room, not knowing what to do. Nobody wanted to go into the room Aiden died in.

The refrigerator was full of rotten food, I had just gone grocery shopping the day before Aiden's death and had stocked up on fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat that I never had a chance to wrap and put in the freezer. We emptied out the refrigerator and my husband, who worked as a cook, found something to make for dinner.

The four of us sat at the kitchen table in silence, I don't think any of us ate. I just played with the food on my plate and occasionally looked over at Aiden's empty highchair next to me.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Happy Birthday in Heaven

August 14, 2009 was Aiden's 1st birthday, seven days after he passed away.

I stood at his grave and thought about how this is so unfair. He should be surrounded by family, eating his first cake, opening presents and playing with balloons.

I thought about all the firsts he will never have, his first steps, first haircut, first bike, first day of school. A whole lifetime of firsts. He never even got to taste ice cream, why the hell didn't I let him lick an ice cream cone! That would have been one more memory of his life I could have had.

There are so many things I should have done, I have so many regrets.

The Investigation

With every death of a child, there is an investigation by Child Protective Services. A CPS worker and a detective interviewed me at the hospital, and the District Attorneys office and sheriffs department were conducting an investigation and searching my house. They removed the crib from the house.

An autopsy was conducted at Lourdes, cause of death was determined to be by asphyxiation in a defective drop side crib. The investigation was closed.

The death of a child causes a tremendous amount of guilt and shame. Although I tried not to worry about the investigation, it was never far from my mind.

The funeral

My father has always been the man you can depend on to step up and take charge. He made all of the funeral arrangements, for which I am grateful, I don't think I could have done any of it myself.

To be honest, I don't remember much from the funeral. There was a lot of sobbing, a lot of hugging and a lot of people. I was hysterical and a complete wreck, and I am sure I embarrassed myself, but I really couldn't care less.

What I do remember though are the friends and family we didn't see that day. If you were at the funeral, thank you, you have no idea how much your presence meant to me. Every once in a while I will look through the book you signed at the funeral home and knowing you cared enough to come is comforting.

Reverend Daniel Ling, from the church I attended as a child officiated, which was very kind of him since I hadn't been to church in years and he had never met me. Burial was in Vestal Hills in a plot owned by my husbands family. I agreed to this site based on the fact that I was offered a plot next to Aiden, also owned by the family. I never heard another word about my plot after the funeral, and at this point it is doubtful i will be buried next to my son.

The last outfit

What do you dress your baby in when he is going to be laying in a casket?

I wasn't satisfied with any of the outfits he already had, so my sister and her husband took me shopping to get the cutest outfit we could find. We looked in a few stores, but I couldn't find anything I liked. Our last stop was at Burlington Coat Factory, it was there that I realized I wasn't going to find the cutest outfit, nothing looks good on a dead baby!

I grabbed the first thing that caught my eye, grey corduroy overalls with a puppy on the front and a blue shirt. I handed it to my sister and asked her to buy it, then burst into tears and ran out to the car.

We stopped at my house on the way back to my parents because I wanted to get some of his favorite toys and a prayer shawl I received while he was in the NICU. I have a feeling the funeral home couldn't bury the toys with Aiden, but I really don't want to know. I prefer to believe he took his toys to heaven.

The loneliest night

I spent the next week and a half living in my parents basement with my children. The house was filled with out of town relatives, but everyone was sleeping. My husband was still in the hospital, so there I sat in the basement, crying, watching my children sleep. It felt like my life had ended and I had no idea what I was supposed to do next.

I have never been much of a drinker, but the refrigerator in the garage was full of Smirnoff Ice. Thankfully my parents computer was in the basement, so I got on facebook to read all the messages people had left me and I updated my status - I don't know what I am supposed to do now, so I guess I will just get drunk. I was desperate for someone to talk to.

A woman I went to school with heard my cry for help and messaged me. We didn't really know each other, but she talked to me all night. Or at least until I was so drunk I couldn't type anymore. I don't know if I ever told her how much it meant to me to have someone to talk to that first night, but hopefully she will know if she reads this.

Turn off the machines

When the ambulance finally arrived, I was taken into a room Wilson Hospital calls their 'consultation room', but I like to call it the closet. The social worker left me alone to get me a drink of water, so I decided to walk out to the empty ER waiting room and wait for her there. Several minutes later the ER Doctor came out and told me there was nothing they could do, and brought me back to the room Aiden was in. He was on a ventilator and someone was doing chest compressions. The Doctor ordered CPR to be stopped to see if Aidens heart would start beating on its own. It didn't. He then said lets see if he breathes on his own, at this point I yelled at the Doctor, asking him who he was trying to kid, and why he was doing this to me. He told the nurse to turn off the machines.

The nurses started removing the IV's and tubes from Aidens body. I told them to get away from him and to give him to me, they wrapped him in a blanket and handed him to me. Everybody left the room except the police officer and I sat down and held Aiden for several hours.

The ER staff contacted my father and within 20 minutes the ER was filled with family. My sister had been in town from Raleigh, my aunt and uncle were visiting from California, my husband was brought to the ER from his hospital room. Everyone was there, but I didn't really notice. I think I was in shock.

The sheriffs deputy stood by me the whole time. I ran into him a few months later and he told me he had also lost a baby in a tragic accident. This call must have been so hard for him, he told me it was one he will never forget.

I was so grateful that he was right there with through everything and I wanted him to know that I appreciated it, so I sent him a card.

Dear Deputy Smith,

I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your help on august 7, 2009. I continue to be tormented by the memories of Aiden's death. Sirens remind me of the drive to the hospital, i remember holding Aiden on the floor begging you to help me.

But with every bad memory of those hours there is a constant presence, you. I am so glad that you were right there next to me through everything. I will never forget you.

Shutdown the ER

Within minutes my street was filled with emergency vehicles and curious neighbors. My children were taken to a neighbors house and I was put in a police car to be taken to the hospital. The ambulance was to be escorted by another police car. The officer I made eye contact with while begging for help drove me to the hospital and stayed with me until I left.

The drive to the hospital was a priority 1, which to my understanding means he can go as fast as he feels is safe. He was visibly upset, screaming out the window for cars to get out of the way. Once on the highway, he calmly told me to get ready to tell the ER doctor Aiden's medical history. So I tried to remember all of the health issues he had at birth which necessitated a 5 week stay in the NICU although he was full term.

We arrived at the ER and were greeted by the ER doctor, physician assistants, nurses and a social worker. I am still surprised how well I communicated his health issues to the Dr. Pulmonary stenosis, aortic coarctation, persistent pulmonary hypertensive disorder, hypoglycemia, tachycardia, jaundice, subcutaneous hematoma and surgery to repair a tongue tie 2 weeks earlier. When I was done listing all the problems he had at birth, the Dr turned to the nurse and told her to shutdown the ER.

The 911 call

In the 2 1/2 years since Aiden's death I have had dozens of nightmares that my children are hurt or in danger and when I try to call 911, I can't. I push the buttons on the phone and either I push the wrong numbers or the phone just doesn't work. A feeling of complete helplessness.

As soon as the 911 operator answered I yelled into the phone, "My baby is dead, get here now!" She asked for my address which I gave her and I told her I lived in Morningside Heights, right next to the jail. She asked me if he was breathing, I said (actually I screamed) no, he is cold and grey and dead! I don't really remember what else I said while on the phone with her, but I know there were alot of "OH MY FUCKING GOD, WHY AREN'T THEY HERE YET, FUCKING HELP ME!"

She did a good job getting me to calm down from time to time so I could start CPR. She told me to cover his mouth and nose with my mouth and blow. My first attempt was unsuccessful and it made a noise like I was blowing on his stomach. She told me to put the phone down and then I was able to do it. The air blew right back out in a very unnatural way. It's hard to describe, but its a sound I will never forget. I continued with chest compressions and breathing while Rosalie sat next to Aiden holding his hand and telling him to wake up. Aaron was in the doorway sobbing.

According to the police report it took the first two BC Sheriffs less than 2 minutes to get to my house, but it felt like forever. The 911 operator told me they were entering the house and I told Aaron to go meet them, but they were already in the hallway. I made eye contact with one of them and yelled "HELP ME!". They entered the room and told me to go out in the living room. One of the officers started CPR and the other carried Rosalie, naked, and set her on the couch, then ran to his car to get his AED.

Rosalie and Aaron sat on the couch in shock watching me scream and sob hysterically. I must have collapsed onto the floor because i remember an officer picking me up off the living room floor and again off my driveway.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

That dreadful morning

I awoke that morning to my phone ringing, it was a nurse from United Health Services where my husband had been a patient for a few days. The phone also awoke my five year old daughter, Rosalie, who was sleeping in my bed that night instead of in the room she shared with her baby brother. She had wet the bed, so I started a bath for her, I said good morning to my oldest who was up early and on the computer already. As I opened the door to Aiden and Rosalie's bedroom I remember thinking to myself that he must have been tired from playing with his cousins at my parents house the night before because he had slept through the night. I expected to go into the room saying "Good Morning Aiden" and be greeted with a huge smile and "I" (hi). What I walked into was my worst nightmare.

As soon as I opened the door and looked in the crib I saw the top of his head wedged between the mattress and side rail, his body hung towards the floor. I dropped the phone, knelt down and pulled the side rail away from Aiden's head. I will never forget how his lifeless body fell to the floor. I yelled "Aiden" and for a brief second I expected to see him lift himself off the floor. When he didn't move, I let out a scream that my children say the whole world could hear, and they will probably never forget. I picked him up off the floor and held him up in front of me. I started screaming, loud enough for my neighbor two houses away to hear me, "NO, NO, NO, OH MY FUCKING GOD HE'S DEAD, MY BABY IS DEAD". I then realized my other two children were in the doorway, Rosalie was just standing there in shock and Aaron was screaming "OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD", he would have collapsed in the hallway if the wall wasn't holding him up. I knew I had to try to remain calm, so I laid Aiden on the floor and grabbed the phone. The nurse from UHS was still on the phone, and I yelled "HELP ME, MY BABY IS DEAD". She said, quick, call 911 and I did.