I could write a book about how wonderful my son Redford (Redd) was. He only lived for seven weeks but those were the seven best weeks of my life. From the moment he was placed in my arms, I knew I could never let him go. He completed my life…my soul, and with him in my arms, I felt like I had it all, like I was finally living out my “happily ever after.” Redd and I shared a special, intense bond which was unique and different from the bonds I shared with my other three sons. Redd had the sweetest disposition and eyes that could light up the world. They were the biggest steel blue eyes anyone had ever seen. I often caught him staring up at me with his big bright eyes, just beaming at me with adoration. The feeling was mutual. I wish I could put into words the power he had over me. He spent the majority of his life, cradled in my arms, receiving cuddles and never ending kisses. Ours was the greatest love story ever told.
But then one day, everything suddenly changed. Our story would take a drastic turn and our happily every after would come to a screeching half. Never did I imagine that my perfect, bright eyed, sweet baby boy would lie dead in my arms. But, this is not where Redd’s story ends, this is where his story actually begins.
On the morning of May 29, 2016, Redd woke up for his routine morning feeding. He ate well and I cuddled him for about an hour before he fell asleep in my arms. I put him down flat on his back for his morning nap. Soon after he had fallen asleep, his twin brother, River, woke up crying uncontrollably. I left the bedroom to feed River in our living room, to keep him from waking up Redd. When I left Redd, he was sleeping peacefully. He was safe and sound. There was no reason for me to believe that he was in any kind of danger. I wasn’t gone too long from Redd, but when I cam back into the room, I was horrified to discover that my perfect, seven week old baby was no longer on his back, he was lying face down on the mattress. My heart stopped, I knew at that moment he was gone. When I turned him over he was discolored and limp. All I could do was hold him tightly in my arms and scream. My husband, Rayne, tried desperately to revive him, everything from mouth to mouth, to CPR but when I held my precious baby to my chest, I could feel his little soul was gone. A mother knows her child best; I felt a part of myself die the very moment my son left me.
The days and weeks that followed Redd’s death were an absolute living hell. My husband and I were shattered and felt completely gutted. The pain from Redd’s loss was, hands down, the worst possible pain a human being could every suffer. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to live without Redd and I even resented the fact that the unbearable pain did not kill me and I was forced to live on without him. Our family didn’t know how we would ever be able to find a way out of the darkness. What we did know was that we would never be normal again.
Nothing made sense anymore. We couldn’t grasp how such a happy, healthy baby could have been ripped away from us so suddenly and without any warning. All we could do was wait and hope for an answer, a logical explanation for how we could lose such a perfect little person.
WE waited four long months before we received our son’s autopsy report. We would have accepted any answer other than SIDS. We just wanted to know what had happened? Where did we go wrong? Because SIDS couldn’t possibly happen to people like us….we had four boys, we were veteran parents, we knew what we were doing. We always put our kids down on their backs to sleep. We were extra cautious. There were no bumpers in our kid’s cribs, no blankets to get tangled up in, no risks whatsoever. But SIDS still happened to us. When we finally received the autopsy report, it simply read “Cause of Death: Undetermined”. We knew that in California that meant SIDS. There were no underlying conditions. Our son was a perfect, healthy baby….who just died. That’s all there was to it.
Every hope and desperate need for an answer was squashed. For us, “Undetermined” meant that we would be denied from having any closure—forever haunted by questions regarding his death and the never ending “what if” and “if only.” To say we were CRUSHED is an understatement. WE FELT SO RIPPED OFF. A wave of grief so big crashed over me, knocking me down, sending me into a complete tailspin all the way back to day 1, that hell day… the day my baby died. Everything we had gone through, everything we had been put through…all the incisions they made into Redd’s perfect little body, and the accusatory questioning we had undergone (in order to be ruled out as suspects in his death) all of the hell—it all felt like it was for nothing. A “nothing” answer, just “Undetermined”. That’s all we had to work with in trying to move forward.
I recall a Public Health Nurse who came to our home a week after Redd had died and she tried to give me SIDS literature which I abruptly refused. My denial wouldn’t allow it. I turned away from everyone who even tried to bring up SIDS to me. It wasn’t until that week we received Redd’s autopsy report that I said the word SIDS out loud. I got a call from a grief counselor whom I’d become close with. I told her Redd’s death was labeled undetermined. “Now what?” I asked, to which she compassionately replied, “Now you get moved and placed under the SIDS umbrella. I never though I’d be there, nor do I particularly like being there, but I’m finding that there are so many other people with similar stories of heartbreak and loss; thousands and thousands of people and we all unfortunately share this same, huge umbrella. Under this umbrella, I found my life purpose and am now committed more than ever to SIDS research, raising SIDS awareness and helping other SIDS families. And finally, it was under this umbrella that I discovered the GUILD, where I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing, wonderful people. Through the GUILD I was able to find refuge and a safe place where I could connect with others. The GUILD had been a beacon of light for me and my husband. It was because of the love and support that I received from the GUILDMembers that I was able to take my first step forward in the healing process and have begun to navigate my way out of the darkness.
Today Redford would be 11 months old, and though his life was brief, he continues to profoundly touch people who hear his story. I find it so amazing how one little person can have the biggest impact on so many lives. It’s a pretty powerful thing. Few people in this world have that kind of power…and Redd is one of them. I am SO proud of my son. He will always be incredibly important to me—his life mattered. It’s ironic how
this tiny baby, who never even got the chance to utter a single word, will now have the biggest voice through me. I will continue to keep talking about Redd. I will continue to keep spreading his story. I will raise awareness on his behalf, for he did not die in vain. As long as I live, as long as I breathe, with every beat of my heart, he will not be forgotten.
The Guild for Infant Survival Orange County is here to help....
Please call us at