I am revising my memoir about having a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder and sharing deleted scenes here on the blog. If you are a mom who is currently struggling, please know that you are not alone. You did not bring this upon yourself. You can and will make a full recovery.
According to my baby books, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome claims the lives of 1,500 infants every year in the United States.
In 2013, the year Pippa was born, there were 3.93 million births in the U.S.
Math never was my strong suit, but I knew that given when and where I lived, it would be incredibly unlucky to lose a baby to SIDs.
SIDs still scared the shit out of me.
I thought about it every night when Pippa fell asleep and then I thought about it again in the morning when she awoke – we had cheated the SIDs reaper once again; we were one day closer to Pippa’s first birthday when the threat of sudden inexplicable death would dissipate.
In my crusade against SIDs, I declared that Pippa must sleep in the master bedroom, end of discussion.
A cradle was stationed in our bedroom next to our closet, which has large wooden sliding doors. If Pippa was in her cradle, the closet doors had to be closed. Otherwise, something might fall out during the night, land on top of Pippa, and smother her.
If the closet door was open even an inch, it tormented me until I got out of bed to close it – even if the screech of the closet door might wake the sleeping baby.
My closet fears were a bit, shall we say, irrational. We had lived in our house for several years and one of the sliding closet doors was often open, sometimes all night. Sometimes a shirt or dress fell off its hangar and landed on top of the shoes, but the clothes and shoes always stayed inside the closet.
My anxiety inspired some creative thinking.
There could be an earthquake! Strong enough to give the clothes enough momentum to fly from the closet, but weak enough so that Nathan and I kept sleeping. If the tectonic plates shifted just so… and we were at the right place in our sleep cycles…
It could happen.
A psychopath might break into our house, tiptoe into the bedroom, remove a shirt from its hangar, and drape it over Pippa. The psychopath would have to choose our house… and would have to sneak past me, Nathan and a sleeping baby…
It could happen.
The closet could suffer an infrastructure malfunction, and the pole that supported the hangers could collapse, and a shirt could fall on Pippa. The wooden pole would have to break silently, but in a way that sent clothing flying through the air …
It could happen.
If I could have positioned Pippa’s cradle away from the closet, I would have – but I had evaluated all the dangers and selected the safest spot in the house for my baby’s cradle.
A foot to the left, and the television might fall over and kill her.
A foot to the right, and Pippa could be lacerated by shattered glass if a suicidal squirrel leapt through the window.
A foot forward, and she was too close to the blankets on the bed, which could creep towards the cradle and engulf Pippa at 3 a.m.
A foot backwards, and she was too far from me – if a kidnapper slipped into our room, I might not hear my baby being lifted away. She would be sold to a cult in Australia and killed by dingoes.
I debated with myself whether or not we should lock ourselves into the bedroom. A locked door might deter a kidnapper but it might also delay a fireman from rescuing Pippa if our house was on fire and Nathan and I were unconscious…. but firemen have axes, and kidnappers don’t (too noisy), so the door was locked.
I checked Pippa again and again during the night.
She slept in pajamas and a sleep sack, a wearable blanket with armholes and a zipper in front, and I constantly checked these articles to make sure they were not covering her mouth or nose. Adjustments were often necessary at 3 a.m. (And 3:01 a.m. And 3:03 a.m. And 3:07 a.m.)
I would climb out of bed and tug the fabric of her pajamas away from her face. Assured that Pippa was not in danger of being smothered, I would get back into bed, only to crawl back out thirty seconds later.
What if, when I turned away from Pippa, I had caused a disturbance in the air that made the sleep sack flap over her face? Or maybe, when I had leaned over to kiss her forehead, I had accidentally disrupted the fabric of her pajamas. I had to check her again, or she would die.
Sometimes I checked her seven or eight times before I could force myself to stay in bed.
Then I would get up again to make sure she was still breathing, that her heart was still beating. I strained my eyes in the dark to see the rise and fall of her chest. I placed a hand over the soft spot on her head where I could feel her pulse. Then I leaned close so I could hear her breathing. Sometimes, if these methods had not assured me enough, I poked Pippa until she stirred a little.
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