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Posts Tagged ‘sudden infant death

 

Water Ripples

Unintended Consequences Ripple Through Our Lives

As parents, we make choices hundreds of times a day.  We make them for ourselves and for our children.  We try to be good role models.  We try to be knowledgeable on issues about our children’s lives.  But, this is a complicated world and it’s hard to keep up.

 

Even though we try our best, the Law of Unintended Consequences can still come up to bite us in the butt.  What is the Law of Unintended Consequences?  Well, that’s when we can’t see far enough ahead or around the corners of our decisions –when the intended solution actually makes the problem worse.

 

Parenting decisions are full of these unintended consequences.  I recently talked with a mom who said, “We put bumpers in our baby’s bed.  We felt like such rebels!”  Her feeling was that she was protecting her baby from the bumps and bruises of hitting his head on the crib or having his arms and legs become entangled in the slats.  She had been told by her physician that a bare crib was best but that advice didn’t feel comfortable to her.  Bumpers are cute.  Bumpers are soft.  Bumpers make a baby’s world more comfortable and they wouldn’t sell them if they weren’t safe.  Would they?

 

In short, she felt she was being protective of her baby boy.  She was being a better mom by providing him a comfortable, well-padded sleep place –until she discovered him dead in his crib with his face pressed up against those bumpers.

 

The Law of Unintended Consequences – A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended, such as when a decision has a perverse outcome that causes the opposite to what was intended.

 

Unintended consequences happen frequently in our lives.   When the American Academy of Pediatrics first stated that babies could sleep on either their backs or their sides they could not predict that a whole new industry of unsafe products called “Sleep Positioners” would develop.  Later, when doctors encouraged parents to only place babies on their backs to sleep, no one could have predicted that many parents would follow that advice so closely that babies started developing flat heads and developmental delays.

 

As parents, we grow, we learn, we gain experience and hopefully, we get lucky enough not to be seriously bitten by the Law of Unintended Consequences.

She’s had 18 years to get ready for this day. She should be past the tears, she cries some anyway. Bogguss, Suzy, “Letting Go “

I thought I'd be ready.

18 years. What a milestone. High School graduation. Prom. College Visits. What might have been?

No matter how long it’s been, we don’t forget. Grief can still crash like waves. It is all the more surprising when a particularly vicious wave crashes upon you. Although the years have gone by, it still hurts. 18 years. Who would have believed it was possible to survive 18 years without my precious baby?

Does it still hurt as much as it did in the beginning? I don’t think so, but I’m not entirely sure. It still hurts. Perhaps I’ve grown accustomed to the pain. I think that I’ve learned a large variety of coping skills that I can pull out of my bag of tricks when I’m having a bad day. My family and I are certainly not in the depths of depression and single minded sadness that occurred when our baby died. The sadness is more like a deep, soulful sigh.

Don’t get me wrong. There is laughter and hope. We’ve learned so many wonderful things along this journey of grief. I believe that our daughter sprinkles gifts in our path to help us keep moving forward. We’ve picked up many gifts along the way. As we walk down the path, we continue to search in the quiet places for all the delightful gifts that she has left. I am certain, that sometimes, I’m hurrying too fast and I miss a few. That makes the gifts that I’ve discovered all the more precious.

When my daughter died, I felt that I had lost all control of my life. But, the very first gift that my daughter gave me was the realization that I can control the grace and dignity with which I handle this devastating loss. I can choose to be sad or to be hopeful. I can choose to wallow in my grief or to honor her memory with good works.

Part of the grief journey has been keeping up with the evolution of the diagnosis of SIDS. In 1991, SIDS was a complete mystery and every parent’s worst nightmare. Then the arrival of the Back to Sleep program and the increasing number of risk reduction techniques. Wow! I did many of things wrong. Am I responsible for her death? Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I did nothing more than love my child. I did the best that I knew how at the time.

With each new theory, I have to revaluate my position. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda. In the end, I still come back to the same place. I simply loved my baby. There is peace in that belief.

There are few opportunities to talk about her. Some of our friends and acquaintances don’t even know that we have had a child die. Once the years have gone by, how exactly do you introduce the subject? Do I introduce myself as a SIDS parent? “Hi, my name is _______ and I’m the mother of a baby that died?”

At some point, the information became a quiet treasure that I share only when I chose. I’ve reached the point of being comfortable with the “How many children do you have?” question. Sometimes, I have 3 children. Sometimes I have two. And sometimes, just for fun, I have six! What does it really matter how many children you have to the person standing at the bus stop with you?

The first time I only counted my live children, I was certain that the earth would open up and I would be swallowed whole. Surprisingly, nothing happened. Since then, I’ve become more and more comfortable giving what ever answer I feel like today. It’s very liberating. It’s become my little joke that only my daughter and me share.

18 years! I think instead of crying this year, I’ll celebrate. Who would have believed that I’d make it this far? I’m happy, hopeful and healthy. My children have grown up knowing that they are God’s most precious gifts to me. I will continue to grow my dead child along with my live children. They all will live in my heart together.

As a parent, do you feel like you just can’t get it right?  You just can’t keep up with all the changes in child rearing practices?  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) actually makes a practice of reviewing the safe sleep guidelines every 5  years or so so that their recommendations can keep up with the latest trends and products.

Since the AAP recommended all babies should be placed on their backs to sleep in 1992, deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome have declined dramatically. But sleep-related deaths from other causes, including suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia, have increased. In an updated policy statement, the AAP is expanding its guidelines on safe sleep for babies, with additional information for parents on creating a safe environment for their babies to sleep. Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP explains how parents can help their babies sleep safely in a video.

The current recommendations:

  • Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time.
  • Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
  • The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing).
  • Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, and bumper pads.
  • Wedges and positioners should not be used.
  • Pregnant woman should receive regular prenatal care.
  • Don’t smoke during pregnancy or after birth.
  • Breastfeeding is recommended.
  • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  • Avoid covering the infant’s head or overheating.
  • Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations.
  • Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development and minimize the occurrence of positional plagiocephaly (flat heads).
The best thing about these guidelines is that they continue to be easy for parents and caregivers to do.  These guidelines can actually decrease the amount of money that you might spend by reducing the number of products in the baby’s crib.  Remember, that you need to share these guidelines with anyone who cares for your baby.

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