It was six o’ clock in the morning, nearing the end of another one of my long shifts at work. I was eagerly waiting for the sun to come out to give me a boost of energy to be able to make it through the last bit of my shift.
Suddenly, I hear slamming on the office window. One of the girls in the house recently had a baby; I saw her expression of fear and shock peeking over the posters taped to the inside of the office windows.
She slams open the door with her newborn infant son in her hands. I take this tiny, helpless baby from her as she is crying and screaming hysterically. Initially, I freeze. This sweet baby boy, who I had been holding to try to put him to sleep less than six hours prior, was lying in my arms, skin turned blue and cold to the touch.
The mother screams at me to do something, anything.
“Don’t you know CPR?!”
At that point my training kicks in and I turn the baby over to start to try to revive him. I hit his back to see if he may have choked on something. I call 911 and try to focus on what the paramedics are telling me, tuning out the screams of bloody murder and hysterical crying of his mother. I place the baby on the floor and attempt mouth to mouth; I barely get in one breath before I am pushed to the side by two large, strong EMTs.
I watch these two men swiftly carry this tiny, beautiful little boy to the ambulance. I am sitting on the floor, mouth wide open, trying to understand what had just happened. I cannot move.
I work as a mental health counselor at a residential crisis care facility for teenage girls, on the overnight shift. It’s true what they say, working the third shift is lonely… you’re the only one awake long after everyone has gone to sleep, and you’re the only one asleep when the sun comes out to play. I am the only staff member at the house from 10 pm till 8 am, and it is my duty and responsibility to watch over and protect the twelve teenage girls who live there while they sleep. I am supposed to be a safe person for them, someone they trust.
The mother’s screams wake up all the other girls in the house. When I am finally able to move again, I look out the office window and see all the other girls sitting in the milieu, lined up on the couch like little birds on a telephone wire.
I remember where I am and somehow pull myself together; I still have a job to do after all. I feel like a circus clown, juggling my attention back and forth between a dozen different individuals all asking me the same questions: “What happened? Are you alright?”.
I talk to my supervisor, the EMTs, the detectives, my coworkers, the girls in the house, the company director. I’m trying to keep my story straight but I’m not even sure I know what that story is. The day staff bursts into the office to relieve me. I fall apart.
SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, is the unexplainable death of a seemingly healthy infant younger than a year old. It is often called crib death, because most infants will be found dead while asleep in their own cribs. I had heard about SIDS and always knew it was a possibility; I just never imagined I would find myself in a situation where it happened.
I know this is not my fault. Nothing could have prevented this. I am trying to understand and I don’t understand and I don’t think I will ever understand. I have been praying to God to give me a reason why, to assuage this feeling of guilt that has seeped down into the marrow of my bones.
Still, how the fuck does this sort of thing happen? And why?
And what the fuck am I supposed to do now?