I realized that I haven’t written for a while here… it was during my reflective pause in writing that my sweet boy Patrick, just days after taking his first steps, crossed the Rainbow Bridge in his dreams and slipped gently into the stars at the age of 14 months & four days. I had never heard of Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) before that night and had been fairly convinced SIDS was for babies 3 months and under who had suffocated. I learned differently two weeks ago, and my life is forever changed.
|Our last picture together. Rest in peace, my angel.
Patrick James Doyle 12/04/11 – 2/08/13
There has been such an outpouring of love in so many forms… I feel nearly as stunned by the response as I do by the source. There was nothing, nothing, nothing wrong with Patrick. He just went to sleep and never woke up. His full autopsy showed no organ failure, disease or damage. His brain was fine. He did not suffocate, he was not poisoned, he was not ever vaccinated, nor did he die from any disease preventable by vaccines. His little heart was so strong that its valves are being donated to save the lives of two other children, his age or younger. We also donated his corneas, to give the gift of sight (or vast improvement of sight) to one or two children his age or younger, as well.
It’s hard to think about another soul gazing through those baby blues and other life existing with a heart that refused to beat for my own baby as he lay, surrounded by doctors, machines and prayers on the table in the ER… but if there’s anything I’ve learned from Patrick, it’s about saying yes to love, saying yes to life.
I got pregnant with Patrick about six months after my father passed away from Melanoma in 2010, during a period of deep grief. I already had three kids, (from two other daddies, at that… click here for a brief backstory) but -at two weeks pregnant- I felt he was a boy, that he was a gift wrapped in timing I didn’t understand & that I could handle a new life, having confidence in my child rearing abilities. My entire world had been darkened by the denial of opportunity at life to my daddy- I wasn’t about to start the process again within myself physically while dealing with it mentally, emotionally and spiritually. So, we said yes to life & gave him the name Patrick, my father’s middle name, before he was even an inch long and I started this blog with this post, while 9+ months pregnant, waiting to give birth.
It wasn’t an easy pregnancy. I was hospitalized the first time by the time I was 9 weeks along, diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. (Hyper= a lot, emesis= of puke, Gravidarum = Seriously.) HG was the first medical/physical anomaly I experienced. They still don’t know why it happens, just like SUDC, but some women, for some reason, throw up ALL DAY, every day while pregnant, even to the point of death. Perhaps it is my lot in this chapter of life to have to painfully purge my insides through the frustrating, exhausting & debilitating daily inner affliction to parent my older children with love and grace despite my pain and trust that there is a point where all of the months of accumulated agony and refusal to give up break forth into a new life, forever changed by love.
Some choose to medicate the process. I will admit, though an advocate of birthing, living, healing and even grieving naturally, after Pat died… I broke completely. I didn’t care. “Give me something.” was about all I could muster with my arms wrapped for the last time around the cooling body of my naked nursling. I stroked and inhaled his sweet head as if I could somehow breathe in that precious 21 grams of soul weight into my own, to keep precious and safe forever what I still could of him and our shared world as it shattered before my eyes. It was too much, too suddenly. I was reeling. I wondered how I could leave that room without my son, how I would ever sleep again without his body pressed to mine.
Whether or not they gave me something then and there is the beginning of my haze- I started taking Lorazepam and apparently the anterograde amnesia (the same blackout being fall-down drunk can cause) that came with it. If there is a time period of my life that I am okay losing, I suppose it is that time… but I also felt not present for my other children who are alive and very much in need of a conscious mother, so I made the (mostly) conscious decision to let go of my cloud and use the love I will always bear for Patrick, Annika, Aiden and Tobin, the love I feel from each of the comments, messages and cards from readers like you, along with a combination of other herbal, aromatherapeutic and other natural remedies instead.
Yes, you read that right. I am getting through the sudden loss of my baby using aromatherapy, happy thoughts and hippie shit. I daresay, if this post is any sign, that it’s not only possible- it’s working.
Transition in the birthing process is much the same as being a part of a loved ones transition between this life and what comes after- the pain can be overwhelming; something nothing can prepare you for the sensation of. It’s where most natural birthers have a dip in their “I got this!” mentality, no matter how deep and strong their resolve- or their love. I already wrote about the ties for me between birth and death here, after reflecting upon my feelings holding my father’s hand through death and in giving birth to Pat- and the rest of my kids. I have managed my grief for my dad without narcotics for years… I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
I don’t feel I’ve “got this”. This is pushing time, time to work. I have had midwives get VERY stern about pushing time- it means business, and more than my own life and complications depend on it. Plus, pushing means I’m getting somewhere, that I’m doing something, that I’m contributing to and participating in the undeniably excruciating life experience I have been handed. This is using those contractions of overwhelming tears and sorrow to extract myself out of my cocoon of grief, into a life I can live and love in again, so I can grow the wings my boy already has. I am checking in with hospice appointments the same as I did with my midwife appointments- only, as with all else tied between birth and death, they are opposites. A midwife can prepare you before the birth, but the guiding through (someone else’s) death comes after the experience.
You, here are all acting as my doulas… generous spirits, watching over the process, watching over me, all the time reminding me that I DO have this, that my pain is natural, normal, productive and healthy; and most importantly, that I am not alone. Many parents before have and survived the loss of a child and more without the support of narcotics, nevermind worldwide prayers and cares sent every day. I am certainly not more equipped than they, but I know I am not less.
I am working on keeping myself in the moment, trusting the process and its purpose and trying to stay in touch with my pain– I feel that dulling it only distances me from Patrick even more. This pain is an open wound that will leave stretch marks and scars on my heart; like so many mothers who have learned to love their saggy and scarred bellies because of the miracle they have created, so I will bear this transformation and always regard the scar of losing Pat Pat because of the miracle he is, with tender love and time.
I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to read this and all of the support given to our family in various ways these past two weeks by my sisters, friends and family near and far, the knowledge and tinctures of my herbalist, Dana Gundling, readers like you, Arkadians and especially by PECTers (the parents’ group behind NZ’s Gay Red Shirt Day last November) for organizing memorial pages & funding to help with the costs of medical bills, his funeral, burial & memorial, time off for Danny, ongoing holistic remedies not covered by Medi-Cal (that would be all of them) counseling, as well as setting up a PO Box for people to send their sentiments to (addresses for all at the bottom) battling internet trolls (yes, unfortunately, they are present) and more so that our family can have the best possible scenario to recover in. For that, I will be forever grateful. Forever, Eileen. ♥
On that note, I want to leave you with a quote/theme/motto from that very group that has resonated with me for a long time, but never so much as now.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
The increased awareness of SUDC has inspired many parents toward being more grateful, gentle and patient with their own children… which is all I have ever wanted for this page, for my life. In that, Patrick has given me both a fulfilled and renewed life purpose. WE are the change. YOU are the change. Love is the change, and love is all Patrick ever was or knew.
Your dirty diapers, teething woes, breastfeeding and bed sharing frustrations are my dream. The life you are struggling through now is the life I have prayed be returned to me, warts and all, from the depths of my aching soul every second since his passing. What your life looks like now is what it would look like if you had somehow been through what I have and been granted that wish, when somehow, I have not.
You are living the dream. Make it a good one.
We are all ONE LOVE.
PO Box 6812
Santa Rosa, Ca 95406
Read more about the Sing for SUDC challenge here.