Conquering My SIDS Fears
When I was pregnant with my first child almost seven years ago, I was working in an acute care pediatric hospital as a speech-language pathologist. My patients ranged from premature babies with eating problems to school-aged children recovering from traumatic accidents. I treated babies and toddlers with a wide range of genetic and developmental disorders. The job was not easy, and many times, I went home in tears. I cared for my patients as if they were my own. I celebrated the tiny milestones with families and grieved over gut-wrenching losses.
Needless to say, as soon as I found out I was pregnant, fears of premature birth, stroke, deafness, and rare genetic disorders crippled my mind. Instead of enjoying the fun aspects of being pregnant, I couldn't help but question if my baby was going to be OK. When I announced my pregnancy around 12 weeks, I felt a bit of relief. It was nice to be able to voice my concerns to my colleagues and a few of the nurses I worked with. Many of them moms themselves, they were able to offer advice on how they coped with the scary and sad reality of our job.
The more I talked, the less I felt out of control and anxious. It was very relieving. When my due date finally came and went, I couldn't wait to meet my baby boy. At 40 weeks and four days, I delivered a healthy baby boy via cesarean section. The moment I became a mom, my worries and fears multiplied, and my ability to love another being so hard multiplied by a million.
My baby and I were discharged from the hospital five days after his birth. I was so ready to go home, but I was not prepared for what was to come.
The first night home, I was struck with a crippling fear that my son would die in his sleep. During my pregnancy, I briefly read about SIDS to educate myself on precautions to take to reduce the risk, yet I wasn't prepared for how anxious I would be about SIDS.
During those first few weeks of my baby's life, I would wake up in a cold sweat and run to his crib to check for rising and falling of his chest. Many nights, I held him in my arms while I willed myself to stay awake for fear that he would stop breathing if I wasn't watching him.
After weeks of interrupted sleep, I began to dread bedtime. I wasn't sure how to climb out of this hole of anxiety, yet knew I needed help. My husband and I spoke with my son's pediatrician and then I talked to my OBGYN. She told me that this response was very normal. She offered me medication, as she believed it sounded like the beginning of post-partum depression. I declined since I didn't feel it was at that point and consulted with a few friends who experienced similar fears.
My husband and I also worked out a better sleeping schedule and moved the baby into our room in a co-sleeper. I didn't feel better immediately, but over time, my anxiety subsided. By the time my son was 8 weeks old, I no longer felt anxious at bedtime and began celebrating the longer stretches of sleep at night. I was happy to finally conquer the SIDS fear.
Did you experience similar fear over SIDS when your child was a newborn?