Mom to Mackenzie
October 11th, 2009-April 19th, 2010
Wow… I can’t believe I survived. Never did I imagine that one year ago I would be spending my last day with Mackenzie. I remember everything as if it happened yesterday yet my memories of her seem like such a thing of the past. Sometimes I feel like it was a dream to have her and that it actually wasn’t real. SIDS is a silent killer. There are no warning signs and there is no explanation for it. I just have hope that one day I will have an explanation as to why my child died from it.
April 19th seemed like an ordinary day. It was a Monday, my least favorite day of the week. I would always wake up really early so I could take off to work. Mackenzie was an awesome baby and usually slept throughout the night. She happened to wake up around 3:45 that morning and was blowing raspberries. That was her usual wake-up routine along with grabbing my nose. We changed her and John fed her as I curled up on the bottom of the bed since my alarm was going to go off soon. I traveled 35 miles to my job so I liked to get there early and try to get home as early as I could. I fell back asleep until my alarm went off. I quietly got out of bed and got ready for work. When I left for work Mackenzie was still sleeping so I didn’t want to wake her since John was getting ready for work by that time. I left the house without kissing her goodbye.
John would take care of Mackenzie in the mornings and would drop her off at daycare which was close to his job. John dropped her off a little after 7am. Every morning I would call him to see what kind of mood she was in when he dropped her off. She was constantly doing little things that would make us laugh so I loved hearing about it when I couldn’t be with her. Nothing was unusual.
I remember being away from my desk where my cell phone was and one of my co-worker’s told me that my phone kept going off. It was a little after 9am. I went to my desk and saw the sitter had tried calling my cellphone multiple times. My first thought was that John forgot to take something for Mackenzie because it did happen before. I tried calling her back and she did not answer so I thought maybe she was trying to call John. When I went back to my desk to sit down she called again. I immediately got back up to take her call. I answered the phone and all she said was, “I’m freaking out!” in a flustered voice. The sitter always bragged to us about what a smart and great baby Mackenzie was and she also had a nine month old baby in her care that constantly screamed and was way behind Mackenzie when it came to developing. I figured she was having a bad day because of that other baby. That’s when she told me that Mackenzie was not breathing. I asked what she meant and at that point things became a blur.
I don’t know if I hung up on her or if she hung up on me but I grabbed my purse, shouted to a friend of mine and took off running. I didn’t know what was going on. I hauled ass down the freeway while I was trying to call John. I tried calling him over and over again but he wasn’t picking up his phone. I called the sitter back constantly until she picked up and when I asked if Mackenzie was okay she just told me that she didn’t know. The paramedics refused to talk to me over the phone. Finally John called me back and I screamed for him to get to the sitters house and that I didn’t know what was going on but I told him Mackenzie wasn’t breathing. I remember being in such a panic, I couldn’t cry, my body was in shock and for the first time in years I prayed. I prayed over and over again that Mackenzie would be okay when I got there.
I made it down to the exit I would take to get onto the Marine Corps base where Mackenzie was when John called me saying to get to the hospital. They were transporting her to the local hospital instead of taking her to the Naval Hospital which was closer. I was confused about that but I didn’t question him. I got back to the freeway and headed to the hospital. I didn’t know it at the time but John got stuck with the military police who had the street blocked off that the daycare provider lived on. They questioned him so he was delayed at getting to the hospital. I remember hitting red lights and not being able to go around cars. It seemed like forever but I finally made it. I ran into the emergency room and told them my baby just came in via ambulance. The lady had to call back to get someone to come get me. I remember wanting to scream at her because everything felt like it was going in slow motion. I could not get to Mackenzie quick enough.
I was escorted back by a nurse. Mackenzie was surrounded by hospital staff so I could not see her and she was in a room with double doors which were guarded by paramedics. The paramedics would not look at me. I was instantly approached by the chaplain and social worker. I was taken into the room by the social worker and instantly started feeling like I was going to pass out. They made me sit in the hall on a chair and they continued to work on her. Minutes later John came running down the hall in his cammies and went into the room. The doctor came out and told me that things are not looking good. They waited for John to arrive before they pronounced her dead. I believe the time was 10:10am. I went into the room with John but I had trouble looking at Mackenzie like that. She had a tube in her nose, or even possibly her mouth.. I don’t quite remember. John just hung onto her little body and was crying while I held onto him. I kissed her head for the last time and rubbed her peach fuzz hair. She looked like she was sleeping. We declined to hold her or stay any longer. It was extremely tough to see her lifeless. The chaplain came in and said a prayer with us all before we left.
We were put into a “quiet room” at the hospital where we had to start interviewing right away. We had to be interviewed by Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) and a medical examiner. Through all the tears we had to re-cap the last 24 hours. The Sunday before we went to the local swap meet to check it out. Mackenzie slept the entire time in her stroller. We grabbed lunch at El Pollo Loco and John ran into the barber to get a haircut. I fed Mackenzie while we waited in the car. Shopping for Mackenzie was a weekly thing so we stopped to get her a computer for babies because she loved typing on mine and we even bought her some pink Converse shoes too. When we got home we laid a sheet down on the carpet so Mackenzie could roll around and John put the movie, Grand Torino on. We just relaxed the rest of the evening. Little did we know it would be our last evening together as a family. Mackenzie went to bed before 8pm that night.
A friend of mine was the first person to show up to the hospital to be with me and I clung to a nurse who had miscarried her twins. Eventually my oldest sister and her husband showed up too. The hospital gave us a lot of paperwork on sudden infant death and support although at that time they had not ruled the cause of death. They also gave us a stuffed bear which was heavier and was meant for parent not to go home with empty arms. Walking through the emergency waiting room was torture. I wanted to disappear and never see another living soul again. I drove home with John and I think my sister drove my truck to my house. We came home to our living room full of Mackenzie’s belongings and we laid on the couch and cried with each other. I often found myself staring at her exersaucer which she loved. Her socks were everywhere because she always pulled them off. The hospital gave us one of her socks that she was wearing before we left too. We had a little bit of her hair in a baggie and her foot & hand prints on paper as well.
We had family and friends come down to be with us. John and I would go into our room to be with each other and cry. Waking up the following morning was the hardest. I felt like I was in a bad dream and that’s when it really sank in that Mackenzie would never be back. For the longest time I felt like I was going crazy. I would look at her blanket on our bed and see her there. I would get whiffs of her scent sometimes too.
My co-workers started bringing dinner everyday and even planned the memorial because I did not have any desire to do it myself. We had a lot of visitors come by including the pastor who was going to perform the service, the chaplain from the Marine Corps and even John’s command stopped by to give us money and flowers that the 1st Marine Division all pitched in for. The memorial service was held on Thursday so that our family and friends that were staying with us could be there for it. We had a lot of people show up to support us and at the end of it everyone lined up to give us a hug and some kind words. The hardest person to see was my boss. He paid for the whole memorial because he wanted to and even paid for the cremation of Mackenzie as well. When he came up to hug me I broke down. He’s usually not a man of many words and to think he did all of this out of the kindness of his heart really struck me. To this day I will never be able to express my gratitude to him. They let me take off as much time as I needed and because we are such a tight knit office, a counselor was brought to the office to help everyone deal with my loss as well.
John and I grieved so differently in the beginning. He felt like I didn’t understand and I felt like he didn’t understand me. We were constantly fighting and our marriage was failing. I hated waking up without a purpose and as a mother, Mackenzie was my purpose for living. I had no desire to live as a wife since my marriage was in shambles. John thought I was crazy for not wanting to live. Instead of talking to each other we were pushing each other away. I had a lot of dark days. I would wish that every time I would step into the car that I would end up in a horrific accident that would end my misery. I was tired of feeling broken hearted, alone and misunderstood.
We went to a grievance counselor weekly which seemed to turn into marriage counseling. We swore that we wouldn’t let our differences in grieving tear us apart but that’s exactly what ended up causing a lot of problems in our marriage. One day our counselor reminded us that Mackenzie was a part of both of us and if we lost each other then we would lose a part of her. That’s when I realized that I couldn’t make it without John.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my daughter and what she should be like today. I just take life day by day. I don’t know how I will feel tomorrow and maybe I would react to something that wouldn’t have bothered me yesterday. We love Mackenzie so much and we will continue to honor her as much as we can.
You can contact Natasha at firstname.lastname@example.org