Mom to Benjamin David
October 20, 2014 – November 19, 2014
When midnight struck, I decided that Ben was sleeping deep enough to lay him in his Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper. He would start out in there every night. But man, he despised not being in my arms! I thought [my son] Trae was the biggest Momma’s boy, ever. Then, I had Ben lol! Ben slept in his co-sleeper until about 2 or 3 am. I awoke to him fussing, so I put him next to me, laid on my side, and latched him on to eat. And as crappy as it is, I don’t even remember falling asleep. I just did. I never heard another fuss, cry, or anything from Ben that night. He was always so content when sleeping next to me. He had started sleeping so good in the early hours of the morning. Ben was starting to love sleep, almost as much as he loved to eat.
8 am. The alarm on my phone goes off. I reach over to turn it off, and I think, “well that’s weird. Trae is usually awake by now.” I didn’t even give a thought about Ben still being asleep. Again, he slept so well next to me. Ben had scooted up a bit during the night. He was still facing me, and I was still facing him. I had been so tired, but as any mother instinctively does, I slept much lighter with him in my bed. The nights where I did roll over to my other side, I always consciously grabbed Ben, and put him on my other side. Not once did I wake up facing away from him, or thinking that I slept too hard to have him in bed with me. Not once did I have any alcohol before going to bed with Ben. Not once did I use drugs, because I just don’t do drugs. I am your average loving mother. I did nothing wrong, or so I thought.
Again, Ben had scooted up while we were sleeping. He was still facing me and laying on his side. My arm was around him. The top of his head touched my arm, and the bottom half of my arm was wrapped around his body. He was close, but not so close that he couldn’t breathe. The top part of his head had my pillow balancing over it. But it didn’t scare me or anything, because it wasn’t on him, and it wasn’t covering his mouth or nose. I moved the pillow to see my lil Bub’s sweet face, and my whole world stopped. He looked different. Ben looked like he was sleeping, but his face was pale. At this point, I kind of knew, but I hadn’t completely realized it yet. I picked him up. He was still warm. I laid him on his back and started gently shaking him from side to side. “Ben! Ben! Wake up! Ben, wake up!” And his arms stayed extended just how they had been when he was sleeping. He was somewhat firm. The side of his face that was down, on his cheek, was blue. And that’s the moment that I knew he was dead, and there was no hope of bringing him back.
Once I realized that he is gone, that he’s dead; I am thinking in my head that this isn’t real. Things like this don’t happen to anyone I know, and certainly not to me. Not my perfect baby! He was just fine last night. Not as much as a small cough. I call my sister’s phone, but her battery is dead, so it goes to voice mail. So, I call my grandma.
Me: “Mamoo, Ben’s not breathing!”
My grandma: “What? What do you mean he’s not breathing? You need to call 911.”
Me: “No. He’s gone. You don’t get it. There’s nothing they can do. He’s gone.”
My grandma: “Amanda, call 911 right now!”
Me: “Okay. I’m calling them.”
I pick Ben up, dial 911, and run down my stairs.
Dispatch: “911. Do you need police, fire, or ambulance?”
Me: “I don’t know who I need. My baby isn’t breathing!”
– she asks me if I want to start CPR. I tell her no. I know it won’t do a damn thing. I told her that he was dead, and CPR wouldn’t bring him back. It was too late. She gets my address, and tells me that an ambulance is en route. At this point, I am pacing around my living room with Ben in my arms, just repeating, “Oh my God, oh my God!” about a million times. I wasn’t crying yet. I was in shock. After what feels like forever, I hear the sirens. I whip open the doors to my house, and I see the ambulance pass by. I tell the dispatcher, and the ambulance goes into reverse and parks in front of my house. The 2 EMT’s come running in and I’m standing there with Ben just looking at them, completely horrified.
The lead EMT touches Ben, and says, “work him!” He takes Ben from my arms and runs out my door with him. As he’s running out, my Aunt Laura is running in. My grandma had called her. But she had no idea that Ben was dead. She just thought he had stopped breathing but was still alive. I’ll never forget the moment that she realized Ben was dead. As she passed the EMT that was carrying Ben, her face changed from panic to horror. I fall to my knees, then bend over and put my face into my hands. I am crying and thinking that maybe there is a chance, and why the hell didn’t I start CPR? Minutes later, I feel a hand on my back. I hear a man say, “Mom, I’m so sorry but…” and I knew. He finished his sentence, but I didn’t really hear it. That’s the moment that made it all real. Ben is dead. My dad arrives at this time, and it’s pretty obvious what the outcome was. He kneels down by me as I’m sobbing and wanting to know, “WHY?!” My dad says, “I’m so glad you came by the shop yesterday. I’m so sorry sweetheart. I should have come to visit more.” I am not sure why, but my family feels so much guilt for Ben’s death. They deal with the “if only’s” quite a bit. But Ben was supposed to be turning 1 month old the next day, so the what if’s are unjustified for them. None of us ever foresaw this coming. Ben was supposed to have his whole life ahead of him. He was the picture of health. Was.
As I’m laying on my floor and crying a cry that I’m sure is a haunting one as it is such a helpless, devastation cry, I hear Trae at the top of the stairs. “Mommy, Mommy!” he yells. My little protector. He got awoken by the worst thing in the world to him; his Mommy crying the most ear piercing cry ever. The cry you only hear when you have hit rock bottom and you want to die. I could hear in his voice that he was scared. And rightfully so. Not only did he hear me, but he saw all of these strangers in our house. My dad does the best thing he ever could have, and goes upstairs with Trae to distract him. They play trains and cars, and that was the last normalcy my older son ever knew. Trae now spends his days wondering how to make his Mommy happy again. “Mommy, baby brother be back in a minute. Don’t cry!” Or, he gives me a hug and says, “I make you happier and happier!” Poor kid. He is 3.5 years old, and carries the responsibility of an adult. I try to save my sadness for when he’s not around, but sometimes, that is just impossible. And it sucks.
Now my recollection of what people came to my house in what order is a little fuzzy. I remember everyone that came that day, but in my shock, I thought there were people here that weren’t here yet when the investigators and coroner were. I remember everyone being here before the coroner arrived, but I’ve been told that’s not the case. So I’ll cover this part as best I can.
I am still on the floor, and I don’t remember getting up until the detective arrived. He felt so bad. I could tell he was trying not to cry. And he apologized about a hundred times for asking me the questions that he was. The investigative team arrived and they tell me that they will be upstairs looking at, and taking pictures of “the scene”. One of the most serene places in my house had become a death scene. I will always be grateful for how the Lorain law enforcement was to me. Since losing Ben, I have read too many horror stories of parents being treated like murderers. Some are so badly treated, that their living children are taken away and given to the state until the investigation and autopsy is complete. And I cannot even imagine that! Months without your other kid(s) while trying to process the sudden and unexpected death of another child? Just something I can’t really wrap my head around. I was treated with respect and dignity. I was treated just as the situation was: a loving, devoted mother woke up to find the worst thing, ever. Her baby was dead. And by further looking around and questioning me, it was obvious that there was no foul play involved and Ben and Trae were nothing but loved.
My family and friends start arriving. My step mom, my platoon sergeant from my last unit (he is a local police officer), my Aunt Carrin, my grandma and grandpa, my mom, and Ashton. I think the “scene” investigation had been completed by the time my family was here. So from what I’m told, my Aunt Carrin got to work with taking the sheets and mattress cover off of my bed. I remember I kept saying, “Get it out of here. I never want to see those sheets or that mattress, again!” My mom, sister, and step mom didn’t know what to do, so they started cleaning every thing. I guess there wasn’t much else to do. And when you do sit down and aren’t busy, that’s when it hits you. Ben is really dead.
When the county coroner finally arrives, he speaks with the EMT’s, and he talks with the detective that was one of the first on scene. He walks into my kitchen and offers his condolences. I only have onr question for this man, did Ben suffer? The answer I got is something that will forever be burned into my mind. I can still remember the look on his face when he answered me, the smell in the room, and even the temperature in my house. He says to me, “Babies this small generally don’t suffer when they’re smothered.” And that is the moment that my whole life, my whole being, was consumed with guilt. I killed Ben? But I knew I didn’t lay on him or anything. The coroner tells us that by smother, he means suffocation. Ben suffocated. I just couldn’t believe it. My perfect boy, the other half of my heart; it was my fault he was dead? I remember standing in my breezeway and speaking with the detective and coroner. They were asking me if I was sure I didn’t have any drinks the night before. They were asking me about any medications that I took. Nothing. I didn’t do a damn thing! I remember looking up, and asking the detective, “So are you going to take me to jail now?” He told me no, that it was obvious this was an accident and I never meant to hurt my Ben. I hated his answer. I wanted to be taken away. I wanted to be locked up like the murderer that I felt like I was. I and everyone else knew nothing was intentional. But in my mind, even though it was an accident, I wanted to face the most harsh repercussions for what I had done. My baby, my perfect little Benny boy was dead because I fell asleep with him in my bed.
I don’t remember much after all of this. I remember Candice and Joe coming over for a little while. Barb from the VA came over. No one really knew what to say. They all just did their best to comfort me and remind me that there are so many people here for me and Trae. I knew that, but what I didn’t know was how to go on from that point. I asked to hold Ben before he was taken to the morgue, but they wouldn’t let me. Today, I’m glad didn’t let me. [He] was not my Ben. This Ben was so still. He didn’t want to nurse, he didn’t make noises like a car trying to start, he didn’t grunt. New Ben was still beautiful, but I liked my old Ben more. Everyone started clearing out of my house after Ben was taken away. Me, Ashton, Trae, and my dad were the last to leave. As we took Trae to my grandma’s house so he could go to my dad and Crystal’s after that, the painful questions started. “Mommy, you forgot baby brother. Where baby brother at?” As horrible as it sounds, I just wanted to get away from Trae. I couldn’t be mom right now. I couldn’t handle his questions. And how do you even begin telling your son that his baby brother is dead and we’ll never see him again? That he won’t get to teach him how to play with choos choos like he had so looked forward to? I couldn’t handle it. So, Trae went with my dad, and I went to Ashton’s place. I only remember a few things after that. My boobs feeling like rocks and hurting so bad. I took a shower to try and relieve some of the pain, but it didn’t do a thing. I remember my brother, Jason, being on the couch after I got out of the shower. He had just flown in from Florida where he lives. After that, I remember being so desperate for any feeling other than numb, that I started drinking. I eventually passed out. And I don’t even remember when or where it was. I knew it was at my sister’s, but other than that, no idea.
Hell day. It is the worst story to tell. And it never seems to get easier. I will continue to write about the time after Ben’s death on my blog, in due time. But there is so much to say. Grieving your child is up and down at the same time. It’s mad and sad. Grief is every contradicting emotion, all at once. I would give anything to stop others from living this nightmare. Not only do you lose your child, you lose yourself. Life will always be known as the before your child died, and the after your child died. You are never the same. You try so hard to be normal again, but that’s impossible since half of your heart and soul died when your child died. People often say, “I can’t even imagine!” No, you can’t. And you don’t want to. We hear, “I could never go on if my child died!” And that is a knife in the heart to those of us that have lost our child(ren). Do you think we want to go on? Hell no we don’t! But we have to. We have to keep moving, no matter how slow the pace. We continually give up, then hear a little voice say, “Try again.” So, we do. This is life after losing your child.
Amanda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
and her blog at http://