I lay awake a week ago, staring up at the ceiling without a pillow.
It was an odd experiment of sorts. We are often told as EMS providers that if a patient is serious, take away the pillow to open up the airway. So I wondered, why do we have them at all? Would I even miss them?
The horrible thing about losing a child is that you learn about other children, some even older than your own, that die from no known cause or simply because they fell asleep with their face in the pillow or a rumpled up blanket (at least that is the assumption).
Some nights I sleep well, other nights not so much. I watch the soothing flicker of light from Paiden's motion monitor, and then other thoughts tear at me. I tiptoe through the dark house into Emily's room. I feel for her breath, and pull the hair matted down with the dampness of air from her lungs from her face. I reposition her head, and sometimes I take away the pillow completely. There are times I really struggle with having anything in her bed at all. She is no longer a preschooler and yet I still worry.
I hate pillows and blankets around children. I guess the blankets because of Perry and the pillows from other deaths related to babies and children. I fight back a near panic feeling when I see babies sleeping on pillows or toddlers with only limbs sticking out of parents. It always feels like the parents are unknowingly playing a deadly game of Russian roulette. Is your child vulnerable? Like an unseen bullet a parent will never know. Some of us may have loaded guns- will the child roll over and shift? I feel like I am caught in this moment looking at the pictures on Facebook. We can only assume that the child has woken up and either the gun wasn't loaded or the hammer didn't strike the chamber with the bullet this time. I struggle with the urge to message- will they think I need help or am I letting a child die because I am too afraid of being labeled abnormal to say something?
They have research now that says that both the SIDs infants and many of the babies that die in 'unsafe environments' have brain stem abnormalities. The abnormality in the 'unsafe environment' is a bit of a douzer (the safe environment infants are as mysterious as ever). We contemplate this among loss Moms, wondering about toddlers lost. Perhaps a few of the rare toddlers that die are from similar causes after parents become lax ( a vulnerable child rebreathing around pillows and blankets). I feel that many babies do outgrow the vulnerability, but it still made me think. We heat our houses- is it really necessary to have blankets and pillows? If there is no real benefit, do children need them? Children have large noggins, and pillows under a head actually take the airway out of proper alignment.
In any case, Paiden will probably sleep in footed jammies until he enters Kindergarten. His bed will probably be bare for most of that time. And I guess I am ok with that.
I catch myself wondering if I trade Emily's pillow pet in for a travel pillow, the kind that resembles a half eaten donut.