#21: Time

12 Oct

I’m not done and I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry that I can’t perfectly explain “what’s wrong with me.” I’m not sorry that I haven’t figured out what to say yet. I’m not sorry that other people have moved on and I’m still working on things. I will feel bad about a lot of things, but taking time to mourn my sweet boy is not one of them.

Today was a big day and I have a lot to process. We got the official death certificate in the mail today. The legal paper that certifies that my little piggy is gone forever. I knew that it was coming, it’s just so weird to see it on paper. I think of all those other legal certificates we have in our safety deposit box. They’re papers representing happy occasions: my naturalization papers, our marriage license, Benjamin’s baptismal certificate, birth certificates. Now we have something else to add to that stack- why is it that I’d rather just throw it away?

The cause of death is different from what we were told it would say. It reads, “arterial heart condition and unsafe sleeping environment.” Really? All those people who have told me this wasn’t my fault, and the official cause of death is that I failed to keep my child in a ‘safe’ sleeping environment? That hurts more than I can even express. I hope that everyone knows that I would have done and will do anything to keep my children safe in any and all circumstances. Who is this coroner who gets to pass judgment on me and my skills as a parent? I am literally falling apart at the seams as I mull this over in my mind. I can’t bear the thought that there is anyone on this earth who thinks I keep my children in unsafe conditions.

This person doesn’t know me. This person doesn’t know how much my children define me. How grateful I am to be a mother. How much I have prayed for the safety and well-being of my children. How many books, articles, magazines and websites I read to ensure that I raise my children to the absolute best of my abilities. How much thought I put into what they eat, what they wear, when they nap, what diapers they wear, when I should be introducing them to different skills… This person has no idea who I am as a mother, but all the time I’ve spent with Alex has been reduced to an unsafe sleeping environment, the sign of an unfit and careless mother.

We had Benjamin at Children’s hospital this afternoon. We had an echo done on his heart to ensure that he doesn’t have the same heart condition that Alex had. Benjamin was so brave and helpful as he sat still for 30 minutes while the nurse did a complete scan of his heart. He watched Dora and sat patiently until she was done. All clear. Benjamin’s heart is perfectly healthy, and the slight murmur they detected last week didn’t show any cause for concern.

While I should be relieved by this, I wasn’t really surprised. Lightening doesn’t strike twice on the same family, does it? After all we have been through, I couldn’t honestly imagine that we would have more trials to withstand as a family. God is kind and just- but He’s not crazy. No way He would put me through something that scary with my one remaining child on earth.

As we chatted with the cardiologist more, he explained a little more about Alex’s heart condition. He explained that this particular heart defect is the #2 cause of death in child athletes- that it’s a condition that can be completely asymptomatic, and that very rarely is it detected until it’s too late.

I almost didn’t want to know, but I had to ask. “Was what happened to Alex inevitable?” I mean, I was there when it happened. I did the CPR. I called 911. I was there for all of it. Was there any way that this could have been prevented? The cardiologist hedged a little. He said it’s impossible to know exactly, but based on his experience with children and this type of condition, he said it would have happened. He didn’t give us an age, or specifics, but he said this was going to happen anyway.

I know that knowledge doesn’t bring Alex back. It doesn’t really even prove that the Medical Examiner was wrong. There are two conflicting opinions and one baby who’s gone forever. And that is what I have to think about.

I don’t ask people to get involved. I don’t ask people to take on my pain. I don’t ask for sympathy or flowers or even a break from work. What do I think I deserve? A little space. A little benefit of the doubt. I deserve to go through the night without being accused of being “crabby” or without someone demanding, “why does it take you so long to think about things anyway?”

My thinking, my wondering, my pondering- that doesn’t hurt anyone, and I should be able to do it for as long as I need to. I don’t wallow in tears and I don’t shut myself out from the world. If I want to take a few extra minutes of silence because the coroner officially documented that my baby died because it was my fault, I think I’m entitled.



Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


8 responses to “#21: Time

  1. Mel

    October 12, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    You are entitled. Grief takes as long as grief is going to take. Words can hurt … especially when they are in black and white print. (I learned that lesson earlier this week) Whoever said “sticks and stone can break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was a big fat liar. They can hurt. I think I would personally want to spit on the paper and throw the medical examiner the middle finger …. but that paper does NOT define you as a mother. I think about you often and always send my love. We really should look at getting together again …. life is so darn busy!
    Love, Mel

  2. Thindulge

    October 12, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Unsafe sleeping environment? Really? That is absolutely insane! You are one of the most meticulous and devoted people I know. To think you had your child in an unsafe sleeping environment is like saying Betty White is careless with her pets. There are countless other people who know you are a great mom. Don’t let some worker who may have been in a bad mood at the time ever tell you otherwise. It wasn’t your fault and I hope deep down you know that.

    You take as long as you need to in order to process all you are going through. Everyone’s grief is different and you are being proactive about it instead of sweeping it under the rug like most people would have done.

  3. marilynne johnson

    October 12, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    I have seen my daughter take care of her children she is the best mom you would ever want to have in a lifetime…take as long as you need to grieve darling and rememeber mom and dad love you ….we are here for you

  4. Angela Borchert

    October 12, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Tammy, it is so obvious that you are the most caring and loving mother in the world! I am so offended that was written in the death certificate. Like the cardiologist said this was unfortunately unevitable and to put any further blame on such a wonderful mother just upsets me beyond words! Alex could not have been placed in more loving arms. I know this has to hurt regardless, but you know in your heart as everyone who has ever met you knows that you did everything you could to protect your piggy. As always you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. Lisa

    October 13, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Tammy – After reading your posts, it is clear the love you have for your children. I am sure that you provided a safe and healthy environment for little Alex. I know that this is easier said than done, but do not let that medical examiner’s opinion provoke false thoughts! His passing was NOT your fault and you KNOW that!

    I was so happy to her that Benjamin’s heart is perfectly healthy!

    You will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.

  6. mike

    October 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Wow..Once again I read your post, and you touch my heart! I don’t read that as often as I should. I don’t like to feel your pain sometimes, BUT you are grieve, ponder, measure, and even judge those “a–holes” who have judged you somehow unfit..NO WAY! Once you give it enough thought, you already know the were not at was meant to be. BUT your Benjamin is healthy, and you know he is precious, and while you grieve, remember he and your hubby is there to give you the love and respect you deserve and need. Don’t move on until you’re ready. Your posts are heart-felt and most well written. GOD bless U today and always..

  7. Molly Danaher Godbout

    October 14, 2011 at 10:47 am

    TLJ-anyone that knows you knows how wonderful of a mother you are. How much you care about your kids, how much you love them and how you would do anything you could to keep them safe. The paper does not define you as a mother, not before you had Alex or after he passed. Benjamin is a wonderful boy, and Alex was a wonderful baby, even so young. Those things are because of you.

  8. michelle

    October 15, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Tammylynne. I remember how excited you were with both of you pregnancies and I know you as a person. I know that you do everything you can for the people you care about, especially your kids. You’re right, that coroner does not know you and how passionate you are about being a mother; it is not their place to judge. I think that was a very insensitive comment to immortalize on Alex’s certificate. How unfortunate that someone in that profession is allowed to make that kind of assumption.


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