Surviving after our Baby’s Cot Death

It is now 27 years since the day our son, Barry, died in January 1986. On that dreadful day and months afterwards there was barely a minute that the events of that day did not circle round my mind. Someone said to me, that there would come a time when it would happen hourly. I could not imagine that day. How did I reach this point? I think of him daily, sometimes fleetingly and mostly without the piercing pain of those early days. It is a pain that will never go away. I don’t expect it to. It is part of my baggage that I carry through the rest of my life.

Last winter we had several films from “Love Films”. One was starring Nicole Kidman about the death of her 3 year old son. He was knocked down outside her home. Well acted and caught the pain of the couple trying to deal with their grief. In another film, a French one with subtitles, a mother who was wrongly accused of killing her terminally ill son, said “The death of your child is a prison from which there is no escape.” I agree with that sentiment. I remember very early on saying to myself in “my daily team talk” that I could crawl into a corner and let life go by, or I could try and face my grief, talk to my husband and live again. I understand how you can succumb to the experience. I think about mothers wrongly accused. It is a ghastly enough tragedy, without being made into a criminal investigation, with inaccurate witness statements (such as the cases in England of Sally Clark and Angela Cannings). In a different set of circumstances the Chamberlain family in Australia were put through hell too.
I often think of the nightmare of families where children go missing, such as the McCanns. Mental torture of “what if” and “what happened” must exhaust on a daily basis.

We have had many happy times in our lives including the main wonderful happiness of having Amy & Nick, now 25 and 23. It’s difficult to evaluate happiness and life has its ups and downs, whoever you are. I can only describe the death of my baby as a light going out, that never comes back on. It has left me with a bit of “what next will be thrown at me” philosophy which I have to shake off. I keep busy on the birthday, anniversary and on these days I especially feel the pain. I sometimes (well often) over talk, I can hear myself do it and think “practise your yoga breathing”. My skin, after the shock has never fully recovered. When under extra pressure patches of psoriasis break through. Again I have learned to deal with it. I’m probably kinder to myself as I get older, and think only put yourself through what you can cope with. I have tried hard not to overprotect my two children and hold them back. They are both in Australia, having graduated in the last couple of years from Strathclyde University. We’re planning another visit to see them. I believe in the adage “to give your children roots and wings”. When your adult children help support and give you philosophical advice (after you get over the surprise) you look at them and think “how wonderful are you?” They make us laugh when they’re not adding to our grey hair! You never stop learning from your children

The Scottish Cot Death Trust was founded in 1985. The late Sir Hugh Fraser left the legacy to start it up and help with the initial funding. There has always been an ethos of awareness, research and liaising with all those involved in the tragedy, including emergency services and police. My hope would be that this impacts in the treatment and dealings with the families involved. If their experience is difficult it can leave further scars.

To this day, as with the worst day of my life, I hope for an answer to the mystery of Cot Death. I truly hope the agonising experience can one day be a thing of the past. Too many lives lost. Too much pain.

Anne, 2013 (Mum)