Goodbye, Sweet Addie: When Infant Loss Touches Those You Love.
I wrote this article a few months ago and spent a considerable amount of time crafting it but it never seemed like a good time to publish it, until today. This coming Monday, November 13th, would have been Addie's first birthday. Please read and share Sweet Addie's story, and send her family some love and prayers the days to come.
In Loving Memory of
Adelyn Olive Errico
November 13, 2016 - June 22, 2017
We have all stumbled across a blog or Facebook post that recounts the death of a child. Tragic and untimely, we read every gut wrenching word and allow the tears to stream down our faces. We thank Heaven above for our healthy and happy babies. All moms know a friend of a friend's second cousin who lost a child to a disease or car accident, or an infant to SIDS. But what happens when that loss strikes the heart of your own community? When it happens to a friend of yours?
I was putting my kids to bed one Thursday night in June when my phone rang. Though not late to normal people, in the world of a Preschool parent, 7 pm might as well be midnight. I saw it was my friend Sarah. Slight unusual for her to call because usually only text (What can I say? We may be on the older end of the spectrum but we're still Millennials!) I didn't take the call. Instead, as I finished putting the kids to bed, I shot her a text. "Sorry putting the kids to bed. What's up?" Her answer changed my world forever...
"Addie is gone," she wrote back and I faltered as I read it. I wracked my brain trying to figure out who she was talking about. The only Addie I knew was a baby, so where could she possibly have gone? "What? Who?" I stumbled through my response. "Kara's baby died." My vision blurred and I lost control of my senses. I managed to get outside and sit down before I lost the ability to stand. When my phone rang, I answered it without reading the Caller ID. I knew it was Sarah. After confirming the words I had read, Sarah and I simply shared silence and a few "Oh my Gods" for nearly an hour. Sweet Addie was just 7 months old, a mere two months (almost to the day), older than my Esme. How could she be gone?
Thoughts were colliding in my head. What had happened? How was Kara? Where was she? Did she need anything? Was she alone at the hospital? What could we, her friends, do to help her? Within the first few hours our mom group jumped into action, brainstorming ways we could help Kara through the next few hours, days, weeks, months, and even years. We needed to rally around our friend.
Probably the hardest challenge in becoming a new mom is friends. Unless you're lucky enough to have kids at the same time as your childhood or college friends, you have to forge ahead and make new ones who understand just how hard this parenting gig is. I happened to deliver my first child (actually all my children) at a hospital which offered a post-delivery group called "Baby Steps." This group allowed new moms to get out once a week with their babies and enjoy the company and support of other mothers with children around the same age. I met a phenomenal group of moms there and as our children began to age out, we formed our own group. A group complete with play dates, birthday parties, and a private Facebook group to complain about husbands and ask kid (and non-kid) related questions. Many of us have moved from one kid to a second (or some of us braver/crazier ones, our third). It was this group that brought Kara, her older daughter Joss and Addie into my life.
As sat on my porch that night in June, trying to come up with ways to help my friend with something that couldn't be fixed, I couldn't help but think of being with Kara just two weeks before. In the beginning of June a carnival takes over the field next to my house and it has become a tradition to have my mom friends and their kiddos over for a little party to watch the fireworks. Kara was one of the first to arrive this year, so we got to sit and talk uninterrupted about our babies, as Joss and my boys played. It was an awesome evening with friends.
It was a unreal moment to sit in the same spot where I had just happily compared Esme and Addie
with Kara and try to absorb the devastating shock of her death. I didn’t cry at first. I sat in silence for a long time. Even my brain settled down and was quiet. I eventually went back inside to my very confused husband. I stilled didn’t cry.
I went and sat by Esme’s crib. I watched her for a long time, not doing or saying anything. Then all at once the pain seemed to expand and push all the air from my chest. I began to heave these horrible, painful, soul shattering sobs. I seemed to rush through every emotion at once; horror, shock, sadness, anger, pain, rage, but most of all; fear. Kara was a good mother. If Addie could die, so could Esme. So, could any of my kids. No one was safe. Everyone in our group felt some level of the same emotions and panic. We all wondered. What had happened?
Even with her extraordinary loss, Kara didn’t shut down. She didn’t lock herself away. She kept in contact with us all. She answered our texts. She shared her experiences with us. We knew that she had been questioned by the police that night, we knew they had searched her house and taken her phone (all standard protocol in the unexpected death of a child). We knew that she would have wait for months to know what had taken her little girl from her. At the funeral, even as she stood in front of that tiny white casket or after she had read her final, heartbreaking letter to Addie, Kara worried about me and all her mom friends with babies or who were expecting.
When the cause of death was finally released, our collective hearts broke again for Kara; peritonitis and a burst appendix. So rare in babies that even if they had been standing in the ER or at the pediatrician’s office, the doctors would not have checked for it.
While Kara’s loss is the hardest and greatest, our tight group of moms experienced it too. We all felt pain and anger. We all cried, and continue to cry, for Addie and Kara. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. I see her in everything Esme does. The rest of us live with the guilt of survival and the never-ending fear that it could happen to us. Every time Esme screams for no apparent reason, I begin to feel the fear rise is in me and panic steals my breath. I have become “that mom” who runs to the pediatrician for every little change. A lasting anxiety has settled over my once laid-back personality.
Kara will suffer this loss for the rest of her life but as she has told me many times, this is a loss felt and suffered by all of us. As a society, we weep for the abstract idea of the death of children throughout the world, but when it’s someone you know, it marks your soul and breaks off pieces of your heart.
This article was written with the gracious permission of Kara and in loving memory of Addie.