‘His brother said, ‘I didn’t get to tell him goodbye today.’ All I could see were his little bare legs, dangling.’: Woman loses infant to SIDS, starts foundation in his honor, ‘Love pushes you to go on’

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“There was a time when I didn’t have a story to tell. I was blissfully ignorant of the world I now live in. For those who read this, I know for certain there are several things you will do when you are finished. You will thank God you are not me, pray you will never be me, and you will be sure you wouldn’t survive my story. I know this because I was you. Until I wasn’t and I began living every mother’s worst nightmare.

A piece of me still struggles to comprehend my new reality. Maybe it will be a permanent struggle because the heart was not built to endure a mother losing her child.

My life was, by definition, my perfect. I had two beautiful children from a previous marriage, Hunter, 15, and Gracen, 10. I was happily remarried to my husband, Mark, a wonderful and kind man who loved my children as his own. And on September 5th, 2016, Knox Owen Palmer made his debut into the world two weeks early at 9.1 pounds! He completed our blended little family. I couldn’t remember a time I had ever been happier or felt more complete.

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

We fell into a rhythm when Knox was born. Our home quickly revolved around this little butterball and he had us each wrapped around his finger. His older siblings adored him and fought over the role of being his favorite. I witnessed Mark as a father through those first milestones and he was an even better daddy than I had imagined he would be.

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer
Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

For me, there was something different this time around. I was able to soak in every second with Knox. I didn’t care about the lack of sleep and late nights. I wasn’t stressed over balancing life with older kids and their busy schedules with a baby. I was present in each moment and had an awareness of how truly blessed we were. Looking back, I think this was a gift God gave me.

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

On December 20th, 2016, this life slipped through our fingers as our world was turned upside down.

My oldest, Hunter, hurt his ankle at a basketball game on the night of December 19. He had to be seen early the next morning to make sure it wasn’t broken. I didn’t want to take Knox to the hospital. It was freezing outside and we were in the midst of flu season. I called our part-time daycare provider and asked if he could go there for a few hours instead of coming with us. I will never forget kissing those chubby cheeks as I told him goodbye. He gave me his famous side grin from behind his bottle. I left and Mark dropped Knox off with the sitter on his way to work.

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

After our appointment, we had to stop at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, and then I was taking Hunter back to school. As we were pulling out of the pharmacy, he asked me if he could stop and see Knox for a few minutes to tell him goodbye. He and his sister were leaving in the afternoon for a vacation with their dad and grandparents. Hunter gave Knox a kiss and told him goodbye every single morning. But that morning, we left in such a hurry he didn’t have a chance to and he wouldn’t see him for a week. I hesitated at his request and told him no, it was only a week and he would see him as soon as he got back. At the time, I had no idea how much this decision would replay over in my head and haunt me.

It was five days before Christmas. I had so much to get done still. I called the sitter to check on Knox and see if it would be okay if I finished up a few things at home before picking him up. She told me he just finished a bottle and was going down for a nap so I could take my time. Perfect.

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

Thirty minutes later, I received a call from her cell phone. When I answered, it was a parent. She told me there was an emergency. My mind immediately went to something happening to our sitter. I asked if I needed to come and stay with kids until parents could get there. She responded with the words I never wanted to hear, ‘It’s Knox.’ It’s Knox?? My brain was in overdrive as I thought of all possible scenarios. He was only 3.5 months old. He couldn’t walk or crawl — he couldn’t even roll over. What could have possibly happened to him?? I was told to come to the house immediately. It was only blocks away. Before I could make my left turn to the house, I was met by an ambulance barreling down the street with lights and sirens on… they turned in front of me. My heart was pounding out of my chest as I followed behind. I arrived to see the Police Chief carrying my baby out of the house. He was undressed and wrapped in the grey and white blanket I sent him with. All I could see were his fleshly little bare legs dangling.

Hysterical and screaming, they put me in the front of the ambulance. Looking to the back where he was, all I could see were those bare legs. When you pass an ambulance, it seems like they are going 100 miles per hour. When you are riding in one with your baby on the verge of dying, it feels like they are driving 10 miles per hour. I prayed so hard out loud, begging God to save him. Screaming that I needed him more than He did. Pleading to take me if he has to take one of us. I yelled at the paramedics to hurry, drive faster. I asked repeatedly what had happened. Somewhere along that long ride, I called my husband at work and managed to tell him Knox wasn’t breathing and he had to go to the hospital now.

When we arrived, we pulled into a garage I didn’t know existed. They hauled him out on the stretcher. The hall was lined with staff and crash carts waiting for him. They whisked me off to a room as I heard the words blaring through the intercom, ‘pediatric code blue.’ Those words were for MY baby. How is this possible… how is this happening?

Mark arrived at the same time we did. We clung to each other and dropped to our knees to pray. And we prayed. And we prayed. Staff would come in periodically to tell us they were still working on him. Close friends and family began showing up. After what felt like an eternity, the room filled with the staff working on him, tears rolling down their faces. They didn’t have to say it, we knew, but they said it anyway. ‘We are so sorry. We did everything we could.’ The words echoed in my head… this cannot be real.

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

Hunter and Gracie were brought to the hospital. All they had known at this point was something was wrong with Knox. When they walked in they immediately asked, ‘Where is he?? Can we see him? Is he okay?!’ One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life is tell them, ‘No, Knox didn’t make it’ They collapsed to the floor, clinging to us and letting out a sound that can only be made by a broken heart. Between the sobs, Hunter looked up at me and said, ‘I didn’t get to tell him goodbye today.’

The four of us were taken to another room. There Knox lay, wrapped in the grey and white blanket. He looked so beautiful and so peaceful like he was sleeping. A rocking chair was brought in. We took turns rocking him and holding him for the very last time. We had to kiss our baby and lay him down, knowing it would be the last time. Struggling to breathe, you wonder how your heart can still be beating when it is broken.

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

We woke up that morning with three children and we were walking out of the hospital with only two. His death would be later ruled as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

I do not remember a lot. I cannot tell you if there was snow on the ground when his body was placed into the earth. I cannot tell you how long I stayed in bed, how many days straight I cried, or how much medication I was put on. The only thing I can tell you for certain is my life was never the same again.

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

There is a misconception about those who continue to go on when their son or daughter dies. Everyone believes it is superpower strength you have because they surely would not be able to go on. I promise you, surviving child loss has nothing to do with being strong. God didn’t handpick me to bear the heaviest weight because I am stronger than you. Strength did not keep me going. I realized one day, I am still Knox’s mom no matter where he is and as his mom, I have a responsibility to him. Staying in bed until I die is not fulfilling my role as a mother to him or to my living children. That is not strength. It is love. Love pushes you to go on.

We began a non-profit foundation in honor of Knox. We wanted to do something to try and help other parents from living our nightmare. Four months after we lost him, we launched the Knox Blocks Foundation, where we donate Owlet Smart Socks to families in need. The Owlet tracks oxygen and heart rate levels while babies sleep and alerts parents if something is abnormal. We feel like if Knox had an Owlet, maybe that could have rewritten the ending to our story.

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

Several months into the foundation, I received a message from someone we donated an Owlet to, a complete stranger. It said, ‘Knox saved my baby’s life last night.’ My eyes flooded with tears and I looked towards the sky. A feeling of peace and pride washed over me. This is his purpose. I knew he was destined for greatness the first time I held him. I had no idea it wouldn’t be from earth but I could clearly see the impact he was going to make from Heaven.

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

There is not a second that passes when I don’t miss him and ache for him. But if I can force myself to look past the pain, I can see the gifts he has given me. Because of him, I have my sweet rainbow baby and learned it’s possible to feel joy again. Because of him, I know not to take a single day for granted. Because of him, I am able to see the beauty that reveals itself to you when the world is quiet. I see him everywhere. I feel him in all of it.

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

A friend told me days after Knox died, she pictured my heart shattering into millions of pieces when we lost him. One by one, over time, each piece will be picked up and placed back somewhere. Not in its original place. It will never be in its original form but instead a messy collage of the greatest love and loss possible.

She was right. The pain never goes away. As time passes, grief does not end. It takes on new forms. But you slowly begin picking up those shattered pieces one at a time and placing them wherever they will fit.”

Courtesy of Elisha Palmer

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elisha Palmer. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more powerful stories of parents working through child loss:

‘I went into my son’s room to wake him. I could sense something wasn’t right. I remember the pallor of his face as I turned him over. Grey. Porcelain.’

‘When we lost her, we lost our way completely. The day she died, my heart didn’t break – it disintegrated.’: Baby dies of SIDS at daycare; family heals by choosing to ‘make the world a kinder, more loving place in her name’

‘My son was 4 days away from 8 months old. Never one health concern, happy and brighter than the sun itself. I was in total bliss. Then, just like that, it was gone.’

‘The cold room smelt like bleach. It felt so wrong. ‘She’ll be returned to you in a carboard box.’ We dropped to our knees.’: Mom loses 10-month-old daughter to SIDS

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