‘BABE. Something’s wrong with the baby!’ He flew down the stairs without touching a step. I just screamed, and screamed some more.’: Mom loses daughter to SIDS, urges us to ‘live each day like it’s our last’

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“I guess the story starts when I found out I was pregnant for the third time…

I had been feeling very unwell with sickness and had fatigue that made me want to lay on the sofa all day. I already had two small children ages 5 and 2 and was in a new relationship with my partner Nick.

Courtesy of Laura Yarris
Courtesy of Laura Yarris

He is not the father of my eldest daughters but now, three years later, he is absolutely their dad.

Courtesy of Laura Yarris
Courtesy of Laura Yarris
Courtesy of Laura Yarris

I finally decided to take the test and, sure enough, I was pregnant and three months in.

I was stunned for a while. I really didn’t know if I could manage three small children living in a small apartment with a small income. On the other hand, Nick was over the moon and immediately started preparing and getting ready for the baby’s arrival. At my 20-week scan, I found out we were having a girl. Another girl! I think I already knew ‘she’ was going to be a ‘she’. In fact, I felt like I knew each time when I was having a girl. We also found I was Placenta Previa, meaning the placenta was laying across my cervix, preventing me from having a natural birth unless it somehow shifted and moved with the baby’s growth.

We spoke about names and I picked out a few. But when Nick mentioned the name Jaymie-Leigh, I was immediately in love with it! I knew it was the one.

The months seemed to fly by. Nick was travelling back and forth between the US and the UK for work and personal commitments. I was always busy with the children and house and trying to get ready for a 3rd little bundle of pink! After another scan, we were told I was definitely being scheduled for a c-section. This was planned for August 11th, the day of my late father’s birthday. It gave me a huge comfort and sense of meaning that they’d be sharing the day forever. I had a couple of scares in the later stages with unexplained bleeding and pains, but this was put down to the placenta causing pressure and tears in my cervix as Jaymie-Leigh grew larger.

Finally, the morning arrived, and Nick and I drove to the hospital while my mom and sister came to watch my other two daughters. Everything was going to plan and I was wheeled to surgery. About 10 minutes into the operation, my blood pressure started to drop and rise very erratically. Everything got very serious and quiet. Soon after, they discovered that my placenta had managed to attach itself to the lining of my womb.

I thought, ‘What? How is that even possible?’ I was so confused and worried. The doctors began considering a General Anesthesia to prevent more problems. I thought, ‘No way. No way were they knocking me out while my baby was being born.’ Nick and I started doing breathing exercises and had conversations about the children. My blood pressure slowly started to stabilize. Then, I heard her cry! Jaymie-Leigh was born with a mop of dark brown hair, the deepest blue eyes, and weighing 5lb 7oz.

Courtesy of Laura Yarris

She was beautiful and perfect. I was a mess. They tried to remove the attached placenta but stopped once I started bleeding. They decided to leave the tiniest piece attached, insert a drain attached to an IV bag to collect the blood, allow the nurses to see if the bleeding was slowing or worsening. This really didn’t concern me at the time. I was so wrapped up in this tiny beautiful little girl that all I wanted was a hot drink and a quiet room to feed and love her. And I got just that. Soon, I was allowed visits and my mom came along with my daughters to see their baby sister. We were so happy and grateful to have this amazing little tribe of women.

Three days later, I was allowed to go home with Jaymie. But first, the drain had to be removed. I imagined it was a small little tube or something they would just tug and pop out. Oh no… it was a monster. The width of a hosepipe and the length of my abdomen, with holes in either side to suction the blood from my uterus. After being in my body for 3 days, tissue had started to attach itself to this tube and so when they pulled, they pulled my insides with it. I screamed, I cursed, I told them they tortured me.

They managed to remove it and needed to a stitch the wound before I could move as it was pumping a lovely color of red all over the white bedsheets. They told me how sorry they were and didn’t realize this would happen the way it did. I wanted out. ‘Just get me out of her,’ I begged Nick.

So, home we went. We jumped headfirst into the chaos of a new baby and visits, also making sure my other daughters weren’t overshadowed by this tiny baby suddenly arriving in the house.

Courtesy of Laura Yarris
Courtesy of Laura Yarris
Courtesy of Laura Yarris

The next 21 weeks passed by in a flurry of birthdays and holidays.

Courtesy of Laura Yarris
Courtesy of Laura Yarris

On January 5, 2017, I had just taken the girls to preschool and returned home to feed Jaymie her bottle and baby porridge. My eldest had just gotten over a nasty cold and I was exhausted from being up most of the night with them for the past week. We put Jaymie Leigh upstairs in her cot when she fell asleep then we collapsed onto the sofa together for a well-deserved nap before it was time for lunch.

Around 45 minutes passed and I woke up and said to Nick, ‘I’m going to go up and get Jaymie. She will be hungry soon.’ He jumped up and as usual said, ‘No, let me. Take a minute to wake up, babe.’ I heard him reach the bedroom then I heard him scream… ‘Baaaaaabe. There’s something wrong with the baby!’ In a flash, he was already at the bottom of stairs. It seemed like he flew down without touching a step. I rushed upstairs.

Jaymie was still and floppy and laying across his arms. I just screamed. Screamed and screamed and screamed. I grabbed her and started touching her face, opening her mouth, looking for any sign of what was wrong with my little girl!

My neighbor heard my screams through the paper-thin walls of our little apartment complex and burst through the door. She just knew something was terribly wrong. She rushed in and grabbed Jaymie from me, laying her down, and immediately checking her airways, putting her ear to Jaymie’s chest. Nick was dialing 911. He was hysterical and begging them to hurry. They asked to speak to my neighbor and started instructing her to perform CPR.

I don’t remember much of what I was doing. I remember opening my balcony doors and screaming, seeing the air ambulance and screaming again. I remember seeing people across the street staring up to my window to see what was going while Nick ran into the field to help the paramedics find us.

By now, there is police, paramedics, and air ambulance in my home, all surrounding my tiny Jaymie as she is worked on in a desperate attempt to bring her back. I was curled in a ball in the kitchen being consoled by another neighbor when they called me through to announce the time of death.

What the hell was I hearing? Time of death? Jaymie was only 21 weeks old! All I could think was, ‘This can’t be right!’

I rode to the hospital, holding Jaymie-Leigh wrapped in her Peppa Pig blanket. I just stared at her hoping and praying she would just look up and smile at me. But no. She was gone. When I arrived at the hospital, I was ushered into the family room. Nick arrived, then my mother-in-law, then my cousins. We sat and waited. And waited some more.

Eventually, I was told, ‘You can go and hold your baby for the last time before she is taken to the mortuary.’

I really can’t remember a lot about the rest of the day. I was offered sedatives. I refused them. I just wanted to see my children and hold them. The police and healthcare personnel were waiting at my home when we got there. As is protocol, they had to inspect Jaymie’s cot and sleeping arrangements, interview myself, Nick, neighbors and basically treat my daughter’s death as unexplained until they knew more.

I was in contact with the coroner regularly and daily to learn what was next and when we could give my daughter a service. Her body had been taken to Southampton to a specialist in infant deaths to be sure they weren’t missing a thing and to try to find what caused this perfectly healthy baby girl to die in her sleep so suddenly.

A certain time frame has to be observed to be able to see if there is bruising on the brain. They could not rule out foul play until they were certain as with any sudden death.

The coroner called and said I could finally arrange Jaymie-Leigh’s cremation. They had found nothing at all wrong with my baby and in fact she was perfectly healthy before the moment her heart stopped beating.

The official cause of death was SIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It used to be known as cot death. This was no comfort to me. This was awful, just unfair, and unjust.

Courtesy of Laura Yarris

We cremated Jaymie-Leigh in a small service while her sisters were at school. I didn’t want them attending. Then Nick and I went home and tried to find normalcy. I was the saddest soul you have ever met. I couldn’t shower without crying, couldn’t close my eyes without seeing her. Then came the nasty humans that seem to lurk, in wait of tragedy, ready to hurt anyone already hurting.

A mother at my eldest daughters’ primary school was heard on the playground discussing Jaymie’s death, speculating and implying Nick and I had harmed her in some way. I was devastated and probably the angriest I have ever been. I wanted so badly to knock on her door and scream at her but I was too sad. Literally too sad to be angry. So, I went to see the headmaster and had him speak to the parents and inform them we were aware of the gossip and it had to stop.

The only way to come back from something like this is to be soft and kind. No other way. Anger will turn you ugly. From the inside out, I became determined that my surviving daughters would never feel overshadowed by their baby sister’s death. Some people almost adopt a saintly nature towards loved ones that have passed away. This can be so damaging for the survivors. I wanted going to show my girls what strength and grace really meant.

In May of 2017, Nick got news that a movie was going to be made about his life story. He received a sum of money up front and we decided this was it. Let’s get away from the misery and memories and live. Live like it’s our last day because it just might be! Losing Jaymie-Leigh has made me so grateful for life. Grateful for the beautiful planet we live on. Grateful to have given life to 3 beautiful girls even if it wasn’t forever.

So, we packed two suitcases and flew to LAX airport. We married on a beach in California with my daughter’s watching and traveled to the Canadian border and back down again. Then we found Oregon. Oh my. Oregon is paradise! We have lived here for 2 years now. I work as a private cleaner, doing a few houses a week and getting to meet some truly lovely people.

Courtesy of Laura Yarris

My husband and I live how Jaymie taught us to. With grace and dignity and kindness without judgement. Jaymie was the happiest baby ever. Seriously! She never had a bad day or a grumpy moment and part of me wants to believe this was because she knew she wasn’t here forever and knew every second was so important.

That is the core of healing too. Making every second count, feeling every emotion you need to feel but making sure it doesn’t take more from you than you want it to. Don’t give yourself to anger and regrets and pettiness. Live like this is your last day. For somebody it is. Life is that brutal but at the same time that beautiful.

Courtesy of Laura Yarris

I am truly happy these days. I miss her sometimes to the point where I feel physically sick. Other mornings I just wake up and cry. But, I am wholeheartedly happy. I’ve remained graceful and accepting. I’ve found a balance in life and embraced it. Whether it’s good or bad.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Laura Yarris of Oregon. You can follow her journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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