‘It’s just one night. It won’t hurt.’ I was just so doggone tired.’: Mom begs parents not to bedshare, cosleep, ‘I wish I’d listened’

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“Every mom who bedshares thinks they’re doing the right thing for their baby.

They’ve been told it’s natural. They’ve been assured by relatives, friends, and strangers on social media that they’ve all done it with their babies, and their babies are fine. They’ve been told about the Safe Sleep 7 – that it’s safe to bedshare as long as mom breastfeeds, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t take drowsiness-inducing medication and isn’t under the influence, isn’t overweight, uses light blankets and minimal pillows, has a firm mattress, isn’t overtired, and the list goes on…

So many variables that could easily be missed. So many minute variables that, if one thing is amiss, baby could die.

They’ve been told it’s cruel to leave baby ‘alone in a cold crib to cry’. They’ve been told that other countries bedshare just fine. They’ve been told the egregious lie that ‘bedsharing actually REDUCES SIDS because baby mimics mom’s breathing!’ They’ve been told it’s actually dangerous NOT to bedshare because an overtired mom trying to sit up to feed might fall asleep in a dangerous place.

Most probably lie when the doctor asks if baby sleeps on their own, with that sick feeling in their heart, wondering if the doctor will suspect the truth and call CPS.

Some actually have the gall to laugh and get cocky on social media posts promoting safe sleep, or warning moms against the dangers of bedsharing, or posts talking about bedsharing related deaths.

‘Don’t shame me for MY choice for MY child,’ they say – while simultaneously shaming moms for safe sleep.

Some are shameless enough that they have the audacity to tell a grieving mom ‘IT WAS THE VACCINES!!!’

But most moms haven’t read about positional asphyxia because their adult bed is too soft, even if it’s a firm mattress by adult standards.

Most moms haven’t heard that baby can actually suffocate under mom’s breast.

Most moms won’t consider the possibility that maybe one night, one of the ‘safe bedsharing’ variables might slip, and they might let it go because baby won’t sleep anywhere else now. They might let it go because ‘it’s just one night, it won’t hurt.’

Most moms don’t think about the fact that they will be an UNCONSCIOUS adult weighing so much more than baby, and that a baby’s suffocation is silent.

Most moms won’t think that a baby will be completely helpless to get themselves out of a suffocating situation. That mom, or dad, or a sibling that also shares mom’s bed, might roll…or even drape an arm or another body part over baby. That a pillow or blanket might shift and wind up over baby’s face.

You know how I know all this? Because I ‘WAS’ that mom.

Courtesy Savannah Struchen

I had a family emergency. My two older children had a bad fall – right after a night I’d been drinking. I was in the emergency room, and later a children’s hospital, for nearly 24 hours.

I didn’t think that one or two bottles of formula might have affected how heavily baby slept.

I didn’t think about the fact that I was too tired. That maybe dad was too tired.

I had already been made to sign a generic safe sleep agreement by a DCS caseworker (The hospital had made a protocol report because of the kid’s injuries), even though I’d lied about where baby slept anyways. Tomorrow, I told myself. Tomorrow I’ll take all the laundry out of my pack n play and move it to the bedroom for Baby to sleep in.

I was just so doggone tired. The caseworker wasn’t coming back until tomorrow. One more night wouldn’t hurt, I told myself.

So, I laid down, put baby to the breast, and fell asleep.

When I woke up, there was blood on my shirt and coming from her nose. I panicked, remembering the story of a mom who lost her baby to bedsharing – she said she found her baby with blood and mucus flowing from her nose. That when babies suffocate, thru capillaries in their nose explode.

Not me. Not my baby. It couldn’t be. She would wake up if I picked her up and changed her diaper, right?

She didn’t. She was as limp as a rag doll.

I remember crying and screaming, ‘no, no, no.’ I remember my husband rushing into the room, asking me what was wrong…’Abby…’ was all I could get out, and pointed…I remember him bellowing in my face that ‘THIS IS WHY YOU DON’T COSLEEP – DCS IS GOING TO TAKE OUR KIDS NOW!!!’ I remember him screaming down the stairs for his mom’s phone, calling 911, attempting CPR. I remember the EMTs coming in and trying before rushing her to the hospital. I remember being talked to, driven to the police station, and being interrogated. I remember the cop taking my shirt for evidence and handing me another to change into. I remember crying until my eyes were swollen, my face was smeared with snot, and my head hurt. I remember asking the officer if I was going to be arrested. I remember being told that she didn’t make it. I remember, but it’s a hazy blur.

I thought I was doing the right thing for my baby. I was reassured by multiple moms in mom groups that it was safe.

I didn’t think about the dangers, even though I’d been warned, even though I’d been educated by doctors and nurses on safe sleep, even though my husband and I argued almost every night about it.

He’s not my husband anymore.

My other two children have now been adopted by another family.

I lost everything – just because I took that risk.

I ask every mom who reads this who still bedshares, intends to bedshare, or is on the fence between bedsharing and safe sleep – do you REALLY want to take that risk of a very tiny variable killing your baby – a variable you cannot control because you will be ASLEEP? Do you REALLY think you can beat the odds? Are you REALLY that comfortable with the lifelong guilt and grief you will carry?

I wish I hadn’t taken that risk.

I wish I’d listened.

Please listen to me and don’t let Abby’s death be in vain.

~ RIP Abigail Brooklynn Hensley  11/10/16 – 01/21/17 ~”

Courtesy Savannah Struchen

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Savannah Struchen, 25, of Louisiana.   Do you have a similar grief journey? We’d like to hear your story, for other parents to know they are not alone. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.

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