You may or may not be aware that Friday June 28 marks the 30th anniversary for Red Nose Day. I have wanted to do this for a while, but I think with all the exposure SIDS is receiving this week it has encouraged me to finally tell my daughter’s story. To all the new and soon to be parents out there please, please read up on SIDS prevention methods and safe sleeping guidelines. I do not want any of my friends or family, or anyone else for that matter, to ever go through the pain and grief which Angela (my wife) and I did. If reading this prevents the loss of a precious little baby then Ada’s short life might have had a larger purpose.
So what could have we done to prevents Ada’s death? Nothing. We had a perfectly healthy beautiful baby girl. We followed all the SIDS preventions, all the safe sleeping guidelines. Still we lost her and we have no answer why. You should not have to go to bed each night, kissing your children good night, hoping you see them alive in the morning. My eldest, Zeke, is nearly five and we still worry. We still hear the horror stories and know that no family is immune to tragedy.
December 20 2015 began like any normal day and Ada woke a happy and healthy almost five-month-old baby girl. Later that morning, however, she started getting a little grumpy and her temperature went up slightly. So, before she went down for her morning sleep we gave her a little paracetamol to settle her.
That afternoon our street was organising a street Christmas party. We all went out onto the cul-de-sac with drinks and food and celebrated with each other. Ada, having obviously gotten over her earlier temperament, was dishing out smiles and giggles to any neighbour ready to get lost in those big, blue, happy eyes. By 7:30pm Angela decided that Ada was partied-out and ready for bed. I gave my daughter the last kiss and cuddle I would ever give her while her heart was beating.
If only I had have held her that bit longer or gone inside with her and Angela to spend just a few more minutes with her. Instead I stayed outside to have another drink and chat with my neighbours. I know I shouldn’t punish myself for this, but this is one thing I don’t forgive myself for. How stupid, being angry at yourself for doing what anyone would want to do. Enjoying a Christmas drink with your neighbours.
The memories of the next morning are very scattered. I could not tell you who I spoke to on the phone. How long it took the police and ambulance to arrive. Or which one of our friends or family ran through our door first.
One thing I do not forget is the sound of my wife screaming my name that morning. I still hear it in my dreams and wake in a panic to discover everyone is asleep. I could already hear in Angela’s voice that Ada was gone and I knew what I would be running into. My little girl lying on her side, lifeless.
The image of her little dark blue lips will never leave my mind. After a minute of panic and trying to console Angela we were on the phone calling ‘000’. I lifted Ada out of her cot and started what I already knew to be a helpless attempt at CPR, trying desperately to breathe life back into my daughter. The paramedics arrived and shortly told us what we already knew, our beautiful Ada had passed in the night.
All this happened while our two-year-old son still slept in his room next door. How do you tell a two-year-old that his little sister has to go away, and we won’t see her again?
So, Zeke has been told that Ada has gone away to be an angel. At four, nearly five, he still accepts this to a point. He has asked us if we can go and get her back now. This was after we told him that he and his brother, Spencer, were both going to be big brothers with Angela being pregnant again.
He had a better idea.
Let's just go get Ada back. Zeke has told us several times that he does not want Spencer or his new baby brother to go to be angels. Mate, we will do our best.
Zeke is a beautiful soul, full of love. He adores his little brother and has such a huge fascination with babies. Constantly asking for a hold and a cuddle. It’s hard to believe this is not due to his sister. I do not know how Angela and I would have continued if we did not have Zeke looking after us. It would have been so easy to give up, but we knew that was not an option. We still had a little family. We still had to live life as normal as possible for him.
I refer to Spencer as “Champ” all the time. He is exactly that, my little champion. Angela fell pregnant with Spencer very soon after Ada’s passing. We knew we wanted a larger family and were not prepared to wait too long to make it happen. Spencer brought so much more love and happiness into our home. We knew we wanted more of this, hence Angela is now pregnant again and we are expecting another son in July.
Back to that morning, once the coroner had taken Ada’s body, the police went into action quickly. I understand that a death has to be investigated but the process was cold and heartless.
Just after losing our daughter Angela and I were separated and questioned. I forgot most of the questions but a couple stand out because they shocked me. They wanted to know if Zeke liked his sister and if he could access her room? Are you serious? A two-year-old potentially wanting to do harm to his baby sister?
The other question that stunned me was they wanted to know the brand of bourbon I was drinking the night before and the exact type. I remember sitting there, just numb. I don’t remember much of the rest of the day. I know lots of friends and family came to pay respect. I remember talking to my mum on the phone while they were on there way down from Hervey Bay. Her wailing into the phone saying that it could not possibly be true.
The following day we were allowed to go see Ada for one last cuddle. I remember holding her and repeating the word “sorry”. I felt like I had failed my little girl. I was supposed to be her father, her protector. I failed. We also had to make a very hard decision that morning. Whether or not we would consent to a full autopsy. It was not absolutely necessary as the police report stated that there was no foul play to cause the death. We knew we had to. We needed answers.
Over six months later we got our answer in the post, in the form of a coroner’s report. There was no answer for Ada’s death. Cause of death was SIDS Category 1a. This means no cause. No asphyxiation, no toxins, no physiological, pathological or congenital reason for her death. She was a perfectly healthy baby girl. Something we already knew. She just did not wake up that morning.
The pain and grief of losing your child does not go away nor does it get better with time. I believe you just learn to live with that weight in your chest. I just watched an interview with Paul Field (brother of Anthony Field from The Wiggles) who lost his daughter to SIDS 30 years ago. He described the pain perfectly. He describes it as that feeling you get in your chest when you are at the shops with your child and you turn and they are not there. That panic that sets right in your chest for 10 seconds until you see your child again. Now imagine that feeling in the chest not going anywhere. Staying right in there and you must now live with it. It doesn’t dull, fade or lessen. You just have to adjust the way live life and manage with it there.
What I am trying to get across is that even though there was nothing we could have done we know a lot of you can do something to stop this possibly happening to you. It is very hard for us to see friends and family go against SIDS guidelines and just bite our tongue. They are there for a reason. They are proven to drastically reduce the chance of SIDS and accidental death in an infant. In the last 30 years the number of SIDS related deaths has been reduced by 85% due to the Red Nose Safe Sleeping campaign. Please look them up and follow them. We do not want any of you to go through this.
Thank you for reading to the end. Please feel free to share this with any or your friends and family. A majority of SIDS cases can be prevented.
Miss you Ada. Daddy loves you so, so much XX