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She told me: 'Sometimes babies sleep so peacefully... they just forget how to breathe'.

“Sometimes babies are sleeping so peacefully that they forget to breathe.”

By LIZ LOPA

I was 10 when he died.

I took the phone call and I remember you could hardly speak for crying. I raced out to mum at the washing line, calling “Jenny’s on the phone and she’s crying”. It is funny how clearly I remember it and how, even at that young age, I knew something was terribly wrong.

It was a Sunday morning and I remember mum and dad racing around upstairs with an air of panic. They were putting on clothes and shoes and running out to the car. Frantic. What’s wrong I asked them.

“She thinks Michael is dead.”

Silence.

I remember grabbing my statue of Mary and praying on my bed. Praying for you and for your little boy.

But it didn’t work. Michael was dead.

That dear little 7 month old baby – my nephew – was dead. Ripped away by what is now known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and what was then just called Cot Death.

This is how our family was touched by the tragedy that is the death of a baby.

And even worse (if it is possible), the unexplained death of a baby.

I remember asking Mum why our son had died and she said no one really knew but that sometimes babies are just sleeping so peacefully that they forget to breathe. That was the best explanation at the time, and in 2013 we know more but not that much more – mystery still surrounds the cause of this terrible phenomenon.

Will you be buying a red nose this Red Nose Day?

I don’t know how you coped back then. But I do remember you getting involved in what must have been some of the earliest Red Nose Days.

I recall selling red noses in the city and a man started abusing you, telling you that cot death was just a cover for parents who murder their children.

Dad had to come and pick us up.

I remember after your second son was born, sleeping with you in your water bed and the breathing alarm incessantly going off from the room next door as he rolled off the pad.

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Every time you jumped out of bed in a panic. You just had to check that he was still breathing. I didn’t get any sleep on those nights and I don’t think you got any sleep any night, as you lay anxiously awake, making absolutely sure that your son was safe.

By this time you were doing it as a single mum. It must have been hell for you.

Yet even with all these memories I never really understood what you went through until now.

We all know losing a child must be terrible and we can all sympathise. But it was not until I had children myself that I understood. And I cried for you.

I have never told you but the first night after my son was born, I held him tight and I cried for you.

I don’t know how you surivived. Today you are a great mum to three grown up kids. A great wife, a career woman, a caring friend, a wonderful big sister and a favoured aunty to my kids. You are also one of the strongest women I know.

I am sorry I have never told you before how sorry I am.

Today I sent my kids to daycare wearing their PJs for Red Nose Day. I have not yet told them about their beautiful cousin Michael, who died 26 years ago.

They have money in their pockets to donate to SIDS for Kids.

“It’s to help stop the babies from dying” said my eldest Zach.

Yes, my son, to help stop the babies from dying.

Liz’s kids wearing pjs to day care.

Liz Lopa is a stay at home mum to three kids 4 and under, who was once told she could never have children! Currently on maternity leave, Liz used to work as a political staffer to ACT Labor. Born and raised in Canberra – with dalliances in Tamworth and Sydney –  Liz now finds time to write between nappies, wet beds, preschool runs and swimming lessons. Peace is rocking the baby to sleep in the rocking chair!

Today is Red Nose Day, and SIDS and Kids would love your support. Here’s how you can help:

  • –  Donate via the website.
  • –  Create your own Supporter Page by clicking here.
  • –  Go to Red Nose Me to upload a photo of yourself and ‘tag it’ with a red nose Visit the website for more information and to see the full range of merchandise.

Why? SIDS and Kids provides vital safe sleeping education to expectant mothers and their families, and healthcare professionals all around Australia. In addition, SIDS and Kids provides much needed counselling and support to anyone affected by the death of a baby or child, and provide a 24/7 bereavement support line for the cost of a local call.

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