Go ahead and Google “SIDS Risks,” and you’ll quickly find yourself wading in a morass of paranoia and terror. But when I got together with my second-time-mom’s group last weekend and the subject came up – because nearly everyone there broke at least one SIDS “rule” and felt horrible about it – someone pointed out that all the SIDS recommendations are things that make your kid comfortable.
Don’t let them be too warm! Don’t give them blankets! Don’t let them lie on their tummies with their little butts in the air! Don’t put anything cute in their crib!
Yes, of course I get it – people put too much crap in the crib, and some babies re-breathed too much carbon dioxide, or got tangled in blankets, or – uch, it makes my heart stop to think about it too hard. Yes. I understand. I don’t think the recommendations are bullshit, they are there to keep us and our kids safe.
But for a rule-follower like me, it’s hard to know when it’s ok to relent a little.
It’s been beastly cold here in San Francisco over the past week or so. Not when you compare it to my home on the East Coast, of course, but I’ll say to you what my uncle from Moscow one said to me: “Ets deeferent.” The windows are drafty, the houses aren’t insulated properly, and the heat is inefficient because we so rarely have to rely on it. So when there is a cold snap, you can’t batten down the hatches – there are no hatches to batten down.
(Same when there’s a heat wave. Nobody, but nobody, has air conditioning here. So while I routinely survived Brooklyn summer temps that soared past 100, I did so with a big clunky machine making my bedroom cool. Here, it goes past 90 and nobody sleeps. It’s temperate, but crazy.)
Anyway, it was clear that something had to be done as we all padded around our apartment in layers of fleece and wooly socks. Penny had a cold, and her little nose was red all the time. My husband admitted he was unable to force himself out of the shower. I was mainlining brownies in an effort to build up a layer of protective blubber (mission accomplished!). Then there was the night when I reached for Abby in the middle of the night, as she fussed for a feeding, and her little hands felt like round, chubby ice cubes. I’m not exaggerating – they were really cold, so cold that I wrapped my hands around them, pulled her close, and tucked the covers over both of us for the rest of the night, which probably broke every rule in the SIDS book.
Can’t put those little mittens on her – she uses her hands to self-soothe. And she busts out of the swaddle for the same reason. I had to turn the heat on.
I was so scared. I read all the SIDS sites I could stand, trying to determine what temperature was too hot, dangerous. They all said that an adult should be comfortable in light clothing. Well, I was freezing. But as I said, the heat here is unpredictable and weird – the room might get warm and stuffy at some point in the night! When I finally let Randy turn on the heat, I spent the whole night with my hand in the co-sleeper, feeling Abby’s chest rise and fall with reassuring regularity.
The second night I slept a little more. One of the miracles of motherhood is that I can lay quietly and listen, and I will hear my little baby’s whispering breaths the same way I used to hear snowflakes hit the wet ground. Sometimes I lay there in the dark and just listen, my husband on one side, my baby on the other. If I’m really quiet I can hear the toddler in the other room. Also, my landlords downstairs (they snore), but let’s not think about the implications of that.
Ach, I’d love to be the kind of woman who has instincts and follows them and everything is hunky dory. But I am the kind of woman who is paranoid and nervous and a worrywort! I own it.