Monday, May 15, 2006 was an ordinary Monday. There were 4 days left of the school year, and I was looking forward to spending the summer with my daughters. Kamilla had just turned 4, and wants to be a ‘star,' and Nora was 10 days from her 1 year birthday, and she lit up our lives like the brightest star in the universe.
I dressed Kamilla first and brought her into Nora's room to get Nora ready. We played this peek a boo game every morning. I knew Nora was standing in the corner of her crib waiting for me or her pappa to come in. I always peeked around the corner into her room, anxiously awaiting her beaming smile and giddy laugh. She always marched in her crib when we came in, she was so excited she just couldn't contain herself! She reached her arms out to me and patted me on the back. We gave each other a big hug, and in her baby way said, “Good morning, Mamma, I missed you.”
Nora was wearing my favorite pajamas that night. They were pink and white and were so soft. She was extra cuddly that morning, I just wanted to sit and hold her. So I did, I sat with her in the rocking chair and cuddled her for a few extra minutes all the time not knowing or realizing that this was going to be the last time that I got to cuddle with my little angel.
We stood in front of the closet looking for something to wear – it was the middle of May, and had been an early spring, but it was cloudy and damp outside. We choose a red turtleneck and embroidered jeans. Nora always looked so cute in her little jeans. I changed her diaper as she looked at her favorite book of babies, chewing a little bit on the corner. That was okay, though, it was the only way to get her to lay still. She was such a wiggleworm!
After Nora was dressed and ready for the day, I did something else I didn't normally do. I placed her in her crib while Kamilla and I sat in her room combing Kamilla's hair. Nora stood there and played with the toys that I put in her crib for her. She had a little ball that she teased us with by holding it over the edge of the crib – she kept pulling it in and holding it over the edge, as if to say “Dare me!.”
When it was time to go, I quickly put a ponytail in Nora's unruly hair. It wasn't curly like Kamilla's, but stick straight, and if I didn't pull it up to a pony on the top of her head, it hung over her eyes all day! We quickly went downstairs to get her new pink coat on and head out the door. I remember thinking how well she fits on my hip now. She wraps her little legs around my waist, and just fits like a puzzle piece.
My husband took Kamilla and Nora to daycare every day. I gave Kamilla a hug goodbye and knocked on the window to wave good-bye to Nora. I had no idea that it would be my last good-bye to her. On some mornings, on the way to daycare, they had to wait for the train. This was one of those mornings. My husband, Kim, didn't realize at the time how precious those extra moments in the car were.
Kim dropped the girls off at Julie's house, our daycare provider for the past 3 years. Julie took Nora and placed her in her high chair to give her breakfast. She always waved good-bye to Kim and had an especially bright smile on her face.
That morning at school went as usual. We were tie-dying shirts at school, and were just cleaning up when my phone rang. “Kindergarten,” I answered. “Nora's not breathing. Go to the emergency room.” It was Julie, and she was in a panic. This was the moment life froze. I don't really know what happened from there. I grabbed my purse and keys and ran out the door. It was a 20 minute drive from my school to the hospital. It was a complete blur. I thought about speeding, but then I thought if I got pulled over, it would take me longer to get to Nora. I didn't know what to do. I remember saying the whole way, “This can't be happening, this can't be happening.”
I called my parents, who were 6 hours away. My mom just received a liver transplant and was finishing up with final testing before she could go home. My mom answered. “Mom,” I said, “Nora's not breathing. I don't know what's happening. I'm almost at the emergency room. I'm so scared.”
I parked at the first parking spot I saw when I pulled up to the hospital and sprinted into the emergency room. “My baby,” I said, “Where's my baby?” The nurse shuffled me into a small waiting room inside the E.R. First she told me that they were there, then they weren't there, then they were. It was total confusion. Finally, she came in and told me they were there and I could be in the room with her.
She ushered me to a chair, and when I looked up, Nora was being rolled in. Her tiny body was so still. The paramedics were performing CPR. The room was so calm. After everything you see on t.v., you think that the room was total chaos. But everyone was calm, except for me. Kim came in just after they came in with Nora. He rode with the police officer behind the ambulance. Time was like being in slow motion and fast forward at the same time.
I stood there and held Nora's hand and cried. I prayed and hoped that the heart monitor would start beeping and she would squeeze my hand back.
That morning at day care was a normal morning for Nora and the rest of the kids. After they finished their breakfast of cheerios with milk and bananas, a favorite of Nora's, all of the children played together. Nora had a basket of toys that she liked to play with, she had her favorites at daycare as well as at home. Julie, her daycare provider, noticed that Nora seemed a little tired that morning. It was a Monday morning, and the children are usually a little extra tired that morning. Julie laid Nora down at about 9:30 in her pack and play. Julie went in at 9:45 to check on her, she was laying on her tummy, her bottom up in the air, just as she normally did. Nora was almost one, and we were given the okay to let her sleep on her tummy. It was impossible to keep her on her back, she moved around so much when she slept. About 15 minutes later, Julie had to go back into the room where Nora was sleeping to put something away. She noticed that Nora's bottom was no longer up in the air, she laid very still. She felt a pang in her stomach, as something didn't seem right. She gently moved Nora, and Nora didn't startle. She tried again and immediately knew something was wrong. She lifted Nora's lifeless body out of the pack and play and immediately began CPR.
Julie did 2 rounds of breaths and called for the paramedics. She continued CPR and told the children to go play in her daughter's room. The paramedics came quickly and took over CPR. It was at that time that Julie called me and my husband.
When Kim got the call, he was in as much shock as I was. It is normally at least a 10 minute drive from his work to Julie's. He said he made it in 3 or 4. When he got there, he was told to stay in the kitchen; he was not allowed to see Nora. He paced frantically across the kitchen floor not knowing what was happening. Police officers kept saying, “I'm so sorry.” Kim could not understand why, he was not told what was happening.
Soon, they brought Nora out to the ambulance and left for the hospital. Kim rode behind in the police car.
They continued CPR at the hospital for at least 45 minutes. I didn't look at the clock, I didn't know how long they had been doing CPR, I just hoped that they could do something. They kept giving her some sort of fluid through an IV in her leg. They did a chest x-ray and a blood gas. We kept asking if there was something more they could do. The doctor said they were doing everything possible.
At one point, I asked the doctor, what was going on, what happened to her. I'll never forget what he said. He said, “It looks like sudden infant … .” He never finished his sentence. I said she's too old! She's almost one. He replied that it can happen up to age one.
They continued to perform CPR, but now the nurse that was doing the chest compressions was sniffling. I knew that it wasn't good. The doctor told us he needed to wait for a test to come back to see if there was any oxygen in her blood. That test came back, and it wasn't good news. It was at that time, they stopped CPR.
I collapsed to the floor. My baby, my beautiful baby was gone. She was laying there in only her diaper on top of her favorite blankie that Grandma made, with tubes all over her little body. As she wiped the tears from her eyes, the nurse removed what she could. She carefully wrapped her in a blanket and handed her to me and I sat and rocked my baby.
We called my parents and Kim's parents as well as my brothers. Those calls were the hardest that we ever had to make. How do you tell someone that your perfectly healthy, almost one year old baby, had just died?
We took turns holding Nora. I rocked while I held her, I don't know why I rocked, motherly instincts, I guess. We were eventually moved to a smaller room and we continued to hold her and weep over her. She looked so peaceful. It looked like she was sleeping – we expected and wanted her to wake up and smile up at us. It was so surreal. It is nothing that any parent should ever have to go through.
People came in and out of the room, the nurse, who took such good care of us; the hospital chaplain; our church pastor; and my brothers and their wives. We all cried together in the room. At one point, 2 nurses from Labor and Delivery came down and took a mold of Nora's hand. It's a perfect little treasure of her.
We held Nora for 2 maybe 3 hours, the time went so quickly. We couldn't believe our precious baby was gone from us. We were sad and angry at the same time. We were mad that she didn't get to experience all that life had to offer. We wondered how we were going to tell Kamilla.
At some point, we knew it was time to go. Nora's little body was beginning to feel heavy and slightly cold. We didn't know what to do – there isn't instructions for this kind of thing. I wrapped her carefully in the hospital blanket and gave her to the nurse, who was crying right along with us. I told her to take good care of my baby. Leaving my baby was the hardest thing that I ever have had to do.
We walked out of the emergency department crying, my brothers waiting for us, waiting to drive us back to the daycare where Nora died to pick up our other daughter. She had no idea what was happening.
We picked up Kamilla at Julie's, and she was as happy as ever. We tried to be strong for her, which was hard to accomplish. We took her outside and sat on the front steps, the day had turned into a beautiful sunny day. We told her that Nora went to heaven, that she is an angel now. She is only four and doesn't have the comprehension of an adult. She looked up at us, and gave us a huge hug. She misses Nora every single day, she sleeps with a teddy bear that has Nora's picture on it. She talks about her every day, and I often find her sitting with Nora's toys, just holding on to them.
The days following Nora's death are all kind of a blur. Planning a funeral for your child is absolutely the worst thing a parent can endure. There are so many things to plan and finalize - you realize what is truly important in your life. Nora's memorial service and funeral were packed full of family and friends. People came from all over the U.S. and Norway to celebrate Nora's life. We had a slide show during the memorial service of all the pictures we have taken of Nora - thank goodness there are a few hundred, since I don't get to take anymore of my precious baby. During the funeral service, we chose our most special family photos and shared them.
Kim and I want to thank everyone that stopped by with gifts of food and comfort, we want to thank everyone who sent cards and flowers - friends and strangers alike. We wish that we could thank everyone personally. Every day is difficult, and we miss Nora tremendously.
Please, take a minute to educate yourself about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The most important think that we ask of you, however, is to take the time, right now, and go hug your children. Every day you have with them is so precious.