WEDNESDAY, Dec. 8, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Allison Glover lost her baby boy, Garrett, to sudden infant death syndrome a little more than two months after she gave birth to him and his twin brother, Gordon.
The twins were born seven weeks early, on Feb. 23, 2000, but both had relatively healthy birth weights, given their early arrival, said Glover, now 40 and living in Stone Mountain, Ga.
Garrett seemed the stronger of the two. He was the first to come home, after a week spent at the hospital, whereas Gordon had to wait three weeks. Garrett was also the first to wake up and demand to be fed. "He was the heavier baby and he was always more aggressive," Glover recalled.
When she took the boys in for their two-month checkups, Garrett and Gordon were both the picture of health. "Garrett had more than doubled his birth weight," she said. "He was plumping up. He was beautiful. He was actually two pounds heavier than Gordon."
The doctor gave each baby three vaccinations and sent Glover on her way.
That night, around midnight, she laid them down to sleep in a cradle next to her bed. She woke up after 3 a.m. to the sound of Gordon crying. That was unusual, she recalled, because Garrett always woke first.
Glover scooped Gordon up and began to nurse him, then gently tapped on Garrett to wake him as well. "With twins, you want to nurse them both at the same time, to get it over with," she said. "I assumed he was sleeping in late because of his shots or something."
Within seconds she realized Garrett wasn't breathing. "I panicked," she said. "I began screaming at my husband to wake up."
Glover's husband, a police sergeant, administered CPR while she called 911. Medics were on the scene within three minutes and rushed her husband and Garrett to the hospital. Glover stayed behind to dress Gordon and their oldest child, 4-year-old Victoria. Her brother-in-law drove her and the kids to the hospital.
Her husband intercepted her as she was running toward the emergency room door. He held her in a tight embrace and said six words: "Honey, our son didn't make it."
"It was like time stood still," Glover recalled. "I heard what he said, but the words didn't compute. I stood there staring at him for about 10 seconds. When the meaning of the words sank in, I screamed so loudly. There are days, 10 years after my son's death, where I think I'm still screaming."
Back then, however, an overwhelming sense of befuddlement took hold.
"You're baffled. You're angry. You're second-guessing what they tell you," she said. "It doesn't seem normal, it doesn't seem natural that a perfectly healthy baby can die for no reason at all. I was blaming myself. Was it something in the formula I gave him the night before? Was it his shots?"
Within hours, Glover and her husband were in the office of a medical examiner, who pulled out books and guided the couple to passages that provided information about SIDS.
"In a way, it was a comfort," Glover said. "A person's natural instinct is to blame themselves. Babies just shouldn't die like this. In a way, it was a relief, and it was somewhat an answer to a question. It took a big piece of the guilt out of the picture."
The Glovers now have three children. Another girl, Gabrielle, was born 17 months after Garrett's death.
Still, there's a Garrett-shaped hole in their family, Glover said, especially when they look at Gordon and wonder how much alike or how different Garrett might have been. "It's a constant reminder, but it's a reminder in a good way," she said.
Glover is a stay-at-home mom who also works as a health educator. She tries to let families of children who die from SIDS know that, even though it doesn't feel like it, there is life after the loss of a child.
"The one thing that made us most disheartened and uncomfortable was the thought that acute grief was what we were going to feel for the rest of our lives," she said. "They say things get better over time. That is true, but it is a difficult thing to say to a family. You learn different ways to deal with the pain. But it's a horrible thing in the early days and weeks after losing that baby because you think you will always feel like that, and it's not true."
"Slowly but surely, your life will come back together," she said.