Yianni James Charalambous burst into our world 2 weeks early due to some last minute pregnancy complications. As first time parents, we were sure that he wouldn’t arrive until well past his official due date in mid-July. Would he be a Cancer or a Leo I pondered. I can recall vividly the moment that the doctors told us that our baby needed to be induced ‘now’. ‘Oh no,’ I told them, ‘I have to be at work in a few hours, and I don’t have a packed hospital bag’.
Within 48 hours our tiny but cuddly boy was with us, and we were catapulted into a new world of endless nappy changes, sleepless nights, and constant feeding (who knew that such a small being could consume so much – or was he just cuddling in and being cozy?!). I recall one of the early, grueling, sleep deprived nights, lying in bed, unable to sleep for no good reason. Yet with my husband on one side of me, and our beautiful baby boy slumbering (for once!) in his moses basket on the other side, all was good in the world, and I felt truly complete.
Our little Yan was a keen eater, and he quickly grew into an adventurous toddler. He was never a big sleeper, and would often be awake by 5.30am, ready to go. His inquisitive nature, cheeky smile, and huge deep blue eyes caused people to smile and engage with him wherever we travelled. He rolled over at 2 weeks old, was commando crawling at six months, and by 13 months he was hurtling around the room, throwing or kicking a ball. Like a little fish, he loved to swim, and we always joked that if he didn’t become a professional cricketer or footballer, he’d be sure to become an Olympic swimmer on Team GB. Our boy loved the beach, feeding ducks, and singing, particularly ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. Despite my best efforts to supply him with completely gender neutral toys, including a pink singing tea pot, his preference was for cars, bikes, and anything with wheels. He was also a big talker, and took great delight in impressing us with his command of both the English and Greek languages, plus a few words that he had made up himself, which were obviously much better than real words in either language!
One autumn evening we put our beautiful, energetic boy to bed, as usual. Despite suffering a bit of a cough (entirely usual for a toddler during November when evil viruses are flying around), he had been bundling around the house as usual, and had eaten a full portion of his favourite dinner – sausages, chips and beans. He had also enjoyed his bedtime milk and story.
Our gorgeous boy, and only child, had gone to sleep, never to wake up.
The next day our world fell to pieces. I woke up to head off for an early work meeting, and crept quietly by Yianni’s door on my way to the bathroom. I listened outside his door for the usual, steady, sleepy breathing, but couldn’t hear a thing. What followed is the stuff of parental nightmares. Our first aid training kicked in, but despite the efforts of the wonderful paramedics, who were on the scene in only 6 minutes, and the A&E team at our local hospital, it was too late. Our gorgeous boy, and only child, had gone to sleep, never to wake up.
How is it possible to put a seemingly perfectly health toddler to bed, but for that child not to wake up the next day? This question has puzzled me for the last 3 years, but I am hopeful that one day we will have an answer, and that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC), will be a thing of the past. I firmly believe that there will come a time families will not be devastated by this type of tragedy, and that SIDS and SUDC will be predictable and preventable.
This answer will only be found through research, so to help to find an answer for us, and for other families like ours, we, together with our amazing family and friends, have been working to raise funds for and awareness of SIDS and SUDC. Many miles have been run, cycled and swam, cakes have been baked and sold, and fetes have been held. We are also committed to raising awareness in the communities in which we live and work. Since there are so few things that I can do for Yianni, I’m glad for these opportunities to remember him, and to do something positive. My son has taught me how to value all that life has to offer, and to appreciate the beauty in small things. Since he is not able to, I have resolved to live my life with vivacity and enthusiasm, and to enjoy every moment (yes, even those tantrum filled, sleep deprived ones – Yianni now has a little sister who will sadly never know him the way we did). I’m honoured to be mother to both of my children, and am proud of the lessons that my son taught me during his all too short life.