I remember every detail of Nov. 17, 2003. It was almost three years ago, but it feels like yesterday. Monday started as a normal day. I dropped my two-month, 28-day-old daughter, Kaitlyn, off at the babysitter’s at 6 a.m. and drove to the Naval Base in Norfolk. I just re-enlisted for another 3 years in the service, excited and finally looking forward to shore duty. The only thing weighing on my mind was my husband, Anthony, who left for Bahrain one month earlier. I remember being so thankful he was here for the birth of our daughter.

After a long day at work, I climbed in my big gas-guzzling truck we bought for the safety of our daughter and was on my way to pick her up. As I turned down the street I noticed a few police cars, but it didn’t look too serious. I stepped out of the truck and a tall man in a dark gray suit approached me and told me to have a seat in his car. That is all it took. As a mother I knew something had happened to my daughter.

Thoughts started racing through my mind. “Where is she? What’s going on?” The man told me he was the police chaplain and my daughter died earlier that day. I literally felt my heart stop. This must be a dream right? I’ve been at work all day, she just had her two month check up and the doctor said that she was a perfectly healthy little girl. The chaplain said my babysitter laid Kaitlyn down to sleep around 8 a.m. and went in to check on her at 11 a.m. and found she had stopped breathing.

Kaitlyn was found laying on her stomach on a large comforter in an adult bed. He said they suspect that it might have been Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This was an absolute nightmare. SIDS? I knew exactly what Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was. At home we used all the techniques to reduce the risk to ensure this didn’t happen. She slept in a crib on her back, we didn’t allow anyone to smoke in the home, and didn’t over bundle her. We even emphasized this to the babysitter. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. My husband was overseas, and all our famililes live more than 1,000 miles away in Wisconsin. All I had here was my daughter. How would I call my husband and tell him his daughter died and even worse, on the day of his birthday?

That night I went home and two girls from work stayed with me until my family flew in the next day. My husband was home a few days later. We planned a funeral and went through the next weeks in a daze. At the funeral home they gave me a folder with a name and number for the Virginia SIDS Alliance Support Group in Hampton Roads. It didn’t take me long to realize I needed help from other people who experienced the

same tragic loss. We met on a Thursday night in Chesapeake and I was immediately drawn to these wonderful families. It is such a compassionate group. I knew at that moment they were feeling the same way I was and that is a connection you can’t get with any psychologist or therapist.

Over the last 2 ½ years I have become a board member for the Virginia SIDS Alliance and still regularly attend our support group meetings. We are all a large family who want our children to be remembered and we all understand what it is like to lose a child unexpectedly and without explanation. Some of us lost children at a babysitter’s, relatives and some our own homes but we all had huge dreams and hopes for our children. We laid them down to sleep where we thought they would be safe

and they never woke up. I have since been blessed with another daughter who is 8-months-old. Not a nap or night goes by where I don’t watch over her and double or triple check to make sure she is breathing.

I have learned that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can not be prevented but you can definitely reduce the risk the risk by laying babies on their backs alone in a crib.

November 17 will be a day I dread for the rest of my life, but I know I would not have made it this far without the love, compassion, and understanding from these other families. As a group we organize fundraisers and try to educate the public on SIDS. Even if one child’s life is saved because of my daughter’s death, then she has made her mark in this small world.