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Losing a Child: Always Andy's Mom

As a pediatrician, married mom of three biological children and one foster son, my life was busy, rushing off to my office four days a week, seeing patients for three and working as a medical director of a local physician organization for one. I balanced this with rushing off to shuttle my kids to after sports and other after school activities. All of this changed one day in August of 2018 when my 14 year old son, Andy, was killed in a car accident. I felt like my life was over, and in some ways it was over, and a new life was forced to begin in its place. 

Grief is seldom discussed openly in our culture, and the death of a child makes people feel even more uncomfortable. On this blog and podcast, ‘Losing a Child: Always Andy’s Mom’, the topic is approached openly and honestly, speaking to people who have lost loved ones and experts who help care for them. Whether you are a parent experiencing loss or someone who wants to support another going through this tragedy, this blog and podcast strives to offer hope and help.

Mar 18, 2021

When today's guest, Riley, learned that she was pregnant with twins after a two year struggle with fertility, she felt incredibly blessed. She went through 11 weeks of bedrest and went on to deliver two perfect, near-term infants - a boy and a girl, Eli and Alice. Her happiness was complete, and she felt as if her future was bright. This happiness was short-lived, however, when seemingly healthy Eli died in his sleep at three weeks of age. 

Suddenly, Riley was grieving her little boy while still trying to raise her newborn daughter, experiencing all that comes with being a new mom while trying to deal with tremendous grief. Friends gave amazing support to them, but often Riley felt that others wanted her to focus on Alice, and not Eli. They likely thought that trying to put all of the focus on Alice would lessen Riley's pain, but, in fact, Riley wanted to talk about Eli and not let him be forgotten.

Now, three years later, Riley and her husband still don't know exactly what happened to their little boy. His cause of death is listed as Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy. Eli's autopsy showed abnormalities of both the heart and liver, but genetics have never been able to pinpoint a specific cause of death. That makes going on even more difficult, when you think that it could happen again to one of your other children. 

Today, we talk about their loss and the unique struggles that arise when you have multiples and lose one or more of them. Riley reminds us to remember that each child is a unique, precious individual, and the death is not less difficult because their twin lives. Having a twin does not simply mean that you have a 'back-up' who is somehow expendable. In fact, the loss of a twin can actually make normally happy milestones feel painful. Every birthday is a day of celebration for one and mourning for the other. The first day of kindergarten is an exciting day certainly, but also a reminder that one is missing. It is a good lesson for all of us to remember.