On May 21, 2016, I lost my son Princeton and the timing couldn’t have been worse.
Two days prior to Princeton’s passing he had been to the doctor for his 2-month checkup. When we arrived home, we never imagined that things would never be the same. Princeton was very irritable and cranky which was unusual for him.
The day after his appointment, we visited a family member and she even noticed that Princeton wasn’t “acting” like his normal self. Later that day, he began to smile and laugh as I was changing his diaper. I immediately thought to myself how happy I was that he was starting to feel a little better.
The next morning, I woke up from a loud cry from that I thought was from Princeton, only to realize that he was still asleep and the cry didn’t actually come from him. I picked him up to get him prepared for his diaper change and feeding. I started talking to him, jokingly asking if he was playing possum on me. I noticed Princeton was unresponsive.
I went blank, numb for a moment trying to rationalize what was happening; I remember letting out a scream, waking up the entire house yelling and crying, “Call 911 y’all, please, my baby.”
The operator stayed on the phone giving me direction to perform CPR. I was overwhelmed, in a state of shock, and trying to gain my composure to help my baby. My older babies were in the back screaming and crying. Here I was trying to resuscitate my baby and manage their emotions all on my own. It was too much for me to handle.
Once the ambulance and police came, they rushed into the house and took Princeton from us, laid him on the living floor and began performing CPR. They weren’t able to make progress. The EMT picked him up and took him to the ambulance, closing the door immediately behind them. During the last CPR session they gave him, he pooped and I knew then what had happened. I just didn’t want to believe it … still.
I attempted to get in the ambulance, but I wasn’t allowed to. So one of the officers placed me in the back of the police car and drove me to St. Mary's Emergency Center in Sun Prairie. I was placed in a room along with a police officer. About 25–30 minutes later, a doctor came into the room, sat on the table, took her hat off and dropped her head.
Her words to me: “I’m sorry. I did everything I could do, but Princeton didn’t make it.”
I fell to the floor screaming, (by this time another officer was in the room) and the two officers, one planted on each side of me, lifted me up off the floor. The doctors told me that I could go see my baby.The two officers helped to carry me to Princeton’s side to say my final goodbyes to my son, my baby.
As I walked in, an officer was sitting by his bedside.She helped me to sit so that I could hold Princeton. I was shocked and still in disbelief that I was holding my son for the last time. He had a tube in his mouth and the officer began rubbing my back, crying alongside me.
I said to Princeton, “Why did you leave me? Please come back.” I kissed him and asked the doctor to take him. I felt sick to my stomach, like I was going to pass out. The medical examiner came in and told me things about the process and that she’d be taking him with her. She told me that she’d be calling me the following day.
When I left, I was put in the police car, this time in the front seat and driven to the Sun Prairie police station where some of my family and friends were waiting for me.
I was taken to a room and given a piece of paper. It was a search warrant request. I declined at that time because I was confused. I wanted to see and check on my older kids. I asked to go home and they allowed me to leave.
When I arrived, officers were still there and I was denied entrance. The police and Child Protective Services had already questioned my kids. They took their tablets and denied them access until they finished “searching.”
When they left my home they took Princeton’s blanket, bottle, swing, and my comforter.
During my pregnancy I had no concerns or complications with Princeton. I did have a flu shot during pregnancy and they asked to keep me for a few hours in triage. They checked my vitals and hooked me up to the fetal monitor. The nurse ran out of the room and came back with several doctors. They said that Princeton’s heart had stopped and they were admitting me. I was scheduled to be induced two weeks later.
My life and the lives of Princeton’s siblings have been impacted in a very traumatic way. Every day is tough getting up and so is hoping to have a good day. Due to Princeton’s loss, I experienced major depression, undiagnosed PTSD, and even anxiety. I have to be very intentional about my day and give myself permission to grieve in a world where society doesn’t agree. I was told by the medical examiner that Princeton had an upper respiratory infection, nasal infection, and fluid on his lungs. I was confused because his doctor gave him a clean bill of health at his 2-month checkup.
The advice I would give to other moms:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE! If something doesn’t seem right or feel right, don’t second-guess yourself. Stand firm, take your baby to the doctor and hospital, demand that your child be seen, ask lots of questions and, if you don’t understand, ask more questions. Get a second opinion.
Lastly , there is support available for you, for us.
The amazing support I have received in being connected to Felica Turner and other moms who have lost babies has helped me deal with my loss, even before we started Healing Our Hearts. We share with each other and don’t feel sad about talking about our babies.
I also started Inspiring Hearts, honoring Princeton and his life. I share my story with others because I want them to know that, unfortunately, loss is common for our Black children and there is support in our community for us all.