‘I was 17, in love with a dad twice my age, and preparing my son’s autopsy.’: Teen mom loses son to SIDS, re-discovers herself after ‘flailing through life in destruction mode’ for decades

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“Sometimes, death brings life.

My childhood was riddled with abuse from people I should have been able to trust. My father was absent, my mother was young, and my grandmother was the calm in the eye of the storm.

Courtesy of Corina Gold

I was a good child. I did good in school and followed rules. I volunteered at the local nursing home where my grandmother worked for many years. I was in band and did well. But as I grew closer to teen years, I changed.

The abuse I had endured became reality. I realized it was not normal. I started using drugs and seeking the attention of older men. Life quickly became a nightmare. My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of my teen years. The fear of losing the person I trusted the most was terrifying. I ran away from home, went to foster care, and eventually lived life on the streets before I was even old enough to work or drive. Chaos, drugs, and sex ensued.

Courtesy of Corina Gold
Courtesy of Corina Gold

Fast forward to the summer of 1996. I was seventeen years old. I was no longer attending school and was living with a man who was twice my age. I was high on crank most of the time. Our neighbors were doing daycare for three adorable kids. I spent time over there occasionally and eventually met their single dad. He was several years my senior, but he was kind. He worked hard. We quickly became a couple and I moved to his house and cared for his kids. I was off drugs, thankfully, and felt like everything was going to be okay. My new boyfriend was a generally good man. He never hurt me physically. At seventeen years old, I knew I was in love with a man who was a single parent to three children.

Only a few months into our relationship, and still seventeen years old, I found out I was pregnant. This was not part of our plan. I was horrifically sick, tired, and all that goes with being pregnant. I started an alternative school in hopes that I could graduate with my class and before my baby was born. If there was one thing I wanted more than anything at that point in my life, it was a less chaotic and abuse-ridden life for my family. After some grueling work, I walked across the stage in 1997 to get my diploma with all 131 of my classmates. I was five months pregnant, and my dying grandmother watched proudly from the bleachers.

It was a hot summer day, August 27th, 1997. I was newly eighteen years old and thirty-seven weeks pregnant. I had been on medication to stop preterm labor for a few months but today I was taken off of it. My little family was in the process of moving from the house we rented to a small bedroom with a friend. I cannot remember the exact circumstances causing us to have to move from the house we were renting, but we did. My boyfriend at work and me at the new house with three little kids and cooking dinner, it began. A contraction. I was alone. There was no phone.

My boyfriend made it home and we made it to the hospital. We did not know if we were having a boy or a girl. I did not have any pain medication. I gave birth to a son at 10:10 am on August 28th, 1997. We named him Wayde Lorenn Gossen. As most mothers will tell you, that moment forever changed my life. He was so perfect. Oh, how I loved him in an instant. It is a love that you cannot put into words when your first baby is laid on your chest after birth. I learned to breastfeed and left the hospital the next day with a beautiful and healthy baby boy. Everything was going to be okay. It had to be.

Courtesy of Corina Gold
Courtesy of Corina Gold

My dying grandmother instantly fell in love with Wayde. She held him and smiled. My heart lurched with happiness and grief. Seeing my grandmother hold my baby and love him with her entire being was the pinnacle of emotion.

Courtesy of Corina Gold

On September 19th, 1997, my grandmother pulled me and Wayde close with her weak hands. She smiled with her whole face and whispered, ‘I am going to be with Jesus in three days.’ Later that day, she fell into a coma. On September 22nd, 1997, three days later, I woke in the early morning to feed my three-week-old son and discovered that my grandmother had taken her last breath.

The pain of my grandmother’s death was the worst pain I had ever experienced. I was too young to lose her. She had cared for me as much as my mother or more. She was my lifeline, comfort, and the most beautiful person I knew. I was crushed.

The day of my grandmother’s funeral was difficult. My boyfriend was a pallbearer. He had not come home and was unreachable by telephone, so I had to retrieve him with my newborn son and my heart broken in a million pieces. It was emotional, but we made it through. Life kept moving forward at a regular pace.

Courtesy of Corina Gold

On the morning of October 28th, 1997, everything seemed mostly normal. Wayde had been unusually fussy the night before, but eventually fell asleep in the wee morning hours. I got up to make my boyfriend’s lunch for work, as I usually did. Then, it happened.

The digital clock reads 5:36. I hear him yell. I run down the steps. Wayde has blood trickling from his mouth. Shock. Fear. Confusion. I cannot breathe. He is not yet pale. He was fine at 5:30 when I got up. He must be okay. Put him in the carseat. Stop. No time. He is not breathing. CPR. Call 911. We should drive to the hospital – it is only two blocks. Get in the car. Cry. Scream. Beg him to breathe. Run into the emergency doors. Wait. Do something. Why aren’t they doing anything? It is too late. He is dead. ‘I’m sorry,’ is what the doctor says. Cry. Fall. I cannot breathe. I need to call my mom. She thinks it is a joke. Convince her otherwise. I cannot breathe. The police are here to question us. It is a blur. I need a tissue. My eyes hurt from crying. I hold his cold, hard, beautiful body until the coroner comes. I cannot breathe. We have to plan a funeral.

I dress and prepare my son after his autopsy and before his funeral. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. I hold his body for most of the wake and before his funeral. There are so many people here. I cry like I did not know possible. My older brother has to convince me to get off the ground at the cemetery and go to the church for food. I cannot breathe.

His death is ruled SIDS in the autopsy. What is SIDS? I think I have heard of it. I cannot breathe.

Shortly after my beautiful boy’s death, my relationship ends. The burden of a dead baby is too much to bear. I am too young and he is not committed. I move to a bigger city and attempt to be a normal 18-year-old. I end up getting back into drugs and become an exotic dancer. I flail through life in destruction mode for four years. I hate God. This is His fault. I am careless and have pregnancies that end in miscarriage. I barely care. I fall asleep crying on my son’s grave frequently. I cannot breathe.

Courtesy of Corina Gold

It is 2001, and I am pregnant again. I am sober. I deliver my second son on November 4th, 2001. He is slightly premature, airlifted to a big hospital, and I am scared. It is the same love I felt once before. The same potential for indescribable pain. I have to make decisions about what I want done if he does not make it, despite the odds being in his favor. I cannot breathe.

I continue my life as a dancer and make many poor choices over the next several years, but thankfully, despite myself, I always care for my son. Life moves forward. I am a disaster trying to maintain normalcy during my second chance at being a mother. I watch him turn one and breathed a sigh of relief. SIDS is no longer common now. We made it. Keep pressing forward. I cannot breathe.

Fast forward again to 2005. I am still dancing. I have moved to a different city and life is relatively good. I do not do any heavy drugs anymore. I cry in the tanning bed before one of my shifts and beg. ‘God, if you even exist, get me out of here. Make a way. I cannot do this anymore.’ My second son is thriving and I love him completely, but the anguish of my missing son is paralyzing. I cannot breathe.

I meet a man who ultimately talks me into going to church. I am not really into it; surely, God will strike me with lightning if I enter. I wake up after sleeping only a couple hours because of my late shift at the club the night before and go. I do not notice much. I am in a daze. I do notice one thing, though. Every person there is happy. I see the same happiness in the faces of these people that I saw on my grandmother’s face when she told me she was going to be with Jesus. I continue to attend church because my grandmother would want me to bring my son there. I am also still dancing. Several months later, I give my life to Christ. I stop dancing and start a different life. I still miss Wayde. I still cannot breathe.

I find some great friends during this time of my life. They are the kind of friends that you actually trust with your whole soul, which is something I had rarely found in my previous life. One friend in particular is just starting school to be a therapist and we spend time writing stories for her classes and enjoying life together.

I carry on with my life, but I am still disabled by the pain of Wayde’s death. I get married in 2013 to a wonderful man. We immediately become pregnant. The tiny baby brought back such fear. Then, we have another. Fear. I cannot not sleep and feel overwhelmed. I am diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. I have been praying for years for God to heal me. I have not found relief and it is 2016. I cannot breathe.

Courtesy of Corina Gold

One of my friends from 2006 is now a therapist. Remember the friend who started college to be a therapist? It is her. I reach out to ask her about EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy. I heard of it and am curious if she thinks it is something that could help me. Her reply is something like this: ‘Yes. I do EMDR therapy and believe it is one tool that God uses to heal. I will do it for you, if you want.’ A thousand times, yes. I need help.

Friends, EMDR therapy is hard. It is emotional. I had to relive my abusive childhood and the death of my son. I could not breathe. My friend gently guided me. I could have never done this with anyone else. Because of my trauma, trust is something that eluded me for many years. To bare my soul in the way necessary to complete EMDR, it had to be her. We have done quite a few sessions and I have seen a great deal of relief. God answered my prayers. The only person I could have trusted with my soul just had to go to college before she could help me. What I thought was God ignoring my prayers turned out to be Him answering them in the best way. I waited ten years. It was worth the wait.

Today, I have a great husband and five sons. Wayde is one of them.

Courtesy of Corina Gold
Courtesy of Corina Gold

I have beautiful friendships. I believe that God uses all things for good. I have started speaking to groups of women to encourage them. I comfort people who have lost their children and show them that there is hope for happiness in their future. Grief changes over time. I will always miss my little Wayde, but today, I praise God for his life and know that I will spend eternity in heaven with him, which is far more time than I will have to spend without him. There is life after death. I am alive. And, finally, I can breathe again.”

Courtesy of Corina Gold

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Corina Gold of Saint Cloud, Minnesota. You can follow her journey on Facebook here and Instagram here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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