Tim Walker’s Childless

Since reading the book ‘When the Bough Breaks’ in 2008, by Jonathan Kellerman, I have entertained a strong interest in the circumstance recognised by child welfare organisations as SIDS…

Coined in the 80s Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was a term used to explain away the supposed asphyxiation of a child, due to improper sleeping habits.

…The aforementioned, largely factual, account was written more in bullet points than prose – indicative of Kellerman’s former career in journalism – making it rather easy to read yet particularly difficult to enjoy; nevertheless I did make it to the end, having made a few massive revelations along the way about mankind and its associated motives.

As I recall, When the Bough Breaks recounted the tale of a woman and her newborn child. The woman starts off as a wonderful and doting mother, that is, until the child becomes too difficult for her to manage.

One day, in a fit of exasperation, she uses a pillow to smother her screaming child…

After reading this book I started to think: what if this is not as uncommon as we think? I have therefore, since that time in 2008, been conducting my own casual research into the topic.

…Naturally the woman claimed she had entered the room to find her baby dead. It was later established that the infant’s prone sleeping position had caused it to suffocate on its own pillow; thus from that baby’s death, SIDS was born…

Over the years I did find a few cases of children as old as three years supposedly dying in this manner, yet I have always been incredulous.

…Mothers across the world were now being vehemently instructed to swaddle babies and put them to bed in a strictly supine position to ensure unimpeded airways…

It just seemed too convenient: particularly when a number of these mothers had previously admitted to difficulties in dealing with their infant’s quarrelsome temperament; then one morning finding their child dead from this apparent SIDS..?

…In the book, this factual account, some time later, this mother fell pregnant again…

As well as the generation of horrifically misshapen skulls this new ‘SIDS’ thing was delivering unto the world I had other issues with it: it was simply impossible for me to accept that any infant of over a few years old could be such a deep sleeper, or indeed would not possess the ability to rouse itself, that it might allow itself to suffocate on its own pillow.

…In the book, this factual account, some time after being born, this second child also fell victim to SIDS…

I then discovered that the human body has an inbuilt, very clever anti-asphyxiation mechanism.

…In this book, this factual account, some time later, this mother fell pregnant again…

I had always found it amazing that a person could lie face-down in a pool of water for up to half a minute and not drown – I assumed that because most people take some sort of involuntarily breath every few seconds, this pattern would continue; yet while I am aware it is not impossible for a drunkard to choke on their own vomit, if an unconscious body lies face down in a pool of water the brain somehow knows to not breathe until totally necessary.

…In this book, this factual account, some time after being born, this third child also fell victim to SIDS…

Of course when that body does breathe, if it’s still face-down in water, it will assuredly drown, but the point is that if a human body can avoid an unforced death, generally, it will do just that.

…In this book, this factual account, some time later, I’m fairly certain she fell pregnant again; I think this woman was the victim of ‘SIDS’ four or five times, the eldest child I believe being around four years old, before somebody finally caught her out – during that time of course there being no clear way to distinguish ‘accidental death by asphyxiation’ from ‘murder from asphyxiation’.

This woman was finally diagnosed with severe postnatal depression and subsequently incarcerated, thereby putting an end to her deadly cycle.

Makes me wonder how many other women during the 80s and 90s claimed SIDS after doing the very same thing.

Fortunately mothers these days are much better supported throughout their child’s formative years; also a great deal more is understood about child welfare, so I think ‘the fable of SIDS’ is largely a problem of yesteryear.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Lizzie Borden

Photography by Sid Black



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