Chad Cordero, baseball pitcher, and Jamie Moody, gymnast, got together after their college days at Cal State Fullerton. They married in November 2008, just months after Chad’s shoulder gave way, after he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum, after the Nationals let him go.
That was supposed to be the difficult part of life, working back from the major uncertainty that goes with major shoulder surgery. Wedged into all those travails — solitary rehab, time back in the minors, a brief major league appearance with Seattle, a return to the minors with the New York Mets — are little, innocuous events that mean so much now. Last September, despite his 1.69 ERA in 17 appearances in Class AAA, the Mets didn’t call up Cordero. Instead, he drove home for Tehya’s birth.
“Looking back, if I had missed those three weeks,” Cordero said, “it would have been so much harder with what happened.”
What happened? Inevitably, the question hangs everywhere around the Corderos now, even as people – experts on SIDS, parents they meet in a support group, the coroner’s office – tell them there is no blame.
“My wife, she blames herself,” Edward Cordero said. “Jamie, as the mom, she blames herself. Everybody blames themselves.”
When Chad and Jamie dropped the girls off Dec. 3 in Chino, at the home in which Chad and his three siblings grew up. Edward Cordero played with Tehya in a swing, snapping photos that he still carries on his phone. He eventually went to the living room to watch TV. Riley fell asleep there. Edward’s wife Patti, Chad’s mom, took care of Tehya, coaxing her to sleep in a bedroom. Even after Patti and Edward retired themselves, they checked Tehya regularly. When Edward got up just after midnight, Patti checked on Tehya. Around 12:45 a.m., she went in again. Edward heard her scream.
There is hardly any sorting out the next minutes, hours, days. A call to 911, Edward’s futile attempts at CPR, the arrival of paramedics, the gathering of relatives.
There were no answers, not then and not now, and maybe not ever. Part of the definition of SIDS, according to the American SIDS Institute, is that the deaths — about 1 in every 2,000 live births — remain unexplained, even after an autopsy. There are some preventative measures parents can take – have babies sleep on their backs, keep blankets and pillows out of the crib, etc. – but nothing is foolproof. And in those frantic moments after their granddaughter slipped away in their own home, Edward and Patti Cordero couldn’t comprehend it.
The police, too, wanted answers. They stationed an officer outside Tehya’s door, preventing anyone from entering. They separated Edward and Patti and, at their darkest moment, began questioning each individually. When was the baby last checked on? Who held her when?