I sat down to write about the best frugal finds at the dollar store but something else has been on my mind and I feel compelled to get it out.
This post is hard. It’s so, so hard to write. I won’t be able to get through it without crying. Once it’s out I likely won’t proof it, because it’s that hard for me to read. Jason & I have been through a lot of tough things. We’ve lost babies, we’ve said goodbye to beloved family members, we’ve watched our son stop breathing from a freak flu complication (he recovered), and we listened as the doctor told us our oldest child likely has cancer (turns out she likely doesn’t, thank goodness!) That’s some tough stuff, but none of it was nearly as hard for me as what I’m about to write.
Because it was my fault.
I’m sitting at my laptop in my small dining room. To my back is a sliding glass door, and just beyond that a swimming pool. My husband & I always said we’d never have a pool while we have young children, and we didn’t. We waited until our youngest was out of the preschool years to move into a house with a pool. We lived here for four years and had zero incidents. Our children can swim well, they know not to run near the pool, the doors leading to the pool have TWO alarms on them. The doors to get to the pool from the outside are locked, and even though our pool company hates it we keep them locked and blocked at all times. We didn’t plan on having more children when we moved into this house, we didn’t know that fate would be bringing another little girl into our lives.
I’ve seen a ton of “drowning doesn’t look like drowning” posts floating around lately, and they are so very important, but it’s easy to become jaded and think “not me”. Well, I’m sitting here in tears to tell you that it CAN happen to you. It doesn’t matter how much safety equipment you have, how diligent you are, the truth is that it can happen in the span just a few seconds, to anyone.
Our little girl almost died in December. It wasn’t the height of the swimming season, the pool was around 50 degrees when she fell in. But, let me back up a bit…I’ve repeated this story so many times. To my husband, to my parents, to EMTs and police officers, to detectives, to my neighbors…and it doesn’t get easier, but it NEEDS to be heard.
December 19, 2014 was a beautiful day here. It was slightly overcast and the air was a cool 65 degrees. We had our windows open and were enjoying the breeze. Around 4pm my dog started getting sick, so I shuffled her out to the back porch so the mess was outside. I opened the sliding glass door that leads from the dining room to the porch. To do this I had to disarm the house alarm, turn off the individual door alarm, pull a pin out of the door frame, and unlock the door. I had to go through four safety devices just to open the door. I opened the door a few minutes later to start cleaning the mess. I put the baby gate in place and closed the screen door. Baby girl was at the gate watching me clean up.
I forgot the bleach spray.
I opened the screen door and climbed over the baby gate. I closed and locked the screen door behind me. I walked inside about 5 feet to get the spray, it was on the table near the sliding glass door.
I reached for the bleach spray. I heard screaming. My 11 year old ran in the house crying. The baby was in the pool.
I turned around and ran to the pool in terror. Baby girl, who was 15 months old and not able to walk more than a few steps without falling over most of the time, had managed to push the baby gate out of place just enough to knock the screen door off the frame and make a hole big enough to get through. I didn’t hear the screen door fall because it fell on a plant.
I got to her in time. She was in the corner nearest the house, about 6″ from the edge. She wasn’t far under, only an inch or so. She had flipped to her back like she was supposed to but she just couldn’t keep her mouth and nose out of the water. Her eyes were open and she was looking at me. She didn’t look upset, just confused. I’ll never, ever forget that look.
I can’t swim. What if she had fallen in the deep end? This haunts me. Six months later, when I close my eyes, I still see her there. Sometimes my brain gets the best of me and I see her at the bottom of the pool, even though that never happened.
I pulled baby girl out. She was closing her eyes. “No, no, no… KIDS CALL 911!”
I remember a lot of screaming and chaos. I remember pleading with baby girl to cry, to do something. She was closing her eyes. My son was too upset to remember our address when he called for help.
She never lost consciousness, I want to make that clear. Instinctively I put her stomach on my shoulder and bounced and she started throwing up. So much water. So, so much water. Then she started whining. She threw up again and started crying. I told the 911 operator that she was crying and asked if that was good. She didn’t answer me and was trying to keep me calm by asking me questions like “Does your baby say mommy yet?”
She threw up again and started babbling and fighting to get out of my arms. I knew she’d be ok at this point, but secondary drowning was now my concern.
The police officers arrived first. The firetrucks came next. The officers and EMTs all had stone cold looks in their eyes. I know they see this a lot, and it’s usually a horrible outcome, and they need to steel themselves against seeing dead children. They were so, so cold to me.
It took what seemed like forever for the ambulance to arrive. While waiting I told the story, all the time refusing to let my baby go. An EMT helped me undress her but I wouldn’t let her go. They wrapped a heating blanket around her. They took her oxygen level, it was 99. She was ok, she was ok. Thank god she was ok!
One of the police officers asked how long we lived in this house. Four years.
Had this had ever happened before. No.
Did I have to do CPR? No.
Didn’t I think I had too many kids, more than one person can care for? *no answer*
Finally the ambulance came and we were on the way to the hospital. I had to leave 4 of my children with the police officers while I called a neighbor & my oldest child (she was at work) to come sit with them. One of the kids, I don’t know which, called my husband and told him to get to the hospital. One of them called my parents, who were on the way home from work. I had to leave my kids alone with the police officers who just humiliated their mother.
In the ambulance I was asking questions. Is her temperature ok? How is her oxygen? Do her lungs sound clear? Is my baby really ok? The EMT lost her hard exterior for just a second and gave me half a smile, she said “She’s ok.”
When we were wheeled into the hospital the nurses fought, in front of me, about which one had to deal with us. One remarked about how bad I smelled (I was still dripping wet, shoeless, and covered in baby vomit. No, I didn’t smell nice but who the hell cared at that point???) I said “My baby needs help and you’re fighting over who has to deal with us?” One nurse said to the other “I’ll take your pooper if you take this one.” The EMT tried to calm me down as I was shuffled into a room.
Where was the doctor?
The nurse who got stuck with us refused to tell me her name. She wouldn’t talk to me except to get baby girl’s medical history. When I told her about baby girl’s birth situation and that she was on medicaid, the nurse walked out of the room. From that point on she didn’t say a word to me, only talking to the detectives. Did she think I was the biological mother when I said she was born addicted and with a heart defect? Is that why she treated me so poorly? Does it matter?
My husband walked in and I, still clinging tight to baby girl, lost whatever composure I had left.
“I am so sorry. It was an accident. An accident. I’m so sorry.”
I wanted to die. Where was the freaking doctor??
As I was explaining what happened to my husband he gave me a “hush” look and nodded. Behind me two men were standing. They were both wearing jeans and sheriff’s department polo shirts. They introduced themselves as sheriff’s detectives and explained that they needed to talk to me, then go to my home.
The detectives treated me like a human. I didn’t know if it was a good cop/good cop thing, but they actually listened. They heard my story. They didn’t ask if I had too many kids. They listened to baby’s background. It turns out one of the detectives had a child my daughter’s age who had escaped the house the week before. It turns out the other detective was also adopted from foster care.
Where the hell is the damned doctor??
Reluctantly I handed baby girl to my husband so one detective could record my statement while the younger one talked to my husband and watched him interact with baby girl.
They explained that they truly felt this was an accident, and they could tell baby girl was ok and well taken care of, but they had to go to my home and check it out. The nurse walked in and pulled the detectives out. That was the second and last time we saw a nurse that night.
When the detective walked in he told me that the nurse called DCF, as is required in all near drowning incidents, but that he would call them and tell them not to bother with a case. I was relieved but not convinced.
And what was happening at home? Were my kids ok? My parents texted and told me that they were all waiting in one bedroom while the crime scene detectives measured and examined my house. Crime scene detectives. A few days later my mom let it slip that the police officers were making nasty comments about us.
Crap. Were last night’s dishes still on the counter? If so would they think I was drinking today when I had one glass of wine last night and was just too tired to wash the glass?? Why did I wait to do the dishes??
FINALLY the doctor walked in. He examined baby girl and said all looked well but he’d be back in an hour. He was also nice. He said he knows accidents happen and we did the right thing, and she would be alright. I remember the doctor being nice to me and smiling. He patted baby girl on the head and told me that no, I wasn’t a monster.
The detectives came back a bit later, right as the doctor was telling us we could leave as long as the police said we could. The detectives said they had been to the house and were confident this was an accident, and that based on their calculations baby girl had been unsupervised for approximately 16 seconds. 16 seconds from the time I climbed over the fence to the time I pulled her out. They promised me that they called DCF and there would not be any further investigation. We went home and I spent the night on the floor next to her crib, with my hand on her back. I didn’t sleep more than a few minutes here and there.
Two days later the lead detective called me to find out how baby girl was doing. He told me that he was closing the case and it was over.
Baby girl is fine. I don’t know if she has any kind of memory of the incident. I hope she doesn’t. She isn’t afraid of the water, but I am.
Don’t let this happen to you, always keep doors locked, alarms on, fences engaged, and eyes and hands on your child at all times. But if it does happen, be prepared.
-If you have a pool, consider having a landline phone. Why? If the unimaginable happens you can call 911 from a landline and the operator will have your address. If you call from a cell phone, like we did, you need to tell the operator your address. In times of chaos you may not be able to relate this information, especially if it’s a child calling 911. If you’re worried about the cost you can have a line installed that can only be used to call 911. In my state all landlines have to have the ability to call 911, even disconnected lines. And make sure you have a working landline phone.
-Tape a slip of paper with your address on the inside of your front door. If you call 911 from a cell phone you can read the address to the operator.
-Make sure your children know how to use your phone, and every phone in the house. Every phone is different, you and your children need to know what buttons to press to unlock, dial, and send a phone call. If you have a lock on your phone make sure everyone knows how to access emergency call mode.
-Place a small basket, envelope, or folder by your front door. In this basket place a list of emergency contacts and a slip of paper for each family member with their name, DOB, and any pertinent medical information on it, also include a copy of your driver’s license and medical insurance cards. If the police need to call someone to care for your kids, they’ll have that info. If you need to flee in an ambulance you’ll have their medical and insurance information.
-Take a CPR class, one that uses kid dummies if you can find it. Don’t take it once and think you’re done. Take it every year, or at least every two years. That’s not enough though. Run through the situation in your head, doing drills if you need to. I’ve taken CPR but I was so out of my head that it never occurred to me to do CPR. My baby didn’t stop breathing, but if she had, I am confident that I would not have thought to do CPR. Practice, practice, practice.
Due to the nature of this post, all negative comments will not be approved. I am pouring my heart out to you, my only intention is to help you avoid what happened to us, and maybe help me recover emotionally. 16 seconds is all it takes to change a life forever. Please learn from my experience, and if lord forbid the worst thing happens, you’ll be prepared. Oh, and baby girl is about to turn two and she is perfectly healthy. She is the light of our lives and every day I know how lucky we are. This kid has survived more than most of us do in a lifetime, I am convinced that she is here to change the world.