With July 4th approaching, I couldn't push down the nagging urge and inkling that pops up every year…telling me I need to share my story with you all. My horrifying, embarrassing, life-changing story of that time I almost let my child die because I was distracted on Instagram.
As with every year there is an outpouring of grateful comments, thanking me for the reminder of how important it is to be present with our children. There are also comments from people thinking I'm using this as a ploy to get more page views. I assure you, this has nothing to do with page views. As I share this story I implore and beg you to share this with as many families as possible. Not because it helps my blog stats (trust me, that's the last thing on my mind with this), but because even still, 8 years later, I get occasional anxiety when I see my son swimming under water.
I still have dreams of pulling him out of the water, and still look at him with a pang in my heart, imagining what life would be like without him and thinking about how close we came to losing him. If my story can help even one parent avoid any of this, my job is done.
Enjoy your summer and holiday weekends. But please, leave your phone at home. Or on the boat. Or in your pool bag. Or, if you choose to take pictures (as we all do), save the IG posting and photo editing for when your kids are safely tucked into bed. Let us all remember to be present with our families this summer.
THE GIFT OF PRESENCE
*Original post from the summer of 2012
My son drowned today.
Well, technically he nearly drowned, but it doesn't make much difference to me right now.
They are both horrifying.
Both happen in an instant.
Both are things you think would never happen to you.
Both make you stop and appreciate the blessings in your life.
The difference? (and a big difference at that…)
For whatever reason, my son was spared. He nearly drowned, rather than drown-drowned.
That has yet to be determined, and maybe I'll never know (maybe so I could write this post?)…but it's something I plan to not really question or take for granted.
I learned a
valuable invaluable lesson today, about being PRESENT. It's interesting because this subject has been on the minds of me and my husband for some time. What I mean by being present, is to be
To not just physically be there, but to really BE there. Soaking it all in. Participating. Adding to whatever it is. Enjoying. Not just being around, but being…present.
Today we went to the pool, like we do almost every single day. There is a nice, private pool in my new neighborhood that is 3 houses up from ours. I load my 11 month old girl and 2 year old son in the ol' plastic Red Flyer wagon (the one with cup holders. we don't mess around.), grab the Ikea bag filled with towels and snacks, pile the floaties on top of the kids, and head to the pool.
Today my goal was to stay as long as possible and really wear out the kids so they would take good afternoon naps. I have had company in town all week, and poor Hutch (my 2 year old) has been bored spitless. He's been naughty and pushing my buttons, which tells me he's bored, bored, bored. We head to the pool. I lather them with sunscreen (protect their baby-soft skin). Fail to put any on me (I want a tan, and am too lazy). Put Hutch's floatie on him, make him wait until mommy is in the pool (that's our main rule at the pool other than no splashing mommy and the baby…the water is freezing). Blow up Priya's baby ring frog floatie so it's nice and full. Get in the water with Priya and tell Hutch he can get in. We spend the next hour swimming to our heart's content. Hutch is a maniac in the pool, a complete fish. He jumps in, swims all over the pool, floats on his back, dives under water (as much as he can with massive floaties on), and swims like a polar bear. I was a nervous wreck the first day at the pool, but as the summer progressed I got more and more trusting. His floatie is AMAZING. He couldn't drown in that thing if he tried! It's the kind that has two “water wing” type floaties that go around his biceps and are connected by a chest bar in the middle, and the entire contraption snaps in the back. It slips down his arms from time to time but he always pulls it back up so he can get back to belly flopping like a mad-man. Our neighborhood is a decent size, but for whatever reason there is usually NO ONE at the pool when we go. Maybe a few teenagers sunbathing, but literally, we are more often than not the only people in the pool when we go on any given day. Today was exciting because the pool was bustling. There were lots of kids, lots of playing, more moms than usual (4 or so), and Hutch was loving it because his 3 year old buddy showed up and they were having a blast. As it always happens, after about an hour or so they both get tired, fussy, cold, and hungry. I get them out of the pool, strip them down butt-naked, wrap them in towels, strap Priya in the wagon so she won't tumble head-first off the lounge chair that Hutch and I are sitting on, and eat our snacks that I pack. Usually we only last this way for about 10 minutes or so before heading home. But today it was extra warm outside and there was lots of action in the pool for the kids to admire, so we hung out for awhile. The kids were getting a lot of sun so I put their SPF suits back on them. Hutch decided that since his suit was on, he wanted to swim again. Priya had zero interest in anything other than her string cheese, so I broke my rule and let him get in the pool without mommy. I put his floatie back on and I actually remember cinching it extra tight in the back, just to be safe. He got in the pool with his little friend, and they had a blast. He loved jumping in the water right by the stairs, swimming back to the stairs, climbing out, and doing it over again. I finally had some free hands…so what do I do? Grab my phone of course. I snap a few pics of Hutch jumping in the pool.
I am careful to angle the pictures just right so the pictures look awesome and impressive, show off my amazing neighborhood, the size of the pool, and make me look like a super awesome mom. I even think about the caption I'm going to put on the pictures in Instagram and Facebook. I decide that I want to make a photo collage and post it to Instagram, so I can squeeze in as many “having fun with mommy” pictures as possible, to make the day all the more impressive, of course. I put some shades on Priya and she's hamming it up for the camera. I'm loving it. I am engrossed in my collage-making, trying to capture the perfect shot.
I finish the collage after way too much time deciding which pictures to use. I'm about to post it onto Instagram. For whatever reason, I look at the pool. To exactly where Hutch was. In the water. By himself. Floatie-free.
Bobbing just under the surface of the water.
I still don't know how he had the strength, but he was able to get his face just enough above water for me to see clearly that he was in distress. I could see his blue lips all the way from my pool chair. He was drowning.
Not too far from the edge of the pool…the edge of the pool where his floaties were lying…without him. He was gently clawing, trying to “swim” as best as he knows how. No knowledge of what to do. Desperate to get his face back to the surface of the water. Exhausted. Struggling with everything he has in his tiny body that has only been on this earth for two short years. He is so scared. He is helpless and trying so desperately to get one tiny gasp of air. His feet are down toward the pool, his arms out to his sides, trying to tread water, his neck bent and arched, trying with all he has in him to get his tiny little nose or mouth above water. He comes to the surface for a brief moment, then drops below the water, then almost to the top, then down below again – but never enough to get above the water to take that beloved breath. It's hard for me to breathe even thinking about it.Then I really noticed his face.
Ash white skin, lips blue. So blue. The rest is a blur. But I believe my absolute first thought before thinking anything else was, drowning doesn't look like drowning.There was an article a friend of mine posted on facebook weeks ago that I never took the time to read, but thought “wow, I bet that is really helpful to know. I hope people with pools read that.” Drowning doesn't look like drowning. I don't say a word. I jump into the pool, the water only hitting me waist-high. I remember being shocked at how blue his lips where. So blue. Scary blue. “That would never happen to my child” blue. I grab his tiny little body. So light. So helpless. I think to myself, “breathe baby, take one breath and it will all be better. Just breathe baby.” I lift his body out of the water. He went completely limp. It's a sickening feeling, the feeling of lifelessness on your arm. To feel the little body that you created from your own, only minutes earlier so full of life… still. Lifeless. More split-second thoughts. how can that be? He was just flailing…why is he limp now?this can't be good.his lips are so blue.how long has he been in here?how did this happen?breathe baby, breathe. The few movements it took to get him up from under the water to out of the pool felt like an eternity. At this very moment of writing this post all I have to do is picture is horrifyingly-blue lips and I burst into uncontrollable sobs. So unnatural. So ugly. So scary. I remember his limp body, and I remember his teeth grinding. Hard. A lot. are those his teeth?oh my gosh, this can't be good. I scoop him up out of the water and lay him on his back on the hot, hard pool deck concrete, my body still in the pool. It was a natural reaction, natural position. It's what they do on TV. It's how you give CPR. That's what you're supposed to do…right? His belly seems big; bloated. It must be full of water.Breathe baby, breathe.
His lips are so blue.
Oh my gosh his face has no color.
This can't be good. At this point, not a soul is aware of what is going on. The kids in the pool are still splashing and playing, just inches from where he was struggling for his life, the moms are still chatting. One of the moms sees me jump into the pool and grab Hutch. I will never forget what she said… “Oh! goodness. You'd think that with so many of us someone would've noticed him.” Casual. Matter of fact. So. Sadly. Wrong. I don't think they realize how serious this is.Did they see his lips?How long has he been like this?I can't believe I was on my cell phone. Then he cries. Weak. Helpless. Pitiful. So weak. No gurgling, no barfing, no coughing up water. I jump out of the pool. I grab him and lift him upright. I set him on my knee, slightly bent forward. It was a natural reaction, natural position. Let the water drain down.Throw it all up.Keep breathing, baby. The color slowly started coming back into his lips and his teeth stopped grinding. I sit with him in the same position on a pool lounger. All of this happens in a matter of seconds. So quickly, no one – including the kids swimming right next to Hutch in the pool – knew that anything had happened. Questions start piquing from the moms. “Did he fall in?” “He looked like he was trying to float on his back, that's pretty good!” “Did he hit his head or something?” “What happened?” I lift Hutch up and hold him facing me, his head resting on my shoulder – his favorite “I need my mommy” position. I stroke his back and realize that my heart isn't even pounding. It all happened so fast, my body – quite literally – didn't have time to catch up to what was going on.
After I made sure he was ok, breathing, and would respond when I talked to him, we walk around the pool deck, making casual chit-chat with the moms. They still don't quite understand what happened, but one thing is clear… Not a soul noticed him. No one. We were all talking. Chatting. Taking pictures. Playing with cell phones. Busy. Around, but not present. I'm still feeling surprisingly calm, and even crack a few jokes with the moms. “Well, Hutch, have we learned our lesson buddy?” ha ha ha. Ha.
I start asking him questions to see how well he would respond.
“Buddy, did you take your floaties off?”
“Baby, you can't get in without mommy. That's a no no, that's a big no no.” I talked to him a little more as I rocked back and forth with his head still on my shoulder, holding him tight and rubbing his back. His key word in our conversation being… “scawee”
Scary? No kidding, bud. I hope that scared the pants off of you so you never take your floaties off again. One mom in particular, a friend of mine, was concerned when she realized what happened, and came over to check him out pretty soon after I got him out of the pool. She said, “it sounds like he might have water in his lungs.” I knew her sister is a nurse so I asked her to call her sister to see if there is anything I should do. “He's exhausted, I was heading home to put him down for a nap, should I not let him sleep for any reason?” He's responding,His lips are pink again,That silly little kid.Ok, time for naps. I hold and rock him for a while to calm him down, then load him in the wagon with Priya.
He's so exhausted. I start loading my things and saying goodbye to the moms, when I notice his face. Specifically, his eyes. They were distant. Dazing. Hazy, even. He was looking at Priya, but not really looking at Priya. Looking past her; through her. I call to him, he looks at me and answers, just like normal. Hmmm…that's weird. I bend down and scrutinize him more. My friend notices and comes over. “How's he doing? Is he ok?” I mention that he looks a little out of it. She says, “If all else fails, you might want to take him in, just to be safe.” Nah, thanks but no thanks, the last thing I need is another medical bill. He's fine, just tired I'm sure. We start walking home and I decide to call his doc, just to make sure it's ok that I put him down for a nap. Does he need to be upright?Can I give him something to drink?
Is he going to barf? I really don't want him to barf in his bed. While the phone is ringing, I'm suppressing the urge to post about my experience on Facebook. Your hands are full, just do it a little later. I call the doc and ask for the nurse. She's busy. I tell them my brief story.
“Hello this is nurse so-and-so”. Tell her my story.
Hold please. She tells me I should take him to the ER. My heart sinks slightly that she's not giving me any useful advice.
Um, no. Thanks, but no thanks.
Cha-ching, cha-ching! No thanks, not another ER bill, that's REALLY the last thing I need.
He's totally fine, just super tired is all. I start to ask vague questions to get her off the phone, but lead her to believe that I'm actually considering taking him to the ER. Then she says the words that make my blood run cold. “You need to take him to the ER. Right now. As fast as you can get there.” The flood gates finally opened. My heart finally starts pounding. My stomach feels sick. It hits me for real this time… this can't be good. I get off the phone and move into hyper speed. Diapers on the kids. Bottle for Priya. Put her to bed as soon as possible. Keep Hutch upright. Hutch? Hutch? Hey buddy, look at mommy, how are you? Keep him responsive. Keep an eye on him. Please sleep Priya, please sleep right away so I don't have to worry about you too. Call my husband, Bubba. No answer. Call again. No answer. Call again. No answer. Throw some clothes on. Grab my diaper bag. Ipad, need the ipad – could be a long day, Hutch will need Toy Story 3. Call the sitter. No answer. Call the neighbor, ask her to leave the monitor at her house until I figure out plan B. Text Bubba, “Hutch needs to go to the ER call me asap.” Called him again, no answer. Please sleep, Priya, that will make this much easier on mommy. Hutch, how are you buddy? You ok? Want to watch TV? Keep him alert. Set him on the couch. Remote. Where's the dang remote? Shoes for Hutch. Shoes for me. Milk for Hutch? No milk, no time, don't know if he should drink anything. Priya's quiet, good girl Priya. Hutch, how are you doing mister? You excited to watch TV? Oh crap, he's totally dazing into space. He's totally out of it. Keys. Phone. Where's the darn remote? Grab Hutch, tell him he can watch TV in the car. The babysitter will just have to sit in silence I guess, can't find the remote. Load Hutch in the car, turn on the Ipad for him. Toss the monitor to the neighbor in the driveway with little to no explanation. Call Bubba, no answer. Bubba finally calls me back. “Jordy, what's going on?” How do I say this?Well, honey, I was on my phone, completely neglecting our two-year old who can't swim (whom I let in the pool by himself, by the way) and he almost drown. Oh but don't worry, I caught him just before he slipped to the bottom of the pool and he's totally breathing again. No biggie. But he's acting weird and the doc is freaked so we're going to the ER. But really, I'm sure it's fine. At least I got some good pics of the kids before we lost one of them. He drops everything and drives up from a work event in Provo, 30+ minutes away. I finally get ahold of the sitter. How do I say this?Hey, you're not busy are you? I wasn't paying attention to my son and he almost drowned. He's breathing now but I still have to take him to the ER because he might be having some major problems due to my lack of interest in what he was doing. Will you come watch Priya? Oh yeah, and I can't find the remote. I keep checking on Hutch through the rearview mirror. I notice three things. 1) He looks like he's in la-la land. Pale face, zombie eyes, bobbing neck. Great. 2) I forgot shoes for him. 3) His car-seat straps are totally sliding down his arms because it's his spare seat that I have in my car today randomly and we've never taken the time to adjust them to fit his body properly. Mom of the year. I get to the hospital, head in the ER, and check in. Hutch wants down so he can see the fish tank. He's talking to the fish, kissing the tank, and acting like he didn't just almost meet his maker 30 minutes earlier. I ring the triage bell. She's in the back of the room talking, motions that she'll be there soon, and continues talking. Lady, could you hurry up please? My son could be like, dying over here or something. How can I help you? What are you in for today? How do I say this?I was being an awesome mom and took my kids swimming. But then I was so busy posting about it and flaunting my awesomeness to the world that my son just about drown and now is about to endure hours of misery because of my actions. Oh yeah, and I almost didn't take him here because you guys are really expensive and the last thing I need is another medical bill to worry about. Hmm…I think that covers it. They take us back right away. They have me sit on the bed with Hutch on my lap, and the bustling begins.
Once the words “near drowning” buzzed around the ER, everyone sprang into action. We became the most popular people in the place. Five people immediately burst into the room. Blood pressure checks. Listening to lungs. Listening again. Heart. Ears. Eyes. Question after question. Orange stuffed animal for you. Do you like to color? Here are some crayons. Blood pressure cuff. Finger light thingie that looks like ET's finger.
Hustle, bustle, lots of concerns, lots of questions…all directed at me.
“How did this happen?”
“Where were you?”
“How did this happen?”
The same questions over and over, all with the same answer.
I wasn't paying attention and he jumped into the pool without his floaties on and almost drown.
Naturally, I left out the “I wasn't paying attention because I was on my phone” part. Hutch is an absolute angel. He sits so still, doesn't make a peep, silently looking around letting people poke and prod him. He's still in a daze, but responds when I talk to him. Throughout the day there were at least a 1/2 dozen or more people checking on him. Each time I had to explain what happened. Each time they had a look on their face like, “Oh darn…so you're one of THOSE parents?” They never said anything of the sort, but they always, without fail, had a look on their face like “ooooh….THAT explains it.” So many people came in during the day, and so many people seemed deeply concerned about HOW it happened, I kept thinking they were from Family Services coming to investigate me as a neglectful parent. I'm not trying to be humorous, those were actual thoughts. The hustle and bustle died down. They said his vitals looked good, but his temperament concerned them and they ordered a chest xray; told us to hang tight until they were ready for us. Everyone left and I still had Hutch sitting in between my legs on the bed, his back against my chest. He rested his head against my chest and immediately fell asleep. That mini rest of his was God's gift to me. Hutch NEVER falls asleep on me, no matter what. But that moment was a gift. I was fully, irrevocably PRESENT. I smelled his hair. I stroked his soft face. I listened to him breathe. It sounded so good. And I cried. I cried, and cried, and cried. My tears ran down his soft blonde hair and onto his tiny blue shirt. So many thoughts. Thank you, God for sparing my son.Please let him be ok.How could I have been so stupid?We got so lucky.How long was he struggling?Did he jump in?What possessed him to take off his floaties?Thank you, God. And without fail, every time I closed my eyes I saw his tiny little body struggling with all the willpower one can possess to make it to the surface of the water… and those lips. So blue. Then the tears would pour. They drew his blood, waking him up. It hurt him so badly, and it hurt me to have to pin him down so tightly. I'm sorry buddy, I'm so sorry.
Hutch settled down, the nurses left, I cried. Bubba arrived. I couldn't even speak to him, I just silently cried as he kissed Hutch, held his little hand, asked him questions, kissed his tiny hands, and was present with him.
I almost took this little boy away from his daddy.Because of my actions I almost made it so that this man's last moment with his son would've been the hurried kiss out the door on the way to work.All because of a cell phone.
Bubba gently carried him tenderly to the Xray room.
The xray was horrific.
It took 4 of us to force him into this tiny machine that I can't even explain, with a huge plastic cuff that goes all the way around his tiny body and squeezes him so tightly that his arms are pinned above his head and he can't move, so they can xray his chest. He screamed with every fiber in his soul. They made us leave the room and stand in the hall, his screams and cries echoing off the stark walls. I was sobbing and couldn't talk. “Talk to him through the door.” I choked out to Bubba between sobs. Bubba's voice cracked and caught in his throat; trying to be strong for his baby boy. “Hutch? Buddy? Daddy's here, it's ok. You're almost done buddy, it's ok. Hey, Hutch? Can you hear me? Daddy's here.” It made a noticeable difference. The screaming was toned down, but Hutch's sobs and cries came on harder than ever. As soon as we heard “ok we're done” we bolted through the door and couldn't snatch him up fast enough. Our tiny boy. They kept us the rest of the day to run tests, watch his vitals, observe his behavior, and track the test and xray results. Bubba left to relieve the sitter and watch Priya. Hours passed. I laid on the bed with Hutch and tried to get him to sleep. He was too wired. Back to his old self. Silly, talking, asking for fruit snacks and milk, happy. The color was back in his face. I turned off the ipad, turned out the lights and told him it was time for a nap. He said he wanted to say a prayer. We prayed to our Heavenly Father and thanked him. It was simple, sweet, and inspired by a 2 year old. It was perfect. It took me an hour to get him to sleep, but as he slept I laid in bed and made a decision. I will, from this day forward, do everything in my power to be PRESENT. With my kids. With my husband. On a walk. In church. In the car. With friends and family. That whatever I'm doing, I do IT and nothing else. I focus on THAT moment, at THAT moment. No more checking my phone while sitting in the play room with the kids and calling it playing with them. No more having Hutch jump on my bed by himself so I can get things done in my room. No more sitting next to my husband and working on my computer while he works on his. Sure, those things will need to happen once in a while in order to get life done. But my decision is to be PRESENT in my life at all times and stop letting it pass me by. My experience today was God's gift to me; a gentle but firm warning. Many people don't get a second chance like I did today. I sure as heck don't plan to take it for granted. It's going to be hard. Heck, on the drive home from the hospital I was texting and driving to all my family and friends that Hutch was ok, trying to keep my frantic parents from impulsively flying here from Oregon.
I posted my story on Facebook first thing when I got home and keep having to stop myself from checking my phone to see who all has commented on it.
Baby steps. BUT…I'm not going to let my phone rule my life any more. I'm going to rule my own life, and own every moment of it. I couldn't sleep tonight until I wrote this post. I can't deny the feeling that this experience did not happen on accident. I sobbed the entire way through writing this. It physically hurts to write down the details, and to admit that I was wrong and caused fear and harm into my little angel. Seeing it in a cold, hard font makes it real. No sugar-coating, no dancing around details, it is what it is.I dread going to sleep tonight. Closing my eyes is the hardest thing, because behind my eyelids I get an instant flash of his body in the pool, his lips blue. So blue.
But writing helps. I'm facing the reality of the day, and – hopefully – doing some good in the meantime. I hope that anyone reading this can take this into their own lives. I hope that you set aside the blog readers. The smart phones. The tags. The hashtags. The comments. The pinning. The whatever it is that is not allowing you to be fully present in your own life, and get back to the way things should be. By all means, read blogs. In fact, keep reading this one! Write a blog. Check your emails. Take photos and post them – I love seeing them. Text. A lot.
do we really need to take our phones to the bathroom with us? Check it first thing in the morning? The last thing at night? Have it with us while we're outside playing with our kids? In church? At dinner? On a date?I'm setting a goal to only check my social media only 2x per day, and the rest of the time it can wait.Presence is a gift. I plan to give mine to others, and to enjoy every moment of my children's gift to me. If people are left hanging? That's ok, they will survive. And guess what? So will my son. XOXO,