Kids, Parenting

The day my toddler almost drowned {Pool safety}

Just deciding on a title for this post gives me the worst kind of anxiety in my stomach! Almost drowned. I get nauseous and teary thinking about it. How else do I title it? I found my toddler standing in the pool. He could have drowned. Full stop. Thank the Lord he didn’t. But he almost did. I spent so many weeks crying and thinking how different things could have been and if I was ever a paranoid freak about owning a pool before, I’m a paranoid freak on steroids about owning a pool now.

In December last year, the 20th to be exact, we made a decision to leave Adam at home with the nanny, while we took Joshua to the beach to celebrate his birthday. Adam is a really busy little boy (as you all well know) and I was just worried that we would not be able to focus on Joshua, as we’d be trying to prevent Adam from stampeding into the water at every opportunity. Ironic hey?

Gals I don’t want to go into a loooong story about motherly instincts or God’s intervention. Whoever was at work that day, I am just eternally grateful. What transpired:

  • Out of nowhere I decided I wanted to go home to Adam.
  • Hubby went to fetch the 2 kids and they immediately got out of the pool, vs the usual moaning and nagging to stay.
  • My mom was with us and wanted us to detour, I said no. Let’s get Adam and then take you where you need to be.
  • We usually stop for bread and whatever else on the way home, but that day we didn’t.

We pulled up at home, and you can peep into the yard. The pool is in the front yard. My mom goes: Adam is in the pool!

As a mother, you know just hearing words like that will give you a heart attack. I don’t know how, but I think I jumped out of the car while it was still moving. I was at the front gate, which was locked. All I could do, while we waited for what seemed like forever for the garage door to lift, was stand at the front gate and try to not excite my 16 month old toddler. You see, he was standing on the 2nd step of the pool, waist-high in water. Gazing into the water, smiling like he was the cat that got the cream.

I smiled…tried not to scream….I kept calm and just kept saying: hey baby…look at you. The nanny appeared at the front door, and as calmly as I could, I yelled..Cynthia…Adam is in the pool. She got the shock of her life.. She ran to him and scooped him out of the pool.

In my memory, this seems like an hour, when in reality it must all have been maybe 2 minutes, if that.

If you’re a mother, you know there are so many what ifs. We will not focus on the fact that he was safe and that we got home in the nick of time. No, as a mother I will berate myself for selfishly leaving my child at home. I will berate myself for not having gotten home sooner. I will think about what would have happened if he had ventured to the deep side instead of levelheadedly climbing down the steps. I will forever wonder how his little feet did not slip on the slippery algae covered steps. I will cry more tears right now as I type this, because I feel guilty knowing somehow, my precious child escaped being a statistic.

A mere 10 days later, I read about a beautiful boy named Natey (2), who succumbed to this tragedy in Cape Town and drowned in the pool at home. I read last week about a beautiful boy here in Port Elizabeth, named Anesu (2) that was just playing around at home, and then a few minutes later, when his mom looked for him, she made the most heartbreaking discovery and he had drowned in their pool at home. I also recall a family function about a decade ago where a family child went missing, and we looked everywhere except at the bottom of the green pool. When we found him, it was too late. He was about 8yrs old.

There are so many stories, but my heart can’t bear locking in any more faces to mourn. We think these kind of things will NEVER happen to us, or to our kids. We think it’s only toddlers we need to look out for, but we don’t know how a child reacts from slipping into a pool, even if they can swim.

I was always anxious about the pool, even though we do have a gate that sections the pool away. My eldest can swim and my middle child, even as a toddler had no interest in trying to get to the pool. Adam though, as soon as he’s outside, he’ll take a chance and check if the pool gate is open. Without fail. So he caught me a bit off guard, even though have always been anxious about pool safety. Now though, it’s on a whole new level. As it should be. My kids are my world. I can’t think of a world where there is no Adam. His personality and love for life (and mischief)…..I can’t imagine a life without that. It pains me to think that we were 60 seconds away from living such a life.Ā 

I just want to implore parents to please, make sure you have a pool cover and a pool gate. I thought having a gate meant we were safe, but when somebody accidentally forgets to latch it, well then there’s nothing else to stop a child from getting to the pool. I’ve still not managed to get a pool cover. Since drafting this post, I have contacted some companies for quotes and it seems a rough ball park figure is R2 000 to R5 000.

For now, I make sure the pool gate is always closed, for now that’s all I can do. And I try to keep eyes on my child literally every 3 minutes. Even if it’s raining and all the doors are shut (which they always are, cause I am not taking chances), I look for him. Scan the pool, find him, go sit down for a few minutes until I start searching for him again. Literally in the next room. It’s exhausting and I reckon a pool cover would help my anxiety. If anybody knows about custom-made pool covers and if one can be made for a pool that has differing wall heights, please let me know in the comments. I feel irresponsible that 7 months have passed and I have still not looked into it.

Lastly, swimming lessons as early as possible. Once it’s a bit warmer, Adam and Joshua are heading for swimming lessons! We tried with Joshua last year, but his anxiety levels were through the roof, so I hope this time it will be a bit better. Adam….well I’m sure he is going to love it!

Sorry, I know this is such a heavy post. I just really hope together we can raise awareness, even just in our own lives and families, because this tragedy never ever needs to happen.

27 thoughts on “The day my toddler almost drowned {Pool safety}”

    1. I literally cry every time I think about it. I just pray that somehow there can be an awareness and one never needs to read about a child drowning every again šŸ™

  1. I can totally understand how you felt. It’s horrible. About three years ago we went on a family holiday and the place had a river with a gorgeous hiking route. My aunt took my son and starting walking over the wooden bridge . They were almost on the othet side when there was a loud bang and the bridge collapsed. My son and aunt fell into the water and they can’t swim. I was terrified and jumped in and pulled my boy out and had to dive deep to help my aunt get out. Those two minutes of him being underwater will haunt me for the rest of my life . We are always so carefull with our pool too… but sometimes people forget all water areas can be dangerous.

    1. Lynette I see I’m going to be a crying wreck today. I stop breathing when I read these posts…and I know the mom guilt. And the fear. Thank goodness your son and aunt were both safe! You’re a real life hero. I have goosebumps from reading this.

    1. I didn’t add the part that once the nanny had him, I collapsed to the ground and sobbed. I couldn’t even look at her for the rest of the day. Shame she too was so traumatised by what happened. It was her last working day for the year. She said she had high BP the whole time she was away. Thanks so much for reading Nadine. xxxx

  2. i’ll never forget this day…. such a heavy post to share… also thinking about how moms will judge you… so I commend you my friend. it took a lot for you to write and share this I know. and just last week I read the article in the Herald about the 2 year old that drowned.. and every story like that i think about your incident. I know you said you literally felt like vomiting that day.. but each person who reads this will somehow share it.. at least you’re doing your bit by raising awareness. big ups for sahring ā™„ā™„ā™„

  3. I am sorry that you had to go through this experience, but this was a great post and it’s such a great way to create awareness. This should be shared on all mommy blog groups, just to remind them that a tragedy can happen in a second and to trust your inner mommy instincts. Thank you for sharing (even though I’m not a mommy yet)

  4. I am so glad you trusted your mother’s instinct and went home. Something was at work that day, I am sure it was God and the angels.
    I have had a few close shaves myself of Nicky falling in, but I was right there to rescue him fortunately. And now he has been going to swimming lessons I think he could save himself. But those moments when they are in the pool – they stretch forever and make you feel so awful.
    I am so sorry about what happened but I know you have emerged wiser for it.

  5. So scary! Can you not lock the gate with a padlock somehow? Even when a toddler knows how to swim they are not safe if they fall into a pool. They will get a fright and forget how to swim. Xxx

    1. That’s a very good idea Angela! There used to be one one but my brother opens it at night to let the dog have the freedom to move between the front and back of house. I’ll chat to him about finding it and putting it back on.

  6. I hope many people read this. It can happen in a Sec. I was 4 when it happend to me. I was playing on the pool step. When a adult bumped me in. I couldnt swim. Nobody help. Everyone was laughing & partying. I came to the top for the 2nd time when My dad saw, threw my brother (a newborn) then to my mother, jumped in & got me out. We never saw those people again. I know how traumatic it can be. šŸ™ˆšŸ˜Æ

    1. Oh my word! How scary! Did that affect how you felt about swimming afterwards?

      I had similar at the beach, a wave pulled me so I was clawing into the sand for dear life. It was so shallow where I was. I remember the water washing over my face and being so petrified. The family members I was with…were actually sitting and laughing at me. It literally can happen so fast.

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