It All Happened So Quickly...

My precious baby could have died. No exaggeration or creative license taken. This could have been it. A very different ending to our vacation and a tragic beginning to a life without her. As I write this I can feel my heart begin to race as my emotions swell.

I am fanatical about water safety. We pursue swimming lessons religiously. A house with a pool in the backyard will not be an option until the kids are much older. If we are near water, they are supervised at all times. Having little ones around the water has been a fear of mine as long as I've had children. I can recall waking up on various occasions after a nightmare that one of my children had drowned. One day a few weeks ago, it almost became a sadness from which I would never awake.

The house we rented at the beach had its own pool in the front. Initially I was reluctant, but I relented. The pool had its own fence and gate with a high latch. There would be a lot of adults and only a few kids. It was a beautiful house and it was big enough for our entire extended family. It seemed as though we could manage to keep the kids safe for a week.

We had a wonderful first day. A fun outing at the beach. My mom even stayed back at the house with the kids while they napped, so that hubby and I could have a few peaceful hours by the pool. The morning of day two began routinely. We were scurrying to get everyone fed, dressed and ready for the day. Patrick went upstairs to change. Shortly afterwards, I was ready to do the same. I made a quick survey of the room and the big kids were fine. Emmy (age 2) was sitting on the couch with the adults. I generally announced that I was going up to get ready. (In hindsight, I should have specifically appointed someone to be in charge of watching the kids.)

Times passes, ten to fifteen minutes at the most. Suddenly, I hear my dad yelling from downstairs that he had just found Emmy...outside of the house, inside the pool fence...by herself.

My heart stops. For a few minutes, I'm not even sure it fully registered. Complete terror. One of my greatest fears. Finally, after several minutes of processing, the emotions begin to flood my brain. What? There were at least three adults downstairs? The front door was locked? The pool gate was shut? How on earth did a two-year old open a heavy, locked hurricane door, walk ten feet to a fence, open the gate and head towards the pool? How could this be? We are so careful. I am painfully aware that drowning is the second leading cause of death for children. This cannot have almost happened to us. Complete shock.

I wrapped my arms around that sweet child and held her so tightly. I hid in my bathroom and sobbed uncontrollably. I thanked God for protecting her. I beat myself up repeatedly for not either bringing her upstairs with me or appointing a specific person to take care of her. Then I attempted to reconstruct the events that allowed her to make her way to the pool. I still don't really know what happened. How is it that no one realized she was missing? I don't know if someone left the front door open and she followed them out. I don't know if she managed to get the door open herself. I did learn that the latch on the pool gate was broken and so the gate did not remain completely closed. Usually, in the case of most disasters, there are several things that go wrong - a chain of events leading to the ultimate tragedy. That rule applies here. A chain of events that almost caused years of heart-ache and "what-ifs." But the underlying theme is that it was an accident. They do happen and they happen quickly.

That evening I hardly slept. The next day I was still shaken up and could not stop obsessing about it. Eventually it faded somewhat, but the shadow remained throughout the remainder of our trip. I just kept thinking...so close...it was so close. We could have lost her.

There are so many difficult things that happen in life. I know God is sovereign and I trust His plan. But when there is sadness and tragedy, the questions and confusion cannot be suppressed. Throughout my life, I have wrestled with God during my own difficulties and I have struggled with Him as I have walked next to others during their times of trial and sorrow. In this fallen world, suffering touches all of us. But I feel as though sometimes we are so beaten down by the challenges that we forget to acknowledge the good. There are also many instances when accidents don't happen, when God protects "behind the scenes" - so many times when we so easily forget He is there ordaining it all.

So today, a praise. On June 9, 2009, God saved my little girl. He is always there. But on this day, as she made her way out of the house and to the pool, He held her hand. As she stood next to the water, He was there, with her. What was she thinking? Probably that the water was pretty and she wanted to jump in and play. But He wrapped his loving arms around her and did not let her take that next step. "Not now my child." He whispered to my dad's heart, "Go find Emmy." God surrounded my precious little one with a hedge of protection and He did not call her home.

When I prayed on that almost-tragic day, my words seemed woefully inadequate. He allowed me to keep one of the most precious gifts He has given me. How do I say thank you? It was one of the few times I felt grateful that He could see into my heart, because I could not find words that were big enough. My soul was exploding with gratitude, but when I tried to speak, nothing came out but, "Thank you"...and more tears.

Please be careful with your little ones near the water this summer. We cannot be too cautious. A little neurosis is healthy in the case of water safety. I used to feel it was just non-swimmers who were truly in danger. However, a friend recently posted an entry on Facebook describing her own scary incident. Her son was a very strong swimmer. But at a baseball pool party, he was pulled down - and eventually held under - by a panicked child who could not swim. Kids and water are a dangerous combination. Accidents happen so quickly. Please teach your children to swim as early as possible. Do not leave older siblings in charge of younger ones. Make sure all pools have a separate fence and a high (and functional) latch. I recommend some type of pool alarm as well. After our incident, we immediately began using a "Safety Turtle" system for the remainder of the trip. It is nice to have a back-up measure of protection. Bathtubs and kiddie pools can be dangerous too. Always remember that no one will watch your kids as carefully as you will, it takes only a few inches of water for a child to drown, and it all happens so quickly.

On June 9, 2009, God saved our sweet Emily Macyn. Hopefully it was not only a warning to us, but also to others. Please be vigilant when young children are near any amount of water.

Wishing everyone a safe summer.


Kate said...

Oh Tiff. I feel your pain and am in tears. That is one of my biggest fears as well. Kelly's sister-in-law's step-granddaughter just drowned in a baby pool in the backyard. No one emptied it out and that night...after all the kids and adults were in bed, the 2 year old got up and went outside and drowned in the kiddiepool. The next morning her mom couldn't find her in her room or the house and unfortunatley found her dead. I cried and cried and I don't even know her. It just hits home that it could be one of mine. You are truly blessed!!! Love ya.

Martha said...

oh tiffany, i can so relate. i can relate from when we were at your house and I saw Thomas standing on your balcony. I have thought of it at least 50 times since. I too had all of your thoughts and I too have praised God and asked myself hard questions such as, will I praise God if God takes one of mine early, etc....

We had another scare with Sydney last week with bacon grease and I am just out right tired! Praise the Lord for these precious ones and the time we are given.

myfourgems said...

That sounds so scary. I have had two close calls with mine as well, and it really changes you. I am so glad it turned out like it did. Loved the pics of your vacation.