Serious Water Safety Post Is Serious

Although our trip to the beach was full of super fun days in the beach and the pool, the seriousness of watching two kids around so much water hit me on the very first day.

underwater feet

The Kiawah beach is very narrow at high tide and very wide at low tide, with several low spots that create pools perfect for wading. The water was only knee-deep on the grown ups and perfectly calm. It looked like the perfect spot to let the kids splash around for a few minutes. The ratio was three adults to three kids, which meant we had six eyes open at all times but it also meant it was easy to get a few steps too far away because you assumed someone else was closer.

We were actually all watching Caroline as she stepped off the sand into the water – and fell right on her face. She didn’t move. She didn’t splash. So didn’t struggle. She just floated, face down, as my friend Erin and I sprinted the three steps across tide pool. Erin reached her half a second before I did and scooped her up, handing her off to me so I could make sure she was breathing – although at that point I wasn’t breathing either. She sputtered and coughed a little, her wide eyes even wider than usual. She clung to me hard, but besides spitting out about a tablespoon of sea water she was totally fine. She wasn’t keen on being put down for a few minutes but an hour later when we went in the pool she was once again completely fearless around the water. I’m glad she hasn’t been scarred for life – but it is a moment I will never forget.

My friend Elliot sent me an article called “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning” a day or so after I told him about Caroline’s accident. I’ve seen it before on Facebook, but until I experienced a child I knew to be in distress holding perfectly still in the water I didn’t understand just how easy it would be to miss the 30 second window you get before someone drowns.

From the article:

To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC).

I knew my 18 month old wasn’t able to swim so when she fell in the water my reaction was yanking her out as fast as humanly possible. But if she’d been further away or I hadn’t been paying attention – even for just a few moments – there would have been zero signs to alert me. It’s extremely scary to think about.

I know this is kind of a downer and not the sort of fun, post-vacation stories people are looking for, but I’d rather you all roll your eyes at me and think “yeah, yeah, we’ve heard this all before” than not ever hear it and experience any kind of tragedy. Stay safe friends!

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25 Responses to “Serious Water Safety Post Is Serious”

  1. Shari says:

    Oh, how frightening. I cannot even imagine the terror that must have raced through your mind. So, so glad she’s alright!

  2. Jeni says:

    Seriously scary stuff! I hate those hold-your-breath parenting moments, just those couple of seconds that are out of your hands. The worst. Glad she was okay and that for her at least the memory quickly faded.

  3. Amy says:

    I have witnessed this as well with a friend’s daughter and we were only 3 feet away. Luckily my friend yanked her face out of the water and she was fine. I am scarred for life…

  4. I think about this every time we’re near water with O. Especially since the water we’re usually around is of the murky pond variety. I know that if he fell in, and we were more than 3 ft away, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t know where the hell he was, and that could very well be it. Scares the crap out of me. And yet, still no swimming lessons. I’m an idiot.

  5. Rebecca says:

    I am baffled by that last sentence in the quote from the article. I’m not disputing it but I am wondering how it’s possible. Seems unreal.

    And such a scary thought.

    I try to always follow the arm’s length rule.

    We all love the water but it scares the crap out of me.

  6. Amy says:

    Drowning freaks me out. Riptides freak me out. Jets freak me out. Even swimming pool drains. I have a lifetime fear of rivers as deathtraps instilled by my mother. It’s a wonder I ever let Spencer go near water at all.

  7. TheNextMartha says:

    This is really scary. It wasn’t until my son had swimming lessons that I felt ok with him being farther away from me. My younger son is 5 and we have not set up the backyard pool since he’s been born. I just can’t think of getting distracted and him reaching in the pool (even though it wasn’t even 3 ft). Too stressful.

    • bebehblog says:

      It was really scary. I’ve always thought a house with a pool would be fun…but not so much anymore.

  8. MeganTBeach says:

    I am doing this with my 17 month old this summer. http://www.infantswim.com/
    The teach the kids to swim with their head int he water, then flip and float on their back and rest and wait for help if they cannot get to the side of the pool. To graduate the kids must do it fully clothed. It is pretty cool. Look at the videos.

    • Other Erin says:

      I have a friend that did that when his kid was under 1. The video he took was insane – he could drop the kid in the water and he just knew to role over and keep his head above the surface.

    • bebehblog says:

      I’ve seen that, and I was really interested in getting both kids into the program but they don’t have one anywhere near me. We’re definitely going to have to sign both kids up for SOME kind of lessons before next summer.

  9. Joanna says:

    It is something I am CONSTANTLY aware of since we are at my parent’s pool every weekend and always have the girls in their baby pool. It is so important to know this and remind ourselves of it ALL THE TIME.

    I could feel my heart beating faster just thinking about what happened with Caroline.

  10. londonmum says:

    oh honey, so glad she’s ok. No wonder your heart stopped! Thanks for the post and the info about them being still. You always assume that a kid would flail around and you’d realise. Definitely worth knowing. I nearly drowned when I was 7 in a swimming pool. I couldn’t swim and walked into an area beyond my depth. It was only about an inch above my head but I couldn’t work out how to reach the side. My mum was right there and didn’t realise. Luckily a lifeguard pulled me out. Am making sure both my kids learn to swim when they are really little!

  11. Brigid Keely says:

    I’m so, so glad that Caroline’s ok. Thanks for posting something so vitally informative. Even though that article is spread around facebook a LOT, I’m pretty sure we all still have a mental image of what drowning “looks like.” So thanks for yet another very solid reminder of what it actually IS.

  12. Heather B. says:

    My daughter is the same age as Caroline- about 6 months ago, my husband was giving her a bath, and she leaned forward and inhaled water. He was literally RIGHT THERE not even a foot away from her, with no distractions, and she almost drowned. He had to turn her upside down and give her a few pats on the back to get her to start breathing again; it was one of the scariest moments of his life, and I am SO thankful he knew what to do in the situation, and reacted quickly. Drowning is so scary, and happens in an instant. Thank you so much for this post, even though it is a serious topic.

  13. Emily says:

    I’m glad Caroline is OK! I know the feeling. Kai recently started walking, so he’s all about showing off his mad skills in the baby pool… until he falls face forward in to the water. It freaks me out! The arm’s length rule is important… Luckily, Kai’s fast learning to keep his head up and close his mouth. But that’s no fail-safe either, as all it takes is a few seconds of not doing so. Thanks for reminding us all to be extra vigilant!

  14. Dorothy Manning says:

    Holy cow! It is so scary being a parent. Lilly choked on a grape at Stroller Strides last week. I was too hysterical to do the heimlich, thankfully one of the other moms grabbed her from me.

    Thanks for posting this. I’m so glad Caroline is okay!

    • bebehblog says:

      OMG Dorothy, that’s terrifying! I’m glad someone had your back – I bet I would have been too upset to move either.

  15. Suzanne says:

    Oh my gosh, I never knew it could happen this way. I always figure there’d be thrashing … something I’d hear or see. I can’t imagine how scary that was for you. So glad all is well. THANK YOU for sharing this.

  16. Meagan says:

    Whoa that’s scary. It makes my stomach hurt just to think about. All that water IS scary and we have to be so careful. Thank you for the reminder!

  17. merin says:

    I remember reading in an article about drowning that it’s “quick, quiet, and final.” These words still give me shivers. Our kids love the water and with two it is so easy to get distracted. Thanks for the reminder to be super vigilant and of course I am SO GLAD Caroline was OK.

  18. Audrey says:

    Someone shared that article with me when Ev had the same experience at the pool two years ago. I totally keep it in mind at all times when we’re at the pool or beach or whatever. Glad she’s okay!

  19. Holy shitbalz. This really is our MOST feared thing so far about having a kid. We have cancelled vacations because people don’t have fences around their pools… we are THAT scared of it. I would have had a heart attack if that had been Drew. Thanks for posting because seriously, water is so scary.
    One interesting thing that I have heard of is a water bracelet. Rady Children’s Hospital in SD was handing them out one summer. The responsible adult puts on the bracelet and so they KNOW that they are the ones in charge of the kids in the pool. After a pre-determined amount of time, they hand off the duties and the bracelet to another adult.
    We are DEFINITELY trying to get Drew swimming this summer. As soon as his stupid ears are fixed.

  20. Kimberly says:

    So happy everyone is okay! The boys are in swimming lessons, and the first thing they learn is to get to the side. It took JD a long time because he was more concerned about the water in his eyes than reaching for the side. I constantly wanted to yell, “it doesn’t matter if there is water in your eyes if you’re drowning!”

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