In the blink of an eye, in the second you sip your coffee, in the moment it takes to turn your head, everything can change.
Most of the time if doesn’t.
But it can.
For the last three months we have taken every single precaution like it was gospel or came directly from the lips of the big guy upstairs. We have done everything – and mostly nothing. We have been so careful. So cautious. I have not left the area we secluded ourselves in – more than 4x in almost 4 months. Yesterday – for the first time – I decided it was time to let our guard down a little. I hadn’t seen – or had any version of interaction with a non-family member – since basically February. Leaving NYC meant we had space for our children – but it meant true isolation. On a whim I invited a friend and her children over. We would continue to follow the rules to a T. Remain vigilant. So nothing would go wrong. But my mental health was craving something more.
The day was lovely.
Friendship feeds the soul.
I felt like I was more than “mom” for a few hours. It was like I found a little piece of myself, my past life, dare I say, normalcy.
We spent time 6ft away on a deck.
6ft away on a hammock.
6ft away in the yard.
And 6ft away at the pool.
We are always overly careful around the pool. You have to be.
You hear too many horror stories.
At our house the rule is no pool area without swimmies.
Nathan has been sitting at his computer since 1pm last Sunday. I have been with my children virtually alone since then. And it has been taking its toll more I was aware.
So when I was able to breathe a little, I did.
We have five children between us.
There was a lot of action.
A lot of doling out snacks.
A lot of jumping in the pool.
A lot of smiles and laughter.
My kids have missed having friends around. It felt beautiful.
We returned to the pool area after a little bouncy house break. Some of them wanted to snack. Some of them wanted to swim. We wanted to be two friends who hadn’t caught up in far too long.
And we did.
And we were in mid conversation. I couldn’t tell you what it was about. What we were doing or saying.
Neither of us quite knows what happened or when.
One second my youngest girl was sitting eating snacks at my feet.
The next my oldest was saying “Marley doesn’t have a swimmy on” and looked in the direction of a penguin float.
And in that moment I couldn’t wrap my mind around what she was saying. Because I was standing and scanning the pool and it didn’t register that what looked very blonde under the water was the top of my daughters head. My friend and I both ran.
It’s all a blur.
But she jumped across into the pool and threw herself in the direction of her lifeless body. She grabbed my daughter under her arms and lifted her up. All I remember were blue lips, scared eyes and little noises gasping for air. In total shock I scooped my baby girl into my arms. She said “I couldn’t see anyone”. She wasn’t choking. She wasn’t coughing. She was scared, but she was breathing. “I couldn’t see mommy” she said again. I still don’t know how long she was under. It could have been 10 seconds or three minutes. And of course my mind runs through it all.
What if my oldest daughter wasn’t facing that way and didn’t see her?
What if that float was a fraction further and we couldn’t find her?
There were five kids.
It was chaos.
And it was almost the tragedy you read about.
But, it wasn’t.
As a mom I rarely worry about my kids safety. I’m very go with the flow when it comes to what they do.
That said – I am not that way around the pool.
And even still, this happened.
This is not one of my typical pieces, because I’m not in the mindset to joke at the moment. It was the most terrifying moment (though it felt like an eternity) I have ever experienced.
I will forever be indebted to my friend who did not hesitate – while I stood there screaming “holy fuck holy fuck.” And to my daughter, who saved her sister on that fateful day.
Please remain vigilant.
Please make pool rules so strict that you and every single person who comes by knows don’t bend.
I am a big “what-if” er. And I know it’s not helpful, and not productive. But for 24 hours that is literally all my mind would allow.
I spent 4am staring at my child, holding my hand on her body for fear of secondary drowning. I spent all morning cuddling with her and kissing her. I am one of the lucky ones that had a near miss. I know there are far too many who have lived through the “what-ifs” as real life – and a piece of my heart is broken for them, knowing what that felt like.
Hold your loved ones close. Or call those you can’t touch right now. And for kids who can’t swim, buy a fucking life vest they can’t easily slip out of because it all happens in the blink of an eye, so fast you will miss it.