"My daughter may have recovered but my marriage never did."
I remember the day like it was yesterday. My daughter Anabelle was 18 months and she’d been in the kitchen with me one minute – the next minute I found her face down in the pool. It was a small, inflatable paddling pool that we kept in the backyard.
This happened nearly 10 years ago when people weren’t so aware of backyard drownings that didn’t happen in large swimming pools. But there is no excuse for our negligence and I’ll never forget the sight of Anabelle in the water.
Musings: How Much Time Do I Have Left?
I pulled her out and screamed
My husband James came running and I asked him to call an ambulance.
But she was okay, she must have only been in the water for a matter of seconds. She coughed and cried and, by the time the ambulance arrived, we realised she was okay.
It was the most frightening moment of my life
'I've never been more terrified.' Image: iStock.
But while Anabelle recovered, my marriage didn’t
That day was the beginning of years of blame and ‘what ifs’ that were thrown at me because, of course, the entire incident was my fault. James had been in the carport fixing something and talking to our three-year-old. I was the parent in charge of Anabelle and we almost lost her.
Take charge. Children crave limits, which help them understand and manage an often confusing world. Show your love by setting boundaries so your kids can explore and discover their passions safely.
The ‘what ifs’ are horrendous and still keep me awake at night sometimes. What if I’d taken a phone call and had no idea Anabelle was in the water? What if I hadn’t just finished making a cake and turned around to see that she had disappeared?
'What if we'd lost our little girl forever?' Image: iStock.
James has never forgiven me
Instead of focusing on sheer relief – that our beautiful girl was fine - James focused on me being a negligent mother. He even went so far to say that he didn’t trust me alone with the kids. It was awful.
I once overheard him talking to his mother on the phone, saying that I am ‘away with the fairies half the time'. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I know I was, and still am, a great mum
The most hurtful part of this is when Anabelle was older, around six, James told her about the near-drowning and said, ‘Mummy wasn’t looking after you properly, it wouldn’t have happened if Daddy had been in charge.’
It’s just so unfair. Yes, I realise it was entirely my fault, I turned my back to Anabelle for a very short time, so I could take a cake out of the oven.
Know the value of face-to-face communication. Very young children learn best through two-way communication. Engaging in back-and-forth "talk time" is critical for language development. Conversations can be face-to-face or, if necessary, by video chat with a traveling parent or far-away grandparent. Research has shown that it's that "back-and-forth conversation" that improves language skills—much more so than "passive" listening or one-way interaction with a screen.
My biggest mistake was that I kept water in that inflatable pool, I realise that I should have emptied it when the kids weren’t using it.
But, surely that is James’ fault too and the blame shouldn’t be put just on my shoulders?
That’s something he still fails to recognise ten years later
The story comes up from time to time, in front of friends and family and I always try to bring the story back to the positive, that our beautiful girl is fine and it was just a sorry incident in an otherwise great life.
‘I told my parents how I died'
How to spot a rip
How to spot a rip