The day I accidentally left my baby in the car.
My Story. Written by Koa’s mom.
This took a lot of strength to write. I don’t even really know where to begin but I will just tell the story in the hopes that this will never happen to anyone else.
I was like you. When you first read the headline “The day I accidentally left my baby in the car,” I imagine you gasped. I imagine you shook your head and thought, “how could anyone possibly do that.” I was like you. I read those stories and said the same. I don’t blame you. I know I’ll get judged and I’m okay with that as long as it saves a life. The fact is that it CAN happen to you. None of us are perfect. We get distracted, we are on autopilot. Things happen and what happened to us was something I never imagined would.
We went to Naples for my dad’s 70th birthday. When we arrived we wanted to go to the club pool. The problem was we were not signed up in advanced. My dad likes things planned out and has a hard time when things are last minute. He ended up following us to the club and agreeing to sign us up. There was 5 adults and 2 children. Three cars, and we all parked next to each other. When we parked we shut the car off and began unloading.
I asked Nick, my husband, if we were going to take the stroller inside and he said yes. I proceeded to take Peyton, my three year old, out of the car and then we took all the pool toys and started loading up the stroller. My dad was talking to us, my phone was ringing, Peyton was being a 3 year old talking non stop, I was stressed after the long drive and so was Nick. I thought Nick took Koa, our 6 month old, out of the car in the car seat and put him in the stroller (because there’s a canopy and it was down) and Nick thought I had taken Koa out of the car. We locked the door and walked away.
Now, it’s hard for me to proceed with this story because I still cannot believe it happened. I know people leave their kids in the car on purpose and I am not at all discussing that here. That’s sickening and it makes my bones hurt. I’m talking about parents like us who actually THOUGHT we knew where are children were. I THOUGHT he was with us. I didn’t forget about him. I knew he had been with us. I knew he was there. I just didn’t realize he wasn’t actually there.
It was 12:30 PM in Naples. It was hot, about 90 degrees. Just saying that makes my stomach churn.
We got to the front gate (the walk was a couple of seconds) and my dad explained that we were family and to let us in. The guy proceeded to say we needed to step inside and sign a waiver. We left Peyton (and what we thought Koa) in the stroller with the other two adults with us and my father. I said please just watch them quick. THEM. I said them. Still, no one realized. Koa is a quiet baby anyway and we are used to that so it wouldn’t have been weird that there was no baby making noises because that’s his personality. He’s always sleeping or happy.
The next few minutes were spent signing us up and waiting for the passes to print. From leaving the car to finalizing the paperwork it had been about 5-8 minutes. We were about to start walking through the gate when my hero son. My three year old son said, “Where’s Koa?” I was like, very funny Peyton he’s right.. and I look under the canopy and he’s not there. I look at Nick and say where’s Koa, panicking. He said I.. I don’t know panicking as well. I just kept repeating where’s Koa??? Where’s Koa??? My voice got louder and louder. I started screaming. I don’t know what I was screaming just a mix of where’s Koa and is he in the car over and over as we ran towards it. I remember my throat getting dry. My legs felt like bricks. I couldn’t breathe.
Once the realization sank in time stopped. Noises came out of me that I never imagined could. I just screamed is he in the car??? Is he in the car??? Chills down my spine, screams coming out. I was watching this happen. I felt like I wasn’t in my body. Who is this? Who are these people? I love my children. I couldn’t possibly leave one of them in the car. Who is making these crazy noises. These screams. I’ve never run so quickly before in my life. The fear in my stomach, the knots. I don’t think I can explain the feeling. I realized how hot it was, I knew it had been a good 5-8 minutes and as we approached the car I didn’t know if we were going to open the car to him limp, passed out or worse… I can’t even say it. I prayed to God. I prayed and prayed, please help him. Help us.
Nick opened the car door and there he was. Drenched in sweat, crying and awake. I can’t even say I was relieved because that word isn’t strong enough. There’s no words strong enough to explain how happy I was that he was awake and crying. I immediately grabbed him, cradled him and ran towards the gate to the inside of the club. Those noises still coming out of me, the screaming for someone to call 911, the panic I still had wanting to make sure he was Ok, though he appeared to be okay. I immediately took off all his clothes. I screamed at people to give me water. I took cold water and put it on him. And he was just looking at me confused. He wasn’t crying anymore. In fact, he stopped crying pretty much immediately after we took him out of the car.
All I could do was sob with mixed emotions. All I could do is say I was sorry. I was so so sorry. I kept saying how did this happen? How could we let this happen? I was just screaming and crying. People were looking at us. The worker there was very sweet and comforting and so was another woman there. I will forever be grateful with how nice they were. I didn’t care in that moment what people thought anyway. I just wanted my baby to be okay.
The EMS came and checked him out and he was perfect. Like it never even happened. I cried and said I was so sorry. They told me this happens twice a day. TWICE a day. They said you don’t hear about it often but it happens. I couldn’t believe it but at the same time I could. It happened to me. For those that know me KNOW how much I love my children. I would do ANYTHING for my kids and my family. I never imagined this happening.
I think the part that hurts the most is that out of 5 adults my 3 year old was the one who said “Where’s Koa?” He is the true superhero. If he didn’t say anything we might have kept going until we found lounge chairs and then realized once we unloaded. The ending could have been much worse.
Again, I have no words as to how I feel right now. I am so happy that we were so lucky. We are so lucky we have our baby boy who is currently cuddled up in my arms. We are lucky we have a beautiful 3 year old who saved his little brother’s life.
We are having a hard time getting over this. I keep blaming myself. I would have ended up in a psych ward if the ending had been different. I am sorry to those people that did not have the same ending as us. I’m so sorry that you didn’t get a second chance like we did.
I’m just going to end this by saying, for those that have never experienced this, please don’t sit there and judge. Don’t think this can never happen to you because that’s exactly what I said. You can become so distracted in your life and not even think. Be an advocate to help prevent these accidental deaths and possible deaths from happening to these innocent children.
The part that tears me to the bone is he had no idea. He’s just a little baby strapped in all alone. He didn’t understand. That part, knowing that we caused him accidental suffering even if just for 5 minutes, will be something I have to forever live with. The image of running to the car and the sinking feeling that he may not be alive, is something I will never forget. I’m absolutely traumatized. I do not want this to happen to anyone else.
The next time you read a story and maybe the outcome was far worse, (unless it was done on purpose) don’t sit and judge. Be supportive. I’m not in a good place right now and he’s alive and well. We know how lucky we are and sure I will move on from this. The guilt I carry is heavy. I cannot imagine how others feel, the ones who weren’t as lucky as us.
Remember, none of us are perfect. When we think this can’t happen… it can. Don’t think that it can’t because that’s when it does.
Thank you for reading and even if this just saves one life, it is worth it to tell my story.