Listen y’all, this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever shared with the world, but here it goes…
I forgot my son in the back of the car. That’s right. The mom who the world thinks has it all together forgot her newborn son in the back of the car.
My whole life, leaving a child in a hot car had been one of my worst fears. While I feel like most don’t understand how a person could just “forget” their child in the back seat, I had read enough stories and heard enough personal testimony to know that it can happen to even the most dedicated and loving parent. Knowing this, I took every precaution I could think of. I put stickers in the car that I picked up from a local city hall during a campaign to raise awareness. I made arrangements with daycare providers to always call if my child was unexpectedly late or absent. I regularly reminded my husband if our routine changed and I was sure to speak out loud who would be responsible for dropping off or picking up the children. When my sister had her first child I was only 16 years old, but I had already begun to have nightmares of leaving my nephew in a hot car. And they continued with each child that entered our family after that.
I am more than cautious. I am more than aware of the dangers. I am more than educated on how easily it can happen. And still, it happened to me.
To say I was “out of my routine” is an understatement. I just had a newborn, our third, and I suffered complications after his birth. Those complications and hormones put me in a postpartum fog that I didn’t experience with the other two. For the first time since I was 15 years old I wasn’t working full time. My husband received orders overseas and we were trying to make arrangements for our home, our kids, our household goods, our three dogs, our newborn, get passports, schedule flights, schedule hotels, and the list goes on and on and on.
I tell you this not to seek any attention or pity for myself but in the hopes that the shame I feel and receive will be worth it if it helps even one family.
We had cleared out of our home and were staying with friends waiting for our flight overseas. One morning I took the older two children to preschool and the baby and I drove to our home to prepare for a walk through with our realtor. I was on the phone with my husband and had a million things running through my mind. My precious angel was silently sleeping in the back seat.
Thank God for whatever in that split second made me snap back into the reality of the moment. Thank God for every moment that I have had to hold sweet Asher since that morning when so many other families did not.
I got to the house, pulled into the drive way and still on the phone with my husband, rushed to the backyard to ensure the landscaper had come as he promised the day before to ensure the yard would be ready for photos.
I was relieved to tell my husband that yes, the landscaper had come. We hung up the phone and with one thing marked off the list and 999,999 more things running through my mind I simply walked inside, up the stairs of the completely empty house to the laundry room where one final load of cleaning rags needed to be folded and packed.
It was only about two minutes. I had folded maybe three small rags when all of a sudden in a flash my mind realized the silence and I gasped out loud as I bolted downstairs. Still in pain from child birth, but feeling none of it as I skipped multiple stairs, opened the garage door and ran, ducking underneath before the door was even half-way open.
Asher was still sleeping peacefully in the back seat but I pulled him out and held him, ran inside and sat on the floor crying and saying over and over, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. Thank you Lord. Thank you Lord.”
It was early May in Arizona. Thankfully the morning was cool and I parked in the shade. Asher was only in the car for a couple of minutes, but his tiny nose had already begun to form beads of sweat. I have tears running down my face as I type this now.
Weeks went by before I told anyone, even my husband, what had happened that day. I couldn’t let the words come out of my mouth. I spent nights up with Asher crying as he nursed thinking of what could have happened and unable to sleep thanking God for his mercy on us that day. When I finally was able to share it with my husband all I said was, “My worst fear as a mother came true.” He knew exactly what I meant and he immediately responded, “You left Asher in the car.” Yes. I left my child in the car. My throat closes around those words as they hang there. My heart pounds and my hands are shaking. It seems unimaginable. But, it happened.
I pray that friends and family who read this are shocked. I pray that people say, “Oh my gosh, I would never imagine she would be the type of mom to do something like that.” Because the truth is, I’m not. Most aren’t. There’s a science behind the difference between “forgetting” and just completely “not remembering”. It sounds like semantics, but scientifically speaking, a person can have memories of something that never happened, like bringing the car seat inside as I had already done for Asher and his two older siblings countless times. If you’re shocked that this happened to us then that means it can happen to you.
Even with every precaution, my sweet baby was still in danger. Thank God for his hedge of protection. Thank God for whatever in that split second made me snap back into the reality of the moment. Thank God for every moment that I have had to hold sweet Asher since that morning when so many other families did not.
Please, I beg you, take precautions. Help those around you. Don’t be afraid to ask where the baby is or to double check. If you’re in a postpartum fog, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Audibly designate who is in charge. Use a sticky note. Leave a shoe in the back seat. Leave your phone in the back seat. Put a string around your finger. Whatever works for you. Don’t ever assume that the worst couldn’t happen to you. Because it can.
I expect a slew of negative comments coming my way. If I’m honest, maybe that’s why I’ve waited so long to share this story. But, if only one family is spared an ounce of heartbreak, then I’ll take it.
And to the mama who didn’t have a happy ending my heart breaks for you. Please know that God is still good and try to forgive yourself.