Water Safety Awareness & Guilt

I’ll never forget the day my son almost drowned. It was exactly 1 year ago from today. We had been at a private swimming pool, there were 4 adults there that day along with my 4 children. Somehow when there are more adults around, I feel more comfortable, but really I think everyone assumes someone else is watching.


(This photo taken 7/7/2010 at his first swim lesson for this year, he did amazing, much better than I did actually, I was on the edge of my seat the entire lesson.)

We were getting ready to leave the pool that day and everyone was getting out. My son was playing on the steps and I was changing the baby’s clothes and not paying attention. The next thing I realized my daughter was yelling “MOM! MOM!” she was also yelling her brother’s name. When I looked up, she had her floaty in one arm and our son in the other and was swimming as fast as she could back to the edge.

Thankfully my mom was quick to yank him out but he was already blue and non-responsive. My heart dropped as I saw his little lifeless body lay there on the concrete. I froze, just couldn’t believe my eyes. Thankfully my mom was quick to turn him to his side and pat his back, he immediately started throwing up, which lasted for what seemed an eternity. He had soiled himself and had petechia all around his eyes, face and throat, but he was breathing, my sweet baby was breathing.

Unfortunately the teenage lifeguards on duty were of no help what-so-ever and advised us to take him home to rest. On the way home, he started crying his stomach hurt so we decided to go to the ER. Praise God for that decision because when we got there his lungs had water in them, they scolded me for not calling 911 and rushed him into for oxygen. If we’d have gone home that day he would have surely died in his sleep.

Later after talking with our son, he said he had slipped off the bottom step and couldn’t reach, in an attempt to get back to the steps he had actually floated out towards the middle of the pool. He said he put his hands up in the air hoping someone would see him, and praise God, our daughter did. She said she saw his hair floating, but he wasn’t moving, so she grabbed him. Our 6 year old daughter saved our son’s life.

So why am I writing this horrific post? Two reasons:

FIRST: Be AWARE! Drowning doesn’t always look like drowning!

No matter what the amount of water your children are playing in, keep a close eye on them. I now stay in the water at all times with them. We stay together and get out together. And I don’t rely on lifeguards to watch my children, the lifeguard that day didn’t even notice my son drowning, and my mom had revived him before the lifeguard even got over to us, even though we were yelling at him like crazy. Finally, be informed! The lifeguard that day told us to go home. If this happens to your child NEVER go home! According to our pediatrician if there is ever a restriction of the airway of any kind i.e., choking, drowning ALWAYS GO TO THE ER IMMEDIATELY. And if it is a near drowning like my son’s it is best to call 911 rather than drive them yourself.

SECOND: The second reason for this post is to admit my own feelings of guilt. I’ve never fully forgiven myself for this incident. I can go on and on about what I could have done, but that’s not really relying on God, that’s me trying to carry my own burden. I’m still not sure how to let go of this except through continued prayer, so that’s where you’ll find me today, giving prayer and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father for looking after his children.

Timely as God is, I received this devotion from Alpha Omega Homeschooling:

I’ll never forget the day my son almost drowned….read more.

If you’ve had a tragedy in your home and struggle with forgiving yourself, God knows your pain. Being a homeschooling parent doesn’t mean you can protect your child from every physical bump and bruise. Accidents happen, and many times there aren’t any good reasons or answers to explain them. Only God knows what each day will bring, but praise the Lord that even when bad things happen, He is still able to turn them around for good. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Lord, I can’t see the good in this situation right now, and I feel like it’s all my fault. Please, help me to forgive myself and trust that somehow, You will make sense of this problem. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ALWAYS keep an eye on your children when they are swimming, drowning can happen in an instant.

Now, pull yourself up by the bootstraps, take your kids to the pool and have a safe and fun summer.


  1. Thank you for this reminder. We are going to a big back to school pool party with our co-op today….probably over 100 families. I will need to keep all of my duckies in a row! Sorry for everything you went through….and thank you for sharing such a scary moment.

  2. Thank you so much for your touching story. It was difficult for me to read, as this happened to one of our children as well several years ago. My husband and I were right there and it still happened!Thank the Lord our little one was ok too. You can never be too careful around water and you really can't trust the lifeguards!

  3. You know I am not a Christian, but here is my perspective. You done a wonderful and brave thing sharing this story to give us a *real* reminder of the dangers of water and you should be apluaded for doing so.What a terrible thing to happen, and something I am sorry your family had to go through.

  4. Thank you for sharing so deeply from your heart. The devotion was indeed timely. May I suggest that you contact the pool and inform them of what would have happened had you actually gone home instead of to the ER? It may prevent another family from tragedy.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. My littlest one slipped under on the steps this summer while I was RIGHT BESIDE HIM!! But I had my back turned to catch the 3yo swimming to me and I never heard him slip under. Scary is an understatement.I'm glad all ended well.

  6. Thanks for sharing! I can't believe they told you to go home!

  7. THANK YOU so much for sharing this. How scary! I appreciate your honesty about the guilt you are still dealing with. Prayer is definitely the answer when we are faced with recurring guilt.

  8. So scary! I posted this article on my blog last month – I highly recommend you read it and share it – it's vital info about how most ppl don't recognize drowning. Praise God that your son is OK!

  9. This post gives me chills, but it such a good reminder to keep an extra close watch! Thanks

  10. Thank you for sharing your story…I'm so thankful that all was well in the end.I signed up for the devotion from Alpha Omega when you mentioned it on your blog many months ago…I love it! Their daily devotional emails have been such a blessing to me!

  11. Erica,I too have an incident that was VERY hard to forgive myself for. And even now, when I feel like I've forgiven myself, something will happen to remind me of that situation and how completely AWFUL, NEGLEGTFUL, GUILTY, and TERRIFIED I felt. Like you, it was something I didn't think could happen, and never even THOUGHT about happening because I thought I'd taken precations to prevent it. But it happened, and now, I have a record with DCFS because of it. One simple mistake turned into something to haunt me forever.BUT, the Lord has helped me heal and has helped me get past the incident and heal myself, who was the hardest person to heal. Shelly

  12. Your post is so brave and yet the story that needs to be heard- we cannot simply close our eyes and say "it'll never happen to me". I am so glad to hear God was with your daughter & in the situation that day and saved your son's life. Thank you for posting this-

  13. What a horrifying experience for all of you. I'm so glad your 6 year old daughter was there, she's a little angel!How upsetting that the lifeguards were useless. You just figure they have a least some type of training.Thanks for the reminder, I'm sure it will help many people!

  14. Thank you for this post. I am so glad that you and your family had a happy ending and God was watching over your family that day. As a former Aquatic Director at a YMCA and a strong advocate for water safety, I hope your story will help to remind other parents of how dangerous the water can be. There is no substitute for parental supervision and teaching your child how to swim. I also agree – don't rely on lifeguards – adult or teenager. It is not always an age factor – but rather how well they are trained and supervised.

  15. Drowning is something I've always been paranoid about when it comes to my children. I have three…6, 3, and 2. In fact, I've always made them put their life jackets on in the house because I was afraid someone would fall in while I was putting one on one of the other kids. And everyone has to get in together and out together. My rules were very strict. I tell you this to say that even with all of the precautions on my part, this summer my youngest fell in while reaching for something. I was putting sunscreen on my mother-in-law's back. My back wasn't even turned all the way around from view. (not very cautious on my part still) My six year old daughter started screaming for me to look while at the same time my 3 year old son had jumped in to help him. Though, at 3 (and even though he handles himself well in the water) he was making it worse not better. When I turned to look I saw that my just turned 2 year old had fallen in and couldn't get off of his stomach and kept rolling in the water. The life jacket doesn't help you if you don't know how to control your body in it. It just kept rolling him back on his stomach. Myself, my MIL, and my daughter all jumped in at the same time to get him out. How scary! We, thankfully, had caught him as soon as it happened and all of this happened in about a 5 second span, though it felt like a million. I've always thought it was amazing that you can remember and recount so many details of something that only lasted a few seconds. It was the scariest thing ever. I'm thankful you wrote this as a reminder for everyone, because things can happen to even the most cautious people.

  16. Thank You! We had a similar story happen in our family. Thank you for opening your closet and letting us see you skeletons (so we don't acquire some of our own).When God forgives us…he forgets. But he allows us to keep the memories so that we will not repeat our mistakes. I think a good measure of whether you've forgiven yourself is whether you feel you've become a better parent because of what happened. We ALL make mistakes…some very dangerous. It's what we LEARN from the mistakes that count!!!Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  17. Thanks for sharing your heart. I walked around (still do at times) carrying guilt about things that were really out of my control. God is the author of EVERY circumstance. He saw what happened and he wasn't disappointed in you. He is enough for you ALWAYS even when you make a mistake. We all make mistakes and thankfully God knew what they would be before we were even knit together in our mother's wombs! His grace is surely enough and Romans 8:28 will always prove to be true no matter what the situation is.

  18. I am so thankful to hear your son is o.k. People tease me for being the "overprotecrive" mom especially around water, but it can happen so quickly. You did the right thing, and you were able to share with many others who can learn from this. Thank you for sharing something so personal. Many blessings to you!Jill

  19. Thank you for sharing. I had always been in the water as a child, with or without supervision, a life guard as a teenager and always figured my kids would be like me, but the reality of chilhood drowning became real to me when I met my husband. When he was 6 his little sister drowned and there is a burden of guilt that he and his parents still share because they all feel that they should have been the one to make sure the gate was locked. Since becoming a mother, this experience has made me so much more protective of my own children and everytime I walk into there house and see the picture of the sweet little girl whose same face is now that of my daughter's, I feel overwhelmed with how real it can be.

  20. Thank you for sharing. I had always been in the water as a child, with or without supervision, a life guard as a teenager and always figured my kids would be like me, but the reality of chilhood drowning became real to me when I met my husband. When he was 6 his little sister drowned and there is a burden of guilt that he and his parents still share because they all feel that they should have been the one to make sure the gate was locked. Since becoming a mother, this experience has made me so much more protective of my own children and everytime I walk into there house and see the picture of the sweet little girl whose same face is now that of my daughter's, I feel overwhelmed with how real it can be.

  21. Wow, so scary Erica! Thank God your daughter saw him! Thanks for sharing and reminding us to be so careful! It only takes a second for something so tragic to happen.

  22. Thanks for the reminder. and for sharing such a difficult moment for you. I'm wiping away tears after reading your account. So glad your story ended well. May God lift your guilt.

  23. Hello! Thank you for writing this post that must have been very hard to write. And we're so glad the Daily Focus was able to bless you as well.Thanks again for sharing your heart.Ryan from Alpha Omega Publications

  24. Thank you all for your support. I'm amazed at how many others have gone through this! We're having a little celebration for our son being alive tonight and our daughter for being a hero!

  25. Thank you for your honesty! What a horrible experience. I am a freak around water. I always have that fear that I thought someone else was watching and they thought I was watching so I'm totally stressed when I'm there and have three little ones who can't swim to look after. It's hard not to let my fear keep us away from the pool all together! And, I sure don't want the kids to be frightened of the water because of me. So, we go and I feel like I'm on high alert the whole time! Thanks for the reminder to be cautious and trust the Lord to carry these burdens.

  26. Thank you for this reminder. Contrary to what some may think, drowning is often a very silent act and can happen quite quickly.I am shocked by the reaction of the lifeguards. My daughter is on a USA swim team and most of the older children are lifeguards. The pools where they practice all have strict guidelines to follow in the event of ANY kind of injury at the pool. The lack of such guidelines at the pool you discussed is unacceptable. Lastly, I think you gave all parents a very good reminder that their children's safety is ultimately THEIR responsibility even when lifeguards are present. Public swimming pools in the summer are often overcrowded and not all have strict safety guidelines. I know the rec. center near our home requires a parent to be in the water within arm's reach of any non-swimmer. Samantha

  27. I read you every day but don't always stop to comment. I just want to say what a blessing your blog is to me (and your printables are to my kids) I have had two kids fall into pools and a son get caught in a rip tide at the beach. We were right there for all the events but even in split seconds kids can inhale water! It is so true…more adults usually means less safety. Tank you for the story and reminder. Keep up the wonerful work here and know you are touching mom's and families.

  28. I too am a daily reader but seldom comment. This post really spoke to my heart, I know it must of been difficult for you to write!I am so sorry that your family, your son, had to go through this experience. But I truly appreciate you sharing it with us as it is a great reminder!Blessings

  29. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this post. This post has me in tears. I can totally relate to this situation because this Friday, August 13th, my son will turn one and on the 14th we will celebrate the fact that God spared his life one year ago when he was only one day old. I do am dealing with some guilt because my son started chocking on some colostrum that was stuck in his throat because I didn't burp him well enough. I remember holding his little lifeless body praying and begging God to save the life of my one day old baby…my 3rd child and my 1st son. My mother was able to get the glob of milk out of his mouth and was finally able to get him to breathe again after being out for about 2 minutes. My husband still prays that he will be ok from the lack of oxygen and able to learn about God and teach others but I know that he is a perfectly amazing little boy that has no problem with learning. Praise God for that. Anyway, as this day approaches I feel my heart reliving it all again and praises God for every minute he has given me with my sweet son this year.Thanks again for this post. Sometimes us moms share so much more in common than we ever know and it's good to share these stories to open up ourselves to others and let them learn from our lives. Thanks!

  30. Wow,I would have been terrified! Thank God your daughter saw him! I have always been scared of the water,so I am extra careful when mine are in water,even the bath tub. Thank you for sharing and will be praying for you!

  31. Your post took me right back to the night of June 6th that we almost lost our two years old son. I blogged about it the night after so that I will always remember to keep an eye on him no mater how many other people around him are also doing the same thing. It was horrible. I remember my brain just froze and my heart skipped a bit when I didn't see him in the house. We have gone back to the same house last week and this time, we had him in our sight the whole evening.Thank you again for sharing your nightmare and I know God's grace is sufficient! Praise Him for your little boy!

  32. Thanks for being so open and honest, Erica. I've struggled with guilt, too, for accidents that happened to my kids, and I've discovered that "sharing" and bringing the guilt into "light" is always my first step towards healing.Bless you! (((hugs)))

  33. Thank you for sharing this important reminder with us. The young lifeguards here are not very attentive at all! Not at the local YMCA or the beach, it's sad. Some of the ones at the beach have been called out because of phone usage while on duty.

  34. Thank you for sharing this story. I can only imagine how heart wrenching it was/is. My rule is "If everyone is watching, no one is watching." I encourage everyone to make someone specifically responsible for each child. It's just too easy for us all to think someone will watch out for them. The other things is that no matter how close we are or how carefully we watch things do happen. My then-toddler son crashed into a chair in our living room and had to get stitches even though I was just an arm's length away. Sometimes there is nothing we can do. God bless

  35. Oh Erica…this is a much needed reminder. Thank you. We all can get so complacent and need to remain vigilant about those things we can control but accidents can and will happen. I am so sorry you are struggling with such guilt. I pray that will subside over time. This post reminds me of this that I saw on Mommy Life blog a while back: was very enlightening to me. Love you!Ginger

  36. I have tears running down my cheeks because I could have written a nearly identical post. Including: a year ago, lifeguards who did not notice, lifeguards who did not hear the cries for help, lifeguards who then looked at me like "uhh, what do we do?" I pulled my floating 2.5 year old boy out of the pool last year and have been terrified of water (and my children touching it) ever since. It has been a process to allow myself to trust swimming instructors as they work with my sons. I think I have actually mostly repressed the actual incident because it is just so painful to think about. I must say that many have reminded me that there ARE GOOD, observant lifeguards out there. I MYSELF have to remind myself of that.I also have to work VERY hard not to let my children see my own fear because with proper training water is wonderful. I had just forgotten that the parts of water to have a healthy fear about is NOT known naturally and must be taught.My oldest son has had a few beginner sessions and this winter I hope to get both the boys into lessons with a friend so that by next summer we might be able to go back to the pool without near heart attack symptoms in mom. Praise God for all the *good news* stories. The reminder for God to carry the burden is a great one. 🙂

  37. I have tears in my eyes and I know I am going to think about this all day…thank God it ended with your son safe and healthy!

  38. What a great reminder, thank you! I'm just starting out hsing but I read your blog all the time. Love it! Thanks for all the helpful ideas 🙂

  39. Thank you for sharing your story. I too had a church member save my son while he was drowing in the pool. Long story short I saw my husband taking things to the car and told my son to go with daddy. I was trying to finish up a conversation. Well my husband told my son to go back to mommy which he never did. He saw other kids jump in the pool and he followed. Thankfully it was not his time to go and God sent an angel to rescue him. I am grateful that your son is okay and that you took him to the ER. Its good to hear stories from other moms it reminds me that we are all human and we all make mistakes. It does not mean we love our children any less. I hope sharing your story has lifted a weight off your chest.

  40. I posted your post in my Facebook as this is a great reminder as parents how viligant we need to be when it comes to our kids. I had a incident when my boy was no more than 4. It was at the public pool and he wanted to watch the swimmers go down the slide. I was watching him and somehow he stepped off and fell into the water. I was there really quick because I was watching him but I can't even imagine if I had been somewhere else or not paying attention. And the sad thing is the 'lifeguards' were to busy gossiping with their friends. I defintly had him do swim lessons the next year or so as a precaution to. Thanks again for this reminder.Mel

  41. kudos for getting him into swim lessons shortly after this ordeal.i almost drowned in a YMCA pool when i was six. i was the guest of a member on a saturday morning open swim. i literally clawed up some other girl's back trying to climb back out of the water (i had been accidentally bumped off the ball I had tucked under my belly as i pulled myself along the wall–i ended up more than three feet away from the nearest wall and totally panicked–i too had waved my arms about hoping to be seen).the lifeguards blew me off when i told them about it and had me just sit on the side of the pool. we couldn't afford swim lessons so it wasn't until some six years later that I started learning how to swim.if i'm in water my feet have to be solidly planted and my chin above water. and even in the shower, if DH is too close when i'm under the shower-water, or tries to kiss me while i'm rinsing my hair, i COMPLETELY freak out.we enroll our kids in swim lessons as we have funds available. it's such an important life skill to possess!!

  42. wow! thank you for sharing. sadly, I have a similiar story although my daughter wasn't under the water as long…anyways, PRAISE GOD she was kept safe and I also praise HIM for providing ISR lessons for them this past fall. still scares me to think of what could have happened. A reminder how fragile life is…and that I need to treasure my children.

  43. Anonymous says:

    I cried as I read this because I too had a similar experience. My mom, 3 daughters and I were at a public pool. We were the only ones there with no life guard. My mom was in the pool with my middle daughter while my oldest was running around. Well my baby (just about to turn one) was walking around in the baby pool. There had been a baby frog in the baby pool so I was trying to get it out and make it jump into the grass. In all of this I forgot about my baby and turned to see her walking around face down in the water. My heart never sunk so low. I pulled her out and ran to my mom. She struggled some to catch her breath but she did. My mom and I cried but did nothing further. I worried that whole night about something happening to her and have lived with the guilt ever since. So much so that I haven't even shared this story with my husband.Praise the Lord both of our babies are safe and we are now aware of how much more cautious we need to be around water. Thanks for sharing your story.

  44. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing something so personal. May God continue to bless your beautiful family!Carlen

  45. I slipped off the step in my great-aunt’s pool. My great-grandpa saved my life and ruined his Sunday suit and shoes in the process. I felt so terrible for it and told him so, but he hugged me and told me that the Lord would provide clothes and shoes but there would never be another me in all the world. I was 6 years old but I’ll never forget feeling loved and precious in that moment.
    I came across your blog as I get our homeschool schedule up and going for the semester. Thank you for the great posts!

  46. Angela See says:

    Thank you for sharing, I’m sure God use you to bless many.
    i wasnt sure about swimming but now I’m going to put my kids on swimming this fall.
    Thank you 🙂 God bless your family

  47. I realize this is an old post (I was looking at your homeschool schedule!) but I have to share that almost the same thing happened to my daughter at a pool party. I was 6 months pregnant and jumped in the pool to get her out, but thankfully, my husband was faster. We were watching closely, but she just stepped off the step and slid right out of her swimmie, too. Like your situation, the lifeguard was no help and didn’t even see her until my husband had her out of the pool. (Needless to say, I was hysterical.) She started swimming lessons the next week. She and her brother now swim year round, as well. I started him as soon as he was walking. We scrimp and save to pay for lessons, but it is so worth it.

  48. And keep an eye on them in the bathtub too, even if they can swim. Toddlers only need 2″ of water to drown…and I am sure kids don’t need much if they have slipped and are facedown. Our rule is that the bathroom door is shut, but unlocked at bathtime until you are a teen for this reason.

    Ten years ago I went to the saddest memorial service ever, where a child had drowned in the family pool (it had fencing). I cannot even begin to explain the grief and heartache of the parents, the community, the school…just awful.

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