Today I got the biggest scare of my life to date. I feel traumatized by it, and haven’t been able to shake the feeling it left me with since it happened.
It was such a beautiful, hot, sunny day and I didn’t want to waste it staying home since I know our hot summer days are nearly over till next year. When I suggested we walk over to the lake to feed the ducks, all 3 kids were raring to go. I’d been saving some old bread for this exact purpose, so once I packed up the stroller with some juice and snacks for the kids, we were off on our mission. Emily was so excited she was saying, ‘Quack, quack, duck!’ on the way. The girls had never been out of the stroller to feed the ducks before as the last time we went (its been awhile) they were fine with just staying in their stroller and watching Andrew do the feeding. I was somewhat hoping they’d be OK with that scenario this time, and maybe just throw some pieces of bread from their seats, but I knew that wouldn’t actually happen because who would want to just sit there strapped into a seat when they could be free?! Before I unstrapped them from their stroller I said that they had to be REALLY CAREFUL not to go near the edge by the water, and that no one was allowed to fall in because Mommy didn’t want to have to go in after them. They understood as best as almost-two-year-olds can, and I wasn’t really that concerned because I used to take Andrew to feed the ducks at Lost Lagoon all the time when he was little and there were never even any near mishaps (and Andrew is a total klutz!!)
I’m sure you know where this is going...We did have a few minutes of happiness, maybe two minutes?! Andrew seemed so gleeful at how the ducks were responding to his bread throws, and I remember thinking how we should do this more often. I took a few pictures of the kids and then was just watching them throw the bread, when out of nowhere Margaret ran too close to the edge (it happened in a split second) and before I could blink my eyes she was in the water. I couldn’t believe it...but at the same time I can’t believe how quickly my instincts kicked in. I threw my phone somewhere on the ground behind me and jumped into the water so fast and grabbed her by the back of her shirt and pulled her head up out of the water. The image that haunts me is of the way she was floating face down, and starting to sink further under to the point I couldn’t see all of her, and her face was still completely under the water. It totally freaked me out. I just grabbed her and pulled her out of the water as quickly as possible, and basically threw her up onto the embankment (not literally, I didn’t THROW her, but I placed her there really fast because I also needed to get myself out of the water ASAP!) This particular lake is not one anyone in their right mind would ever go into willingly. There is even a sign that says, ‘Swim at your own risk.’ The water looks murky and gross from outside the lake, well let me tell you it is worse on the bottom. It was like quicksand and I started sinking further in as soon as I jumped in, which actually made it harder to lift Margaret out, because I had no leverage. As soon as I moved my left foot, my flipflop was off and I could tell it was sinking further into the sludge and then when I took a step to get Margaret out, my other shoe was gone. There wasn’t even a second of thought that I might retrieve the shoes, I knew immediately they were done for. I started to panic slightly when I realized I was sinking so much that I wasn’t easily able to hoist myself out of the water, and for a moment I thought I was going to be stuck there till someone could help me! I started yelling out, ‘HELP, SOMEONE HELP ME!’ but there was no one around but us. (Andrew told me later that he was standing by holding out his hand and he was going to save me, but I didn’t look his way to know he was there for me - how sweet is that?!) I finally did manage to gain enough leverage holding onto the little ledge above the water and climbed out, then I scooped Margaret up and asked if she was OK (she said yes) and took her to the bench nearby to hold her and get a better look at her. She was shocked but otherwise seemed fine, she didn’t cry, she didn’t cough and didn’t seem to have any issues with her breathing. I can’t see how she didn’t ingest any of the water, which has me worried because I wouldn’t doubt there being e.coli in there or something, but she hasn’t shown any signs of any issues from it, and I got her out of that water at lightning speed. She was under for MAYBE 5 seconds, although I still think that’s a long time to be in gross murky water when you weren’t expecting to be.
So there we were, covered in muck from the nasty lake, me shoeless, and now I’ve got to try to force Emily back into the stroller, when she’s wondering why we’re leaving so soon when we just got there!! I literally had to grab her up while still holding Margaret and get her into the stroller, then I got Margaret in, which I hated to do because it meant getting the stroller covered in nasty ‘swamp water’ but what else could I do?! Andrew was most concerned about my shoes because I just got those flipflops this summer and he knew I loved them and he didn’t like that I was going to have to walk home in bare feet. I didn’t like it either, but I told him that shoes are just ‘things’ and I didn’t care at all about losing my shoes because all that mattered to me was that Margaret was safe. I wish I still had my shoes, now that I think about it I’m a bit sad to not have them, I actually loved those shoes, but who cares, they are so easily replaced! I am just SO GRATEFUL that my baby girl is safe, that all 3 of my kids are safe. That split second really smacked me in the face and it’s not that I didn’t know how much I love them because I think all the time about how much they mean to me, but wow. I can’t even think about the what if’s on this one. It’s too scary, and it was way too close to me today, what could have happened. Way too close for comfort.
So what was going to be a nice long outing to feed the ducks, then wander to the park and maybe kick a ball around, turned into a very fast barefoot walk home after less than 5 minutes at the lake, and the rest of the day feeling such a heaviness from the day’s events. I definitely gave all the kids extra hugs and kisses, and had a lot more patience with them throughout the day (although at the same time it was so hard not to just break down, because I felt so distraught but had to continue on about the day catering to their usual needs). We got home and the girls and I had a tubby to clean off all the grime (Emily got a bit dirty when I had to scoop her up into the stroller). Tonight James hosed down the stroller and sprayed it to get the nasty out of it.
I just can’t believe that happened to us. Seeing her in the water like that, totally helpless, it’s every mother’s worst nightmare. When I was talking to Andrew about what a scary experience it was, and how bad I felt about it happening, he told me that I shouldn’t see it that way, because the way he saw it, I was the biggest superhero ever because I jumped in and saved her life. I appreciated him saying that, but I definitely did not feel like a superhero today. I hope that’s our only brush with the possibility of something horrible happening, it was too much for this Mama Bear to handle as it was! I tossed the rest of the bread when we got home, I don’t think we’ll be feeding the ducks again for a while.