I haven’t really told my story except with the Drowning Support Network group because it felt safe for me to do so with people who understood the loss. The guilt associated with the manner of my daughter’s death is one that eats away at me every day. Images of that day still catch me off guard some days, and no matter where I am, it suddenly becomes hard to breath and my heart races as the images play out in my head. On June 11, 2015 my 18 month old daughter Emma Lea drowned in our pool. That statement is probably what is most difficult for me to share. While I can type out the word “drowning”, it is a word that my mouth, my heart and my brain will not allow me to speak aloud.
Like many parents who experience this type of loss, my husband and I never thought something that terrible could ever happen to us. We were good parents. I over reacted at times and would even dare to describe myself as a bit of a helicopter mom. I was always one step behind her. We were not neglectful parents and it has taken a long time to accept that this was an accident; a very preventable accident.
That day was my first day of vacation and I was happy to be at home with my daughter for what I expected to be a great summer. It was a usual day. My husband left for work but before he left, he kissed her eyes like he liked to do to her. Emma had spaghetti for lunch and took a nap. I opened the doggie door. Two hours later Emma woke up so I brought her slide inside and she played for close to an hour. I grabbed my phone so I could send my husband videos of her acting silly on the slide. I watched a short video and looked up some items on Amazon. It was all less than 8 minutes. I turned around and Emma was no longer there.
A sense of panic struck when I realized I didn’t know where she was. I ran to the sliding door and pulled the curtain aside and I saw her. That is one of those images that will forever be burned into my brain. I didn’t know what to do but I pulled her out, carried her inside and began CPR. I remember the color of her face and lips and begging God not to take my baby. I kept doing CPR and I tried calling 911 until they could hear me. The cops arrived before the paramedics did and they continued to perform CPR. I knew the look on their face but they couldn’t say it. I tried to remain calm. My neighbor, who I had never met, came into the house asking if I needed help. I asked her to drive me to the hospital, where once my husband arrived our beautiful daughter Emma was pronounced dead.
It has been one year and a month since she’s been gone and the guilt I feel has not minimized. She was our only daughter and I feel I robbed her and my husband of our future. I miss her more and more each day. It’s impossible to describe the feeling in my heart. She was my whole world. I’m so angry at myself and I don’t think I could ever forgive myself.
I live with so many “what ifs.”
What if I had remembered to close the doggie door?
What if I had never gotten my phone out to video her?
Most importantly what if I had been paying attention?
This story was shared by Emma’s mother to help drive awareness for child safety and help save other lives as way to honor the loving memory of baby Emma Lea.