The Moment I Thought My Toddler Had Drowned

This week, for the first time in my life, I experienced the feeling of dread and horror.

We went camping with friends on South Stradbroke Island, just off the mainland of the Gold Coast. It was the most beautiful, picturesque campsite right on the waters edge, the kids loved it, it was Elliott’s first time camping.

But, at 4.05am on Saturday morning Mr. G and I woke to a little voice calling ‘Mum, Mum, Mum’. We rolled over to look at Elliott’s bed, it was empty. We sprung from our bed to look at the front of the tent, Elliott was not there. Mr. G unzipped the first tent door in a split second, and then he zipped open the front door to find Elliott standing in the ‘kitchen’ area looking for some milk. In that split second between realising Elliott wasn’t in the tent, to realising he was just outside, I saw a horrible image flash before my eyes, Elliott had drowned.

We couldn’t believe what had just happened, the fact that Elliott unzipped two tent doors and crawled underneath to get out, left us speechless, but really, we shouldn’t have underestimated him. I remember thinking ‘what if we hadn’t heard him, what if we didn’t wake up?’

I felt so guilty, we should have known better, but I was so relieved that everything was OK. I felt very irresponsible, that we didn’t take enough precautions in camping with a 2 year old. We certainly learned our lesson that morning, we realised how quickly and easily things like this can happen.

From that point onwards, we always made sure the zips were right at the top of the tent where Elliott could not get them.

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Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva is the Editor and Owner of The Multitasking Woman - a lifestyle and parenting blog.She always has her fingers in many different pies but wouldn't have it any other way. Eva is a Mum to her 4-year-old son, 2 month old daughter, two chickens, one dog and a fish called Bob and a wife to Mr G. They all live happily in their little cottage on the outskirts of Brisbane.

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31 Comments

  1. January 6, 2014 / 11:20 pm

    OMG what a fright! It’s hard not to think the worst in these situations. I think you just need to say “It didn’t happen, lesson learned” and try to move on, or you’ll make yourself crazy. Made my heart skip a beat when you said he wasn’t there! -Aroha

  2. January 7, 2014 / 1:03 am

    That horrible feeling when your world just stops and the unthinkable is a very distinct possibility, yuck!! I know it’s this instinct that makes us more mindful parents but that’s not to say it doesn’t scare the pants off you!!
    There is a dam near my mums house that is quite deep and dark and we drove past there when Fez was still quite small, I had this image flash through my head of her falling in and sinking to the bottom and me not be able to save her, it was horrible and shook me up and I still can’t drive past there without getting a shiver but you can be sure that she doesn’t go anywhere near water now without eagle eyes hovering about!
    Thanks for joining #BOTW 🙂

  3. January 7, 2014 / 4:29 am

    What a heart stopping moment. Glad all ended well. My Miss 17 slipped into a backyard pool when she was about 2, it was so silent and could have been so deadly but luckily my brother-in-law saw and jumped straight in to pull her out. So scary!

  4. January 7, 2014 / 4:32 am

    PS forgot to say, visiting today from #teamIBOT xxx

  5. January 7, 2014 / 11:29 pm

    OMG! I can’t imagine what you must have felt in that split second! You poor things. xo #teamIBOT

  6. January 8, 2014 / 4:11 am

    Isn’t it freaky, we had a similar experience recently, I thought our two year old was out the front of the house with my husband, close to the road and he said he was with me, but he wasn’t – he wasn’t coming I looked in every room, ran outside and then the husband said check the pool, with my heart in my mouth I peered over the fence – thankfully to see nothing. The cheeky thing had got in to the CAR! Talk about giving me a bloody big shock 🙂

  7. January 8, 2014 / 4:12 am

    Oh that is awful! That’s always one thing I’ve stressed about with camping with kids, but yes, keeping those zips nice and high is a good way to stay safe! So glad he was ok xx

  8. January 8, 2014 / 5:20 am

    Oh Eva what a terrible moment for you. So glad that it didn’t end in tragedy. A reminder to us all to stay on guard when there are little ones about

  9. January 8, 2014 / 7:41 am

    I do feel for you so much! It’s the most horrible feeling isn’t it! I’m glad it was all ok.

  10. January 8, 2014 / 2:17 pm

    Horrible feeling. And they keep moving the goalposts on you as they get bigger and more cluey. So glad nothing bad happened.

  11. January 9, 2014 / 8:56 am

    What an absolutely chilling split second. I also have a tendency to imagine the worst as well. I’m glad it was just a scare and not any real tragedy.

  12. January 9, 2014 / 10:07 am

    Such a horrible, horrible feeling. I lost one of my twins at the beach when they were 5, one minute she was there and the next she was gone despite two lifeguards and three of us adults on the shore watching the kids in the water. Turns out she’d wandered back up to where my parents were sitting about 500m up the beach and none of us had seen her go, I’ve seldom been so terrified in all my life 🙁 I’m so glad your story has a happy ending.

    • January 19, 2014 / 4:05 am

      Oh Emma, that would have been the worst, absolutely terrifying to say the least. So glad all ended up being ok.

  13. January 10, 2014 / 3:56 am

    Omg! That would have been terrifying. Thank God all was okay. You just can’t take your eyes off them can you?!

  14. January 10, 2014 / 12:28 pm

    Oh What a yucky horrible feeling Eva!! Don’t dwell on it though we have all had moments like that. Thank goodness all he wanted was milk. Thank you for the reminder of just how clever toddlers can be !

  15. January 10, 2014 / 2:28 pm

    So happy that all is well, just thought I’d offer a tidbit as an experienced camper and mom of twins myself. When my girls were little I feared the same with them. I used a small padlock, the kind you would put on a suitcase, to keep the two zips together. Effectively locking the door when retiring at night. Now that they are old enough to sleep in their own tent, a bell attached to their zipper alerts me to any comings or goings. Hope this was helpful. Happy camping 🙂

  16. January 19, 2014 / 9:25 pm

    Agh, how scary. That pit of dread in your tummy for those couple of seconds is a truly awful feeling, isn’t it? I lost sight of my little girl at a busy aquarium last year for maybe 30 seconds and I could feel my panic rising as I immediately thought of the nightmare scenario that someone was taking her out of the building. When I found her and got back to our friends, I was shaking – they hadn’t even noticed we were gone as it all happened so quickly! It definitely shook me up enough that I don’t even take my eyes off her for a second now; she’s an explorer and very fast moving. A good lesson learned 🙂

  17. January 20, 2014 / 2:36 am

    Oh, my goodness! I’m so relieved to hear that he was okay. I can’t imagine what terror must’ve been going on in your mind (and I imagine a major adrenaline rush) thinking your little boy had drowned. My toddler’s teaching me recently not a underestimate her abilities. She just learned to climb out of the crib and seems to get into absolutely everything.