So what actually happened? This is how the best day turned into the worst day of my life
Andrew had opted to work the week between Christmas and New Year.
Natey’s wonderful au pair Melinda (Minda) was on leave just for that week, and so was I. Andrew had asked if I wanted any help in those three days that he’d be working while I was home with Natey.
I said no, I was actually eagerly anticipating having my munchkin to myself and getting to do all the cool and fun things I couldn’t do while working, the things he and Minda got to do (while I enviously got photos on WhatsApp).
We spent those days swimming, playing together, exploring, adventuring and just having fun being together.
On Friday, I had booked a spinning class at the gym. Nathaniel cheerfully cooperated and soon we set off for the gym, while Andrew was still sleeping. Afterwards, sweaty and glowing from a good workout, I collected Natey who was happily playing in Junior Care.
On the way home I decided to stop for coffee at my favourite local coffee shop. He sat on the chair next to me while I enjoyed my coffee, sipping his juice and proclaiming proudly, “I’m eating my snack!”
I even took a photo to sent to Daddy, so he could see how much fun we were having.
He fell asleep on the drive home. While he napped I had plenty of time to shower, pack bags and get ready for the rest of the day. We were going to The World of Birds to see my sister and her children. It was one of Natey’s favourite outings. So when he woke up, off we went.
We had a lovely time exploring. Natey’s favourite part? Playing in the sand pit with all the trucks! At one point as we walked through one of the bottom cages (the herons I think?), when a large crow suddenly cawed loudly and pecked at the fence in our direction. We squealed in fright. My sister said, “That’s a bad omen.”
“I don’t know why I said that,” she remarked afterwards. We didn’t think much of it and continued our visit.
We eventually left and said our goodbyes well after the official closing time, as the last of the staff were leaving.
Natey and I wound our way back from Hout Bay to Sea Point, unperturbed by the holiday makers’ traffic. We were just happy to enjoy each other’s company as the day wound down. While we cruised through Camp’s Bay, Natey said, “Mommy is not angry. Mommy is not sad. Mommy is happy.”
I said, “Yes, I am very happy. Is Natey happy too?”
He replied, “Natey also happy”
We drove on in amicable silence. He then said, “Mommy is beautiful.”
I was amazed. I’d only heard him say the word ‘beautiful’ once before. I wondered who had taught him the word. I decided it must have been Minda. Still, I was positively glowing with love and happiness. Could the day have been any more perfect?
As we got towards Sea Point I said, “Hey Natey, do you want to go to the beach?”
He said yes, of course. So I turned off at the first opportunity in Bantry Bay and went to a beach I’d never been to before. Natey walked down the stairs and onto the beach himself. We sat on a rock and hugged. I took his last three beautiful photos and posted all of them on Facebook right there. We chatted, he played with stones and shells, and we just soaked up the calm golden warmth of the evening.
After a while, we went home. I got us out the car and unpacked and then suggested we swim. He was keen. So we went out on the deck and stripped off. Me down to my underwear and him naked.
We had a glorious relaxed and cuddly swim. After a while I told him I was cold and wanted to climb out. He said, “Swim more, Mommy”. I told him that he could swim some more if he wanted to and I’d watch him. He said no and decided to get out. We cuddled in the big towel in the last evening sunshine.
Then we went inside. (Where I am sure I closed the baby gate leading to the deck. Surely I must have? I always did. I always nagged other people about it!)
I started making dinner. Put on a load of laundry. Washed dishes. Copied a movie onto our hard drive to watch later. Made us each tea. Fed the dog and cat…
At one point I actually think I stopped to marvel at how amazing this day was and how everything was just easy and RIGHT. I think I even smugly thought, “I am winning at life today!” Stupid fool!
Natey was wandering around with me as I went about things, commenting, chatting, helping, asking what I was doing, as he would, “What you doing?”, “Why you do that?”
He also appeared with a handful of dog food as I sometimes did.
“Natey. What you doing?” I asked.
To which he cheekily replied, “I messing the dog food”
Me: “Why did you do that?”
Him: “Why you do that?” (He never ever did answer that question with anything other than repeating “Why you do that?”)
Honestly, I was not bothered. I even thought, “Ag whatever, the dog can eat off the ground…”
But I half-halfheartedly asked him to go clean it up. He disappeared out the back door, down to the dog bowl and came back a short while later. I asked if he’d cleaned up and he gave me one of those head-cocked-to-the-side looks as if to say, “Lady, do you really want me to answer you?” I think I tickled him and said, “You’re so naughty!” and just left it at that.
I was still making dinner and pottering about, when I saw I’d missed a bunch of WhatsApp messages from Andrew during the day. Feeling a bit bad that I had hardly communicated with him all day and being conscious about wanting to connect properly with the important people in my life, I wanted to respond.
Natey was asking for playdough so I got it out, opened it up and put it on his table. I squashed it down and put a shape in it to show him what to do. I told him I was just going to talk to Daddy quickly.
He followed me. He asked me to play with the dough. He also wanted food. So I gave him a small snack, as we were going to be eating dinner shortly.
I had a task open on my laptop. I remember clearly thinking, “I really want to do this, but I don’t have to right now. It can wait. Right now I am spending time with Natey. I can do this when he is asleep”.
Instead I flicked over to WhatsApp and sent about seven lines to respond to Andrew’s messages. This was at 7.57 – 7.58 pm. (I still have the time-stamped messages.)
Then I stopped to listen. It was quiet. Weirdly quiet. Too quiet. I almost called out. Instead I got up and walked to the dining room, just a few paces away, around the corner.
Natey was not at his table. I immediately thought, “Oh, he’s gone back down to the dog food”.
I was about to head through the kitchen to the backdoor to look down the stairs, when my instinct told me to ‘sweep the pool’. Something I have always done. Every time I am not sure where a child is I always check the pool first. By default and as a routine. No part of me thought he was near the pool. I knew he wasn’t. I nearly turned back, feeling silly…
Then I noticed the dog sitting out on the deck. I didn’t think about it really. But how did he get out there? What was he doing there? Why was he sitting there, just staring into the distance? So I walked out to the deck. Glanced at the pool and saw nothing. I almost turned back again. I called Natey’s name this time… I think my sub-conscious realised that if he was by the dog food the dog would have been with him, right..? I walked another two steps forward, to where I could see right down into the pool – and was horrified to see Natey there at the bottom of the pool.
RIGHT AT THE BOTTOM!
WHAT THE F***?! He was JUST standing next to me. Not two minutes before. I had JUST said, “Let me just talk to daddy quickly”. Not annoyed, or in anger, or pushing him away. In a light and friendly way.
I bounded into the water, grabbed him by the arm, and pulled him up. As I brought him up my main concern was that he was going to be crying and upset, and what a shame it was that I had created this sad blip on an otherwise perfect day…
But then I realised it was far worse than that. He was not coughing, or spluttering, or choking. Or anything.
I rushed inside with him, grappling with his wet slippery naked body, pretty much falling over the baby-gate and trying to hold him head down so the water would drain out of him. I put him down on the dining room carpet and started mouth-to-mouth and did some chest compressions…
That f***ing sound of the air automatically exhaling after you do mouth-to-mouth will haunt me forever. Every time it happens I am convinced the person is breathing! (I had also watched this two months before when a colleague collapsed at our team building and I helped the guys with CPR efforts before the paramedics arrived… Sadly we watched our colleague die that day. But still the CPR was fresh in my mind. I knew the drill.)
After a very short time I realised I needed more help. I needed to get assistance, an ambulance. Knowing our neighbour down the road had his full contingent of armed security standing guards a few 100 meters away, I picked Natey up and I ran out to the street clutching him in my arms, pushing our alarm panic button on the way out. I yelled out to the guards, “Help! Do you know CPR?!”
They saw me and came running up to us.I put Natey down next to the driveway and carried on doing CPR myself sucking some saliva and vomit out of his mouth.
They arrived and seemed to indicate they knew what to do, so I let them take over. I told them he’d fallen into the pool and wasn’t breathing. And they got started. I asked them to call an ambulance too and then ran back in to the house to grab a phone. I got the house phone and my mobile and ran back out to make sure they were doing CPR properly.
I fumbled with the phones and couldn’t remember what number to dial but eventually dialled 107 and managed to place the call. Ages and ages seemed to pass. I still ran inside pulled on some shorts (I was still just in my underwear) and then phoned again. They told me I had just called. I asked them then why NO ONE was coming? They told me that were coming and to wait. I know I made what I think was the second call to 107 at 8.05 pm. That’s five to six minutes after sending the WhatsApps! (The SMS reference for the first call came through at 8.06, less than seven minutes after.
That was after finding him, doing CPR myself, taking him outside, doing more CPR, handing over to the security guys, going back into the house, going back out again, and then dialling and making the call to the emergency services. He can’t have been alone for more than a minute or two.
How, in that time, could he have got out onto the deck and climbed into the pool? Silently, with no noise from the gate? No talking. No dog bark. No splash. And more importantly WHY? WHY did he go out there? What was he doing?!
Later that night we found his beloved toy front-loader truck floating in the pool. It had not been in the pool before. It was drying just outside the door from the day before. He must have climbed in with it. Gone down onto the second step… and? What? Reached out for it and slipped in?
How can that happen so fast?! How can the child who’d stayed pinned to me in blissful, loving amicability all day, telling me every thought and feeling, just wander off like that? I can’t, can’t, can’t make sense of it or understand it. My brain just can’t erase that image of my beautiful perfect baby. Andrew’s beautiful perfect baby. Lying there at the bottom of the pool. Probably already dead when I found him.
How the f*** can that have happened when I loved him so much and when I was RIGHT THERE, with him, watching him and caring for him? Loving him and playing with him? Consciously focusing on him.
WHY was I so stupid to not let Andrew get someone to help me watch him? Why was I selfish about wanting to have him to myself?
I failed Natey. And Andrew. My boys and myself. I should have played dough with him like he asked me to!
I frantically called Andrew, the alarm was still blaring. He was already on his way. I told him to get home immediately.
I was getting more and more anxious because the ambulances were just not arriving. I was running up and down, fetching towels, blankets, pillows, my handbag, pulling dry clothes on. Just running up and down as if that was doing any good! Pacing, praying. Wringing my hands. Asking why no one was coming?!
Eventually the security guys said, “We have a siren, do you want to go?”
I said yes. And so we piled into their Mercedes armoured vehicle. They turned on the siren and drove like mad-men, racing and hooting, accelerating, braking hard… Go go go! After four or five blocks, an ambulance passed us speeding up the hill. Our driver veered to the side of the road. The ambulance turned around and came back to us. And then another arrived and then another and another and another, and police and who knows who else? There must have been four to six ambulances, paramedics and police cars.
We all piled out on the side of the road. The paramedics got to work. First they asked about the scar on his chest. I explained it was an aortic valve stenosis, but that it was fixed and he was fine. Please just save him. They got an oxygen pipe in and got an ECG trace going… There was no heartbeat.
I watched as they did CPR. Chest compressions, oxygen, adrenaline… There was some movement on the ECG, then nothing, then something. I was praying to a god I don’t believe in, begging, pleading, bargaining
I called Andrew again (at 8.19 pm). Sobbing. Begging him to just get there… Stupidly believing that once he arrived everything would be okay. It always is when he is there.
I paced. I watched. I waited. Some well-meaning bystanders tried to make me go sit down, where I couldn’t see or be ‘upset’. F*** that. I was staying right there. Watching. Willing. Being responsible. Wanting it to be okay. Andrew finally arrived and he rushed over.
We held each other. We watched. I said I was sorry. I nearly passed out. I thought I was going to faint, or vomit, or die. I wanted to.
I was chanting, “Breathe, baby” under my breath.
Andrew said, “He’s not going to make it.”
I just said, “No no no no no no.”
They said, “Let’s go to the hospital.”
A ray of hope!?
We all piled in to various vehicles. The security guys took Andrew and I in the Mercedes. We flew off, sirens blaring. The whole of Sea Point and Fresnaye knew something bad was going on.
We arrived at the hospital at 9 pm. We went into the ER. A female doctor dressed in black scrubs (I have never seen that before?) took one look and said to the team, “Why did you come here?”
They hesitated and then glanced at us. Someone turned to us and said, “Can we take you to the Comfort Room?”
“No we are staying,” Andrew replied.
I said, “We won’t interfere, please just do what you need to do.”
They were still doing CPR. It was 9.05 pm.
The paramedic looked at the doctors and said, “We’ve been doing CPR for an hour. We came because we wanted to show the parents we were doing everything we could.”
That line told me what I needed to know. It was over. He was gone. The love of my life. The absolute love and light of Andrew’s life. The light of Quinn and Griffin, Melinda, all of our families and everyone that knew or even saw him, was gone. Dead.
They all walked out then. And pulled the door closed. Leaving Natey lying there on the stretcher. And Andrew and I just standing there. Andrew took out his phone and started taking photos. He also used a pair of scissors to cut a lock of Natey’s hair off. Realising he was never going to reach his milestone third birthday and first haircut…
I immediately walked up to Natey and started taking everything off him. Andrew looked concerned and kind of did a double take then (I think he was wondering if I was allowed to be doing that). I didn’t care. I carefully pulled out the oxygen tube, pulled off the ECG probes, pulled out the IV line. I picked up my beautiful perfect baby boy, wrapped him in his blanket and went to sit down with him.
I sat there with him, cradling him to my chest, smelling him, breathing him in, kissing him over and over. Waiting for him to just open those beautiful eyes and be fine. He looked like he was sleeping. He was soft and warm, his lips were full and rosy. He felt like he was THERE.
After a while they took us to the Forensic Pathology Services (aka the morgue) in the ambulance. We had to say goodbye to him there and hand him over. We had to talk to officials, policemen, paramedics. Nothing made sense. I have no idea what happened there.
A kindly police constable took us home afterwards. Where we didn’t sleep. The next morning we had to go back and see him again at the morgue to ‘identify the body’. Worst f***ing experience ever.
Our beautiful baby. Beautiful beautiful, beautiful boy. Our perfect fairytale.
This post originally appeared on janefraser.blogspot.co.za. Read the full story here.
To honour their late son, Jane and Andrew are collecting money in his name (Nathaniel Leonidas Thor Canter) for the Children’s Hospital Trust to aid other little ones with Childhood Heart Disease. If you’d like to make a donation, Visit their Facebook page here.