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At the Bottom of the Pool

At the Bottom of the Pool

Was that my precious child lying motionless in the water?


Whenever my son was upset or hurt or scared, I used to whisper in his ear, “Don’t worry, Eli, mommy will always save you.” A few weeks ago, I almost wasn’t able to keep that promise.

We were spending Shabbat with my in-laws in southern California and we were all having a great time. I took a nap with my daughter while my husband spent the afternoon playing with my son outside in the backyard. When I woke up, my husband offered to change my daughter’s diaper, which I gladly accepted. My three-year-old son was running around the house playing while I followed my husband to the bathroom. When I returned to the kitchen I asked where my son was because I couldn’t see or hear him anymore.

"He went outside to play basketball."

"But he can’t be outside next to the pool by himself!” I exclaimed.

There will never be enough words to describe the absolute horror of what I saw. I still cry every time I think about it. My precious child was lying motionless at the bottom of the pool. At that moment, it honestly did not even register that the body I was seeing could even possibly be my son, and to this day, I am wracked with guilt that I wasted precious seconds trying to figure out who in the world could be swimming in their pool.

When I realized it was my son, time just stopped. I actually have no recollection of running across the yard, diving into the pool fully dressed in my Shabbat clothes, swimming to him, grabbing him with my left arm and somehow managing to pull both of us out of the pool with my other arm, all the while squeezing and pumping his chest as hard as I could.

I was screaming for my husband, for God, pleading and begging for my son to be okay.

It was only after I had gotten him out of the pool that I began screaming. Primal screams that seemed to come from my soul. I was screaming for my husband, for God, pleading and begging for my son to be okay. I turned his cold, wet little body to face me and when I saw that his face was blue from his nose down, my heart stopped. I continued squeezing him until water gushed from his nose and mouth and he began choking and coughing.

I was absolutely hysterical. I was soaking wet, holding and hugging my son, refusing to let anyone take him from me. We stayed like that for a while, until the coughing subsided and his breathing returned. At that point my son reached up and put one hand on each of my cheeks. These were the first words he said: “It’s okay, mommy. I’m okay.” This from the child who nearly drowned, all alone and terrified. Three years old and comforting me, his mother, who should have been there to save him from falling into the pool, as I promised to him almost on a daily basis since he was little.

I haven’t told many people, just family and close friends, but when I do, they want to know details. People want to know who was watching him, how exactly he was lying, and why there wasn’t a gate around the pool, and if I am angry or blame anyone. I suppose it is only human nature, but I said the same thing to everyone. It doesn’t matter how it happened, it just matters that my son is thank God totally healthy, and that without the grace and mercy of God, it could have ended very differently.

After Shabbat, I spoke to our rabbi and told him what happened. He gave me some advice on how to proceed. My husband said the Thanksgiving blessing in shul on Monday morning and we did a Seudat Hodaya, a Thanksgiving meal on Tuesday night. At the meal, I addressed the small crowd. I was (and still am) struggling to process what had happened, but I knew I had to find something positive from the horrible situation in order to help me get better. Here is what I said.

It is very easy to thank God for the “big” things in our lives: a new job, a first car or house, graduating from college, birth of a child and so on. It is harder to be thankful for the small things that we usually take for granted.

I used to be very careful about always making blessings before and after every meal. But after I had my children, with two kids under three, I began to miss a few blessings and I would occasionally forget to say Grace after Meals, until I was missing more than I was saying. Furthermore, I got caught up in complaining about how hard my life was, without ever taking a second to see how much I actually do have. I am using this terrible incident to publicly recommit myself to being thankful on every level.

Most of you will (please God) never experience or know how thankful I was when my son was found to be fully healthy, with no lasting effects. I’m hoping that my story will inspire you to find all the little things that you are thankful for, and give thanks where it is due.

As a final plea, please watch your children around water carefully. Take it from me, all it takes is a split second and your whole life can change.

I will never have enough words to thank God for allowing me to give life to my son a second time in his short life.

August 7, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 21

(21) , August 17, 2010 4:04 AM

I was deeply moved by your story, you are a very brave mother who deserve a merit of bravery under such circumstance. you did the right thing in saving your baby boy. You could have panicked or fainted which would have made it even worst for your child. Just know that G-D was with you the entire time directing you and keeping you calm. Thank you so very much for sharing your story with us. My eyes were opened a bit wider when it comes to safety of children, and how accidents can happen so fast.

(20) L.S., August 13, 2010 12:50 PM

Thank you for sharing this story--shame on the unreasonable and cruel criticism against the mother

Mrs. Hassan--thank you so much for sharing this story. You are a very brave woman for rescuing your son that way adn then having the courage to write about your story on Hopefully, other parents can learn from this experience and put a fence around their pool. I am not a parent but was still touched from this article, as I think another message gleaned from this article is to be thankful to Hashem for the "little things" which are not so little after all. To all of the critics--shame on you! Even the best of parents have accidents with their kids! Having taught 3 year olds, I know first hand that children at that age are very active and explore things , and it is impossible for even the most fastidious mom to supervise a child every second of the day 24/7. Accidents happen. Furthermore, it is very clear that the author was very traumatized from this experience and so laying blame on her is extremely cruel, judgmental, and unfair. I challenge ANY parent to never incur an accident with one of their kids over the course of their parenthood. Oh, and to the comments blaming the child himself, that is even more offensive! He's THREE, people! This is the month of Elul when we should be working on compassion, empathy, and support of one another. I am flabbergasted at the blatant judgment and cruelty expressed by some of the commentators here. Mrs. Hassan--may you and your family have an amazing New Year filled with happiness, fulfillment, spirituality, and all wonderful things.

(19) yehudit levy, August 12, 2010 7:28 AM

future advice for similar situation

My heart stopped when I read this story, in fact, it took a whole week before I found the courage to read it. My son is also Eli, and my in-laws bought a house with a pool while I was pregnant with him (and had 2 other kids) and were very slack about securing their pool. I would become a raving, screaming lunatic at any adult who didn't shut the back door so that the children couldn't get out without anyone noticing. i repeatedly begged my husband to urge them to find a solution that was acceptable to them (I had plenty of ideas). I had 6 months of nightmares where I would, G-d forbid, find one of the children at the bottom of the pool and wake up gasping, just at the point where I could not make it back to the top of the water to save them, or myself. Finally, I made the threat. I told my in-laws we would no longer be coming to see them until they secured the house and pool adequately for the safety of their grandchildren. Within 4 days the pool was secure. I realised that in the case of pikuach nefesh, saving a life, no-holds-barred behaviour must be applied, even in sensitive family situations. Don't let your ego stop you : "Oh, you are being over-reactive". Don't let family sensitivities deter you: "Do you think we don't care about our GRANDCHILDREN?!" DOn't let your spouse silence you: " They are my parents, I just can't tell them THAT. Let me deal with them." A life is a life. And Hashem gave us those lives in His trust. Thank G-d my experience was only a nightmare. Baruch Hashem your son lived through the real thing!!!!!

(18) mukiri rose, August 10, 2010 12:51 PM

God us really used you

am gland that ave come across this article it has blessed me and more so ave learn t to thank god in every situation

(17) Gale Saul, August 9, 2010 7:13 PM

GET YOUR KIDS IN SWIMMING LESSONS!!! I am a swimming instructor and hear this all the time. It only takes a second. I am so happy that this story had a happy ending most do not. Please fence your pool and teach your kids to swim. Swim with Gale

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