I had a photoshoot today at a photographer friend's house. I took Elijah with me because on Tuesdays he doesn't have child care. Also, the photographer's daughter (not much younger than Elijah) would be there and they could play together and keep eachother amused during the shoot. The shoot itself went well and afterwards we all went downstairs to have a cup of tea (or milk for the kids) and a chat. We adults sat inside by the open back door while the two kids played outside, just a few metres from where we were sitting.
It all happened so quickly.
I was drinking my tea when I heard a huge splash. It took a moment to register that the sound was bigger than if made by a toy falling into the pool. I turned and saw Elijah on his way back up from the bottom of the pool, face down, head under water. You know that classic visual image of a drowned child floating in a pool? That was what I saw. That image of my son face down in the pool will stay with me forever.
I froze. It felt like an eternity, but my friend assures me it was only a split second as I raced out the door behind him. I don't remember what I said. It might have been, "He can't swim." I might not have said anything. I don't remember.
There was a huge splash as my friend jumped into the pool and grabbed Elijah, getting his head out of the water and dragging him to the side of the pool. Elijah was conscious, thank goodness, and though confused and scared, seemed ok. Somehow, he stopped breathing as soon as he hit the water (probably from the shock) and so his airways were clear. He didn't even cry. His face was drained of all colour and around his lips was blue. I'm not sure if that was from the cold, the shock or the lack of oxygen, but it didn't look good. I don't know how I did it, but I felt so calm. It was surreal.
We wrapped him up, dried him and dressed him in clean dry clothes - I had a few shirts with us for the shoot, but he had to wear girl's undies and pants as that was all that was available. Warm and calm, his colour was better and he seemed to be fine. Less than half an hour later, he was playing hide and seek with his new friend, totally oblivious to how scared I was.
For those wondering how he ended up in that position in the first place, the pool was not fenced. While it is the law that new pools must be fenced, existing pools at the time of the change of legislation were exempt. The house is a rental, so while my friend wants to have the pool fenced, he has no power to make it happen. The pool is about a metre from the back door, so we were about as close to the kids as we would have been if we'd all been inside a pool fence. Elijah hadn't been running, he had just lost his footing or slipped and tumbled in. We are very lucky he didn't hit his head on the way down and also that he didn't get any water in his airways.
We were already considering swimming lessons for this Summer, but now they are definitely on the agenda.