Drowning Can Be Fast And Silent––Learn From Our Nightmare

by Melissa Gibson
Originally Published: 
Surviving A Drowning
Scary Mommy and Eric Herrera/EyeEm/Getty

Two years ago today, her lifeless little body was frantically pulled from a swimming pool as we begged God to leave her with us.

Two years ago today, she was surrounded by adults. Teenagers, too. With her was a mommy who is always on her game and a daddy who drips with protection and strength.

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Two years ago today, there was an alarm on the door to the pool. There were watchful eyes and ears everywhere. But the door was not closed completely, making the alarm ineffective.

Two years ago today, at 4pm on a gorgeous Sunday, there was no splash made. There was no crying out for help. No arms flailing about. There was no swirling in the water. There was NO sound.

Two years ago today, there was only a slow silent sinking and a rapid intake of water. I didn’t learn until later when she told me, “Mommy I cwy for you under duh wadder but you not come. Why you not come to get me when I cwy in duh wadder?” that, in fact, the only sound was her screaming out to me just beneath the surface.

Two years ago today, she was gray and limp with her little lungs and belly filled up with water. Soaked curls smeared across her face, across her eyes and in her water-filled mouth. A drenched diaper and a Paw Patrol swim top.

Two years ago today, her strong and watchful daddy was grabbing her up. Yelling. Begging. Crying and pleading.

Two years ago today, her sisters watched in gut-wrenching horror. Sobbing and vomiting in fear.

Two years ago today, we were hit with the realization that nobody knew CPR. NOT ONE PERSON there. Not even the mommy who is anxious about everything, never gives in and absolutely tries her best.

Hussein Kassir/Getty

Two years ago today, a mommy assumed drowning didn’t happen to her family. Drowning only happened to negligent parents. Parents who don’t watch their kids. Parents who are drunk, or looking at their phones, or giggling with friends. Drowning is splashy and loud and frantic, isn’t it?

Two years ago today, I was shaken out of those assumptions and reality was shoved in my face. I realized a little after 4pm on a sunny Sunday that drowning happens to the best parents. It happens to big strong daddies and watchful and overprotective mommies. Drowning happens to big sisters and grandparents and aunts. Drowning happens when everyone is sober.

Two years ago today, at 3:59pm, I thought drowning was loud, and splashy and frantic.

Two years ago today, at 4:03pm, I knew better.

I am here to tell you that drowning will happen to anyone. Water does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re a CEO, a teacher, an Olympic swimmer or a doctor. It doesn’t care that you love hard and never miss a moment so don’t be naive to think you’re special and immune to it. There was an alarm on the door. We weren’t drunk. We weren’t surfing social media. We were the BEST parents.

And yet, my sweet husband still had to pull our youngest baby out of a pool and begged her not to die right there in his arms.

We are wonderful parents. The best parents, just like you are. We are all doing the best we can to raise good people and be present in their little lives. I know my husband and I are doing that, and I’m certain you are, too. But listen…


It doesn’t matter if you are a wonderful parent.

It happens in thirty seconds. THIRTY. That’s enough time to ride an escalator from one floor to the next. Enough time to send a text to your sister and include a photo attachment. In thirty seconds you can pull up that funny meme and send it to your best friend. In my case, thirty seconds was enough time to put chips on my toddler’s plate and set it down on the counter.

Thirty seconds is also the perfect amount of time for your child to drown. And you’d never even hear it. Think about that, y’all. You’d never even hear it. the only thing you’ll hear is your heart pounding in your throat as you see her limp in your arms. You’ll hear that Bluetooth speaker and your friends laughing. You’ll hear a dog bark and a grill sizzling. But you won’t hear a splash. A cry. A whimper.

Once we knew Josephine would be okay, we made it our life’s mission to tell her story to everyone and plead with them to become CPR certified and enroll their loved ones in swimming lessons. I will never forget seeing her there and it’s terrifying, even now. But now I see the outcome of that day and it’s unbelievably amazing. After the accident, she was absolutely terrified of water, but now? Now she is the best swimming four-year-old I’ve ever seen. Some days she wants to be a unicorn while other days she says she will grow up to be a “long neck dinosaur.” But lately, when asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” she has been giving the quick and confident response of…. “a swimmer.”

Two years ago today, her lifeless little body was frantically pulled from a swimming pool as we begged God to leave her with us.

And today she has little kid dreams of being a swimmer. Although, long necks are pretty cool, too.

For more information on CPR training in your area, please visit The Red Cross Website.

For information on swimming lessons at a YMCA near you, please visit The YMCA Website.

Our family has partnered with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in order to help members of our community receive CPR classes and provide water safety awareness through their Arms Reach, Eyes Reach program. You can read more about how to prevent drowning on their website Strong for Life: Water Safety.

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