Friday, October 3, 2008

I knew I shouldn't have watched Oprah....

On Wednesday, I went to the gym, as usual, at 3:30 pm. Dropped the kids off in the daycare and then headed over to the treadmills. I always work out at this time because I love watching Oprah while I'm working out. Who could ask for more, right? The kids are having fun in the daycare, I'm getting my exercise and I get to watch one of my favorite talk shows to boot!!

That day, Oprah's topic was "overwhelmed moms need to slow down" and they featured, Brenda Slaby, as Oprah's guest. Brenda Slaby is the woman in Cincinnati who left her 2-yr old daughter in the car on one of the hottest days in August last year for 8 hours while she worked. Apparently, she had forgotten about the little girl because she wasn't the parent who routinely took her daughter to the babysitter's house but her husband had an appt that day so she took the little girl that day. On the way to the sitter's house, Slaby thought it might have been too early to drop her daughter off so she decided to go pick up some donuts for her co-workers. The little girl was sleeping in her carseat during all this. Slaby got the donuts, drove to work and then left her daughter in the car. The daughter died. Slaby was never charged with her daughter's death.

So there I was on the treadmill, practically sobbing....I mean, I got chills listening to this mother tell her story. My heart went out to her...she kept saying it was an accident, that she was so overwhelmed that day that she honestly forgot her daughter was in the car. My heart broke for her poor little girl, who died a horribly painful death. Watching her crying in the police office after she discovered her daughter in the car was too much for me and I had to turn my earphones off for a few minutes. Putting myself in her shoes, I would want to die too. I don't think I could survive something like that, especially knowing I was the reason my child had died.

Oprah featured other moms who talked about feeling overwhelmed and needing to slow down. It was a very touching show...a very realistic show...moms were finally stepping up from all over the country and admitting they, too, were overwhelmed and forgetful. The whole point of the show was for Slaby's story to help others in the same overwhelmed state of mind. People were calling in to the show and standing up in the audience applauding this mother for being so brave in sharing her story.

I could not get the story out of my head the rest of the day. You know, there are certain things you hear about on the news or that you read in the paper and you don't give it a second thought. But then there are some stories that just weigh heavy on your heart and you simply cannot get it out of your head, no matter what. This was one of those stories. I went to bed that night and I could hardly sleep, just thinking about what that poor little girl endured, envisioning her clawing at the belts on her carseat, crying and no one hearing her, thinking her mother would come back for her but she never did.

The next day I decided to go to Oprah's site and post a message on her bulletin board about how much the show affected me. There were over 111 pages on the board about this particular story and I couldn't but read them. Apparently, the whole story was not told on the Oprah show. There were tons of women, who either knew Slaby personally or lived in the same town as her, who wrote messages saying that the whole truth was not revealed and several people encouraged other readers to read the police report, which was easily found if you googled it.

Curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to read if these ladies were really telling the truth. My jaw dropped as I read the police report. Not only had Slaby left her daughter in the car on this particular occasion, she had left her daughter in the car on 3 other occasions as well. She was even warned about it by her daughter's preschool director, when a parent who saw the little girl sitting in the car unattended was disturbed enough to report it.

The most disturbing part, as if leaving her daughter in the car unattended wasn't bad enough, was the video they showed of her BACKING UP her car to the cafeteria to unload the boxes of donuts. How did she not see her daughter sitting in her carseat while she backed her car up??? Regardless of whether she used her rear-view mirror or actually turned around to back up, I can't believe she didn't see her daughter! Then they show her walking past the window where her daughter was sitting several times...they show her opening the hatch back to her SUV to get the donuts out. She walked back and forth several times to the car. Then she got in the car and drove it to another parking space and went into the school to work for the day.

It's not like she just parked her car and ran into the school in a hurry to get to work. She had so many opportunities to see her daughter sitting in the carseat. The other thing that really bothered me was for the whole 8 hours that her daughter was sitting in that 165 degree car, she never once thought about her child??? She never once thought to check on her daughter at the sitter's house?

I just find the whole thing absolutely unbelievable. After reading the police report, I felt sick to my stomach. I don't think she did this on purpose obviously but at the same time, how could she FORGET her daughter is in the car after having so many opportunities to see her in the backseat, when she backed the car up, when she went out to her car several times and passed the window where her daughter was seated, when she got back in the car to park it in another spot. She remembered to bring the donuts into the school, she remembered to lock her car and grab her purse, but she forgot her daughter??

I understand the whole "I'm overwhelmed" story...I get it, I really do. I'm overwhelmed every minute of the day. There are days where the only thing that will get me through another hour is to cry as quietly as I can in the bathroom where my kids can't see or hear me, as I pray to God for a bit more strength and patience. I have 4 kids, 4 and under. But I don't think for a minute I'd forget my kid in a car. Sure, we can all sit here and say "well, you don't know until you've walked in her shoes". I've walked in her shoes....I've had days where I have a million errands to run and very little time to do it in but I always drag my kids out of their carseats (4 carseats!!) to go with me into the stores, even if they are asleep and even if it's just for a couple minutes that I need to be in the store. I had to run out the other day to get bananas from the was the only thing I needed. I had all 4 kids come into the store with me even though it only took me literally 5 minutes to get the bananas, pay for them and get back out to the car.

As much as I want to be sympathetic towards this woman and the hell she's been through, I can't get the police report details out of my head. She was warned about leaving her daughter in the car, yet she continued to do it. She says she simply forgot her daughter was in the car, which is somewhat believable, but how come she never once thought about her daughter that day and at that point, an alarm might have gone off in her head that said "Oh shit" and made her run out to the car, perhaps preventing her daughter's death.

When my kids are not with me, I'm constantly thinking about them and worrying about them. When Cole and Bella started preschool, I called the school at least 3 times a day to check in on them.

Now in no way am I tooting my own horn and saying "look at what a wonderful mother I am" because Lord knows I'm not supermom. I'm not anywhere close. I've made mistakes with my kids...some of which I've even written about in my blog. But I just have a really difficult time with this story. I have a hard time commending Slaby for coming on the Oprah show and sharing her story, while the audience cries and feels sorry for her. If she had never left her child in the car before or she hadn't gone out to her car several times that morning, I probably would feel differently but that's not the case.

The only person I can feel sorry for now is her poor little girl who died a tragic, preventable death. And I pray that she never leaves her other child in a car ever again....


Joy said...

Those kinds of stories are ones that seem to stick in my head too. The pain and confusion that those babies have to endure is unimaginable. I'm like you, I get it in a way, and then I don't too.

One tip I have heard...if you are not accustomed to taking your kid to babysitter or whatever, and you are a bit paranoid after all these stories...throw your purse in the back seat with your child. Kind of sad that someone would remember their purse but not their kid though :(

Yesterday I was taking Adrian to school and then running out to walmart for something and I got half way to walmart when I realized I hadn't dropped Adrian off at school yet.

Jenni Jiggety said...

I feel the same way about that story. It makes me feel sick to think about that poor baby in the car...

bonnieearly said...

It goes to show you that programs like Oprah don't always present all the facts. I can't watch shows like that where they talk about innocent kids suffering. It's more than I can take in.

Teresa said...

I can completely understand the overwhelmed feeling. Some days, I don't know if I'm coming or going. But, to forget one of my boys in the car for that long, I could never imagine. And I even have a head injury. All I can think about is that poor child. Bless her tiny heart.

twinmama said...

I don't understand how people leave their kids in the car. It can take me an hour to get the girls ready to go somewhere, load us all up, unload us at the store into the stroller, go get the few items I needed and then do it all over again to go home. And it is so worth the "inconvenience" of knowing my children are safe, able to breath and also some pyscho isn't going to smash a window and grab them.

Kim said...

Wow. That's a really hard story to get my head around. Just the other day I was at the grocery store when I had a nanosecond of sheer panic looking around me, wondering where my twins were, before I realized that I had checked them 5 minutes earlier into the supervised playroom that the store offers for moms like me.

My point is that yes, I am an idiot, but an idiot whose subconscious is always working on behalf of my kids. So many times I have been jerked awake with some thought regarding my kids or I'll remember something right in the middle of my conversation with the mailman--my brain is always thinking about the mundane details of their lives (Don't forget their rubber boots for the field trip!) as well as the profound ("Heavenly Father, please watch over and protect my daughter while she is outside of my care today")

Helene, you made a very thought-provoking point about an alarm never going off in that mom's head. What is it that causes people to not think of their child(ren), not even ONCE, throughout the day? To get to the point where you can drop them off somewhere in the morning and not give them another thought until you pick them up in the evening? Is it really just a matter of being too busy, too overwhelmed, too overscheduled?

Janine said...

There was a story like that here in Cape Town a while back, right where I work. I was so traumatised by the whole thing that I obsessively checked my car for ages afterwards, even though I knew I'd dropped my children off.

Anonymous said...

This is one of my biggest fears, I live in Texas and several times every summer I hear stories of children dying in hott cars. Though her story is tragic it's hard to feel sorry for someone who has done this several times before.

If I am off my routine or my husband takes or drops off the kiddos I always call to double check.

Emily said...

I live in Cincy and this happened very soon after my son was born. She was an administrator at the school which is scarey in itself. I expect anyone and everyone who is in charge of my child to have their act together no matter what is going on in their life.

I can NOT imagine forgetting my child anywhere, let alone in the car. I check in my mirror repeatedly on my way to work after dropping my son off because I have a fear that one day I will look back there and he will still be there.

I do drop off and pick up but on the occasional days that Dad does it, I look in the backseat and have a moment of panic that I forgot to pick him up. The whole story about Brenda was never publically released so a lot of people only know part of the story and are very sympathitic to her.

TLC said...

Like the purse idea, I have heard to keep a stuffed animal in the child's seat, and move it to the front seat when you put the child in the seat... so it may remind you about your precious cargo!

There is also a car seat alarm thing... the way my brain is some days, I think I need one!

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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