This summer I have been personally contacted as a point of reference for three different drowning or near drowning experiences. All of them bring me to my knees. I’m OK being the mom to call about drowning, I’m more than willing to offer up information from our personal experience to anyone who finds themselves in the same terrifying position. But man, I wish I wasn’t an expert.
So one thing I’d say to ALL moms and dads is this: It is worth your money to invest in CPR and survival swim lessons for your littles. It IS. I know it’s super expensive. Trust me. We were fortunate to have help paying for months of swim lessons for Shep and Char. And I still stressed and had moments of doubt every time the bill came. Until I saw it click with both my kids. If I had to do it all over again and pay all of it myself, I would. Char is barely 2.5 and that girl knows what to do in water.
AND WE PRACTICED. Moms and dads, if you can, practice those skills with your kids. When the money and my energy for driving to multiple swim lessons finally ran out, I found that practicing the skills they’d learned over and over in our neighborhood pool is what sealed the deal for both my kids.
The same goes for CPR. It runs about $30-$60 per person depending on what type of certification you get, and the class lasts around 2-4 hours. It’s not exactly my dream date night. But let me just say this: If my dad, a doctor, had not been at the house when we found Shepherd floating in the pool, CPR would have been up to me. And I hadn’t been trained since Shep was born. My first instinct was to rush Shep inside to my dad, because I believed he could do it well, and he did. Thank God. But I’m Shep and Char’s mom. I should know what to do, I should be able to try and save their life if it comes down to it. So get certified, and if you’re rusty, do it again. At the very least, look it up on youtube. One night of class is worth a million nights of tuck-ins.
Lord knows, there are no guarantees, and things happen…even with lessons. But every time I get a call or a message about someone else’s child I eventually have to seek out Shep, stopping to hug him and whisper “I love you” in his ear, because I thought I’d never be able to again. If I didn’t know drowning, I would not advocate swimming lessons and CPR, that’s a fact. I’d see the price tag and put it off another year. But I DO know drowning, and I sleep better at night knowing we’ve done what we can in this arena. Moms who don’t know what it’s worth, I hope you never find out, but trust me…..it’s worth it.
We are 10 days away from the one year anniversary of Shepherd’s pool accident. I’m not sure how I really feel about it. June burst on the scene with Aunt B’s wedding and hasn’t seemed to stop sprinting yet…maybe I should be grateful. Less time to stew, less free moments for my mind to wander down the dark alley leading back to that day, the worst day of all our lives. We got big plans for the weekend of June 21st. As a couple and a family, Erron and I have made plans to re-claim that date for joy, re-branding it as a day to celebrate what was returned to us, the love that was shown to us, and recognizing how far we’ve come this year.
I’m at a loss to describe the emotions I feel towards hitting the one year mark. I suppose thankfulness triumphs over the other, more complicated feelings. Thank you God, our sweet Shepherd lives, and he is thriving. Thank you God, my marriage is still in-tact….thankfulness for our friends, supportive families….there so much to be grateful for. But underneath that gratefulness, the pain still smolders a bit…the anxiety still pressing in on me when I wish it would just go away forever.
In one afternoon, everything I knew about myself and my life seemed to be stripped from me, and though I’m proud of who I am today, I like who I’ve become, the simpler version of me is morned. I cannot go back, even if I wanted to.
As for Shepherd, that boy seems to be doing great despite what happened to him. He’s still bright, still astoundingly creative and captivating, still complicated. He’s still Shepherd, the one I knew before June 21st, 2014. But as parents, Erron and I continue to worry…Shepherd made his entrance into the world 2 months early which means I was born into motherhood with anxiety strapped to me like a dead-weight. It’s hard to untie the knots of worry, which have since been intertwined with threads of guilt, much more so now than before. I wrestle with this feeling, this anxiety that causes me (and Erron) to stress over Shepherd’s impossibly short attention span, his seemingly intense emotions, and his struggle to retain facts he’s not interested in. When I worry, I feel a bit like I’m cheating on faith. Like I’m failing to recognize the miracle every doctor has told us he is. I remember, trust me, I remember…but I’m human too.
Writing this post has made me realize there is a part of me that is still so, so sad Shepherd fell in the pool. I’m still heartbroken it happened. But that’s ok. It’s not unfaithful to suffer, it’s not weak to feel pain, and today I’m going to let myself be sad. Because the weekend of June 21st, I will have none of it. I will spend it rejoicing over our miracle, and the beauty that was born out of our ashes. I said it last June, and I’ll say it again…God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.
Going into spring I knew I wanted to get both kids into a swim lessons or I would just not be able to handle a new summer swim season and keep my sanity. I’d done the whole “mommy-and-me” group swimming lessons with Shepherd before. Twice. Before Shep ‘s drowning, my idea of swimming lessons was getting Shepherd comfortable with water, with a mild focus on safety once he reached age two. I hate to sound blunt, but all those lessons counted for nothing last summer. I just didn’t have a clue what survival swim techniques looked like, and the whole idea of it kind of overwhelmed me. Going into this summer, I obviously had a different perspective. I wanted both my kids, ages 2 and 4, to learn how to react in any body of water if they ever fell in. I also knew that I needed a very specific type of method teaching, because watching Shep feel terrified in the water while learning, even for a good cause, would be unbearable for both of us. So, I started asking around. Overwhelmingly, the word on the street was: Let’s All Swim. Our experience there has been so immensely positive, I have to share it with you, should any of you be hunting for a place where your little people can learn how to survive a fall into water, and ultimately become comfortable, confident swimmers.
Let’s All Swim is owned and run by Megan Bachman and her husband. Fun fact, Megan’s mom is also an instructor. They offer lessons at two locations: The OKC one is located inside The Lighthouse Fitness Center off Hefner Road and a new Edmond location at Key Health Institute off North Kelley Ave.
Let’s All Swim uses the Infant Aquatics method of teaching. Basically, depending on your child’s age, your child will learn how to roll to their back and perform a survival float, and if the child is 2 or older, the life-saving sequence of swim-float-swim until they reach the wall or the stairs. This sequence can be performed for any length of time, which is critical in accidents like ours. When I called Megan about her program before we started, she explained her program involved one-one-one instruction, each lesson being 15 minutes long, with some built in time for teacher feedback. It’s a 20-lesson commitment, minimum of 5 weeks. After 20 lessons, most parents do a phase-out plan where they gradually reduce lessons week by week. In her 15 years of experience, Megan has learned that somewhere between lessons 20 and 25 is the sweet spot for little swimmers. For optimal results, she recommends committing to at least three lessons a week so that your child doesn’t loose confidence or momentum. (However, they’re flexible and will work with your schedule if needed.) It’s a time commitment on the front end, but by the end of my conversation with Megan I was 100% in. She is passionate about helping kids feel safe and confident in the water and she believes whole-heartedly in her methods and her staff. (Each staff member undergoes 100 hours of training before they teach on his/her own.)
Shep is a not an easy student by any means. He is emotional, moody, and his success in the water depends greatly on how confident he is feeling that day. Megan innately understands this. She has a unique ability to know when to push and when to spend a day “confidence building” in a child. This is what sets Let’s All Swim apart from other swim schools. Megan explained, “All my teachers must understand that occasionally, we might spend a day just building up a child’s confidence in the water. On the flip side, if a child is over confident, we’ll spend a day reminding a student that a respect for water is critical to maintain safe swimming habits.” This philosophy may mean that it takes a few extra lessons for your child to really get down the swim-float-swim sequence, but it also means your child will walk away with the necessary survival skills AND a love for the water. For me, that was everything. Both Shepherd and I needed a place to heal and re-learn how to enjoy swimming again. Let’s All Swim has done that for us and we could not be more grateful.
Not long after 20 lessons Shep could perform the swim-float-swim sequence across a large pool in deep water. It isn’t pretty, but that kid can float like nobody’s business. Char is on lesson 18, has her float down, and is currently putting the swim-float-swim sequence together. She is having the time of her life in the water. Over coffee, and out of a swimsuit, I asked Megan what her goal is for each child who goes through Let’s All Swim’s program. “I want to build strong, confident, capable swimmers who just love the water.” Megan says. Well Megan, my kids now treat each bath as if it’s a pool and have thrown out the bath toys to make room for practicing their safe floats and roll-backs. I’d say mission accomplished.
It’s Worth Noting….
*Let’s All Swim provides infant survival programs, mommy-and-me classes, as well as stroke-development lessons for more advanced swimmers. They can also teach adults.
*Megan and her staff have experience teaching to a variety of special needs such as students with traumatic water experiences, and students with disabilities.
*There can be a bit of a wait to get on the schedule during peak seasons (May-August) but with the new Edmond location and an increase in staff, the wait should shrink.