Every summer we hear tragic news stories of children dying because they’ve been left in a hot car—whether on purpose, by accident, or because they climbed in the car to play when parents were unaware. It’s a terribly tragic situation that we can only stop by spreading awareness that it DOES happen—and even to good, caring parents. Still, most of us think we are incapable of EVER forgetting our kids in a hot car. So did the mom in this story.
Jodie Edwards was a professional, working mom of a three-year-old and an 11-month-old when tragedy struck her family in 2008. In an interview with Parents magazine, Edwards explained that Wednesday, August 20 was the third day of a new routine for her family. Classes had started for Jodie, who taught at a Cincinnati university, and her son had just started preschool, meaning her 11-month old daughter Jenna would be with a babysitter Monday-Friday.
After dropping her son off at preschool, Edwards strapped Jenna back in her car seat and began her drive to the sitter’s.
“I was talking and singing to her,” Edwards told Parents. “Five minutes into the drive Jenna started to sing in this little voice she uses when she’s sleepy. I had a child-safety mirror, and when I looked in it I could see that she was going to fall asleep.” Edwards recalls hoping that she’d be able to get Jenna out of the car at the sitter’s without waking her, wanting her to finish her morning nap there. “In a very detailed way, I visualized getting there, walking around to the backseat door, unbuckling her straps, getting her out very gingerly, and covering her ears so the babysitter’s door wouldn’t wake her. I pictured myself saying to the babysitter, ‘Jenna’s sleeping. Can I lay her in the crib?'” she said.
For the next 15 minutes as Edwards drove toward the sitters, that visualization somehow became real: instead of driving a block PAST her office to the babysitter’s house, she pulled in her office parking lot, thinking she had already dropped the baby off safely. “I parked my car,” the grieving mom recalled. “My bags were in the front seat. I walked around and I got them out, and I went in to work.” She didn’t realize her sleeping baby was still in the car, where she remained for the next 7 hours on a 92 degree day.
In what is now an all-too-familiar tragedy, Jenna did not survive. When Edwards came out to her car after work at 4 p.m., she got in and started backing out, eager to get Jenna from the sitter’s house and her son from preschool. Then, in the rearview mirror, she saw her lifeless baby still in her car seat. She jumped out and opened the door to get to her baby while dialing 911 frantically.
“I couldn’t figure out how she’d gotten there,” she recalls, as she was certain she had taken Jenna to the babysitter’s that day. “I thought, ‘Who put Jenna in here?’ and I even looked to see whether someone had put my boy in there too.” When she realized that her memory of placing Jenna in the crib at the babysitter’s wasn’t real, she began screaming, and collapsed on the ground next to her minivan. “I couldn’t even sit up,” she says. Police and ambulance arrived, but it was far too late.
Before police took Edwards for questioning, she had to do one thing: call her husband and tell him of her fatal mistake. “Remembering that will break my heart forever,” she says.
Tragedies like the Edwards’ replay themselves each year; in 2015 there were 24 deaths from children being in a hot car; the average per year since 1998 is 37, according to NoHeatStroke.org. This is a problem our parents’ generation didn’t really face, as kids were seated up front in the car and not necessarily in car seats until the early 1990s.
Edwards, like a mom who mistakenly thought she had taken her 2-year-old to daycare earlier this summer in Mississippi, was a caring, involved, careful, loving mom. And I maintain, as I always have, that if it can happen to a mom like her, it can happen to any of us.
So be aware, moms and dads. If you don’t have that child IN your arms, CHECK THAT BACKSEAT. Even if you KNOW it’s going to be empty. That extra step just might save your child’s life. I am thankful that Jodie Edwards was willing to share her story, and I pray that instead of judging her, parents would instead honor the memory of her child by being hyper aware that this could happen to any of us.