• Whitney Teel

Doing This Does NOT Make You A Terrible Parent


Trigger Warning: Potential Infant Loss

I have gone back and forth on whether I should write about this topic or not. So many different thoughts have gone through my head. One is the possibility of triggering other parents already struggling with postpartum anxiety.

"Write it for those who are too ashamed to tell anyone they have done it too."

"Write it for those who think they would never do anything like this."

I've had a lot of doubts.

"How will this make me look as a professional?"

"What will my mom say about what I'm about to admit?" Yeah no matter my age or how long I've not lived under her roof, I still wonder what she would think about some things I do and I fear disappointing her.

Putting these words out in the world feels like a confession. Maybe that's why I've hesitated in writing this. Maybe that's why I need to write this. Ultimately, I've decided to write this because I'm human. And so are you.

So I guess I should confess then, yeah?

Here goes...

I left our 6 month old baby in our vehicle and I...forgot...all...about...her.

No matter what you think right now, I could receive all the judgment in the world and it never be equal to the amount I subconsciously put on myself.

It was Sunday evening and I was waiting on my husband to get home from playing basketball so I could go to our church's bible study that I take myself and our 11 year old to. Michael, my husband, had forgot about me going to bible study and by the time he got home for me to leave I would be 30 minutes late, so I decided not to go.

Our son had a friend over that I needed to take to his parents so I realized I needed to go into town after all, so I changed my mind back to GOING again.

As soon as Michael arrived, I placed our baby in her car seat rather than in her daddy's arms. I started driving to church like any other Sunday evening and chatted with our oldest son. He wanted to get some fresh air so he rolled his window down and womp womp….it wouldn't go back up! There's always something to deal with, so I didn't stress about it.

We got to church and went right into bible study to catch what was left. I was a little distracted with all that was going on right before I left home. I scanned the room, saw who was there, looked over at the counter and saw these amazing chocolate chip cookies that I was now fighting with myself not to eat. I listened to our pastor and tried to follow what he was saying but was having a lot of trouble given the fact that I jumped in the middle of it.

My mind's always going so I started running through my to-do's. I thought about home and what I needed to do when I got back. I thought about Michael and the kids and started imagining what those cute little ducks of mine were doing. I went through all of their sweet faces and then it hit me...

Ada is in the van!!!

I yelled out, "Oh my gosh!!!" and disrupted the whole class as I burst through the doors and ran to my vehicle. Halfway there I went from asking the Lord, "please let her be alive" to accepting what leaving a baby in a vehicle for 20+ minutes in July is going to do.

My emotions went wild. I've never felt a fear like that before.

I arrived to the car and got a glimpse of her. She was sitting there. She wasn't crying, she wasn't sweating...just sitting there, entertaining herself. I opened the van door, shaking, I sat on the edge and tried to catch my breath. My neck was tingly. My vision was blurry and I felt faint. I saw some people come running out after me, hoping and praying our baby was safe. They knew what had happened without even asking.

All were relieved when they saw our happy baby.

They comforted me and kept telling me she was alright. And then I lost it. I sat there sobbing into my hands and thinking, "thank you, thank you, thank you!!" There were also those thoughts of, "there is NO way I am going to be able to deal with the fact that I did this to her" and that I will need to give myself heaps and heaps of grace.

There was something else that stood out to me after my emotions were settled and I could think somewhat straight. The window had just broken 5 minutes before parking and was still down! It was also a cooler evening.

I've overcome the tendency to worry too much about what others think about me {most of the time} but judging myself harshly is a different story. I know I'm not alone in that! I can run into judgmental people out and about (and boy do I-having five kids and well just being a person will do that!) but they go back to their home and I can shake off a comment or a look. That did take some work over the years since I'm full on disclosing things here.

But the reality is that when I judge myself the negativity comes home with me, goes to bed with me and hangs out with me allllll day long, if I'll let it. And some days, regardless if I fight like hell to make it stay away.

I know I'm not the only mom to beat herself all the way down to just going through the motions at times. But as long as I live, I will work to do the opposite for the mother of my children, the wife of Mr. Teel and myself. Because not only am I a loving, attentive, devoted and extremely hard working mother of five, wife and business owner...I am a woman. I'm fallible. But my mistakes do not define who I am.

I write these words confident in my belief in myself as a mother, but it would feel misleading if I didn't also include the day and a half of complete and utter overwhelm from my thoughts and inability to process what I had done. I couldn't let the events of that evening play over in my head without receiving a kick in the stomach.

My mind was foggy, pre occupied and I was irritable.

I've always understood how easy a mistake like this could happen and I never judged the parents who did the same as me, even those with outcomes infinitely more tragic. Grateful doesn't cover what I felt when I ran up to the window with a happy, breathing baby inside.

If you are reading this and thinking about something that you might have done that put your baby or child in danger. You are not alone. As I know that I am not either. The evening I left Ada in the car I was surrounded by women and mothers, that I have looked up to, sharing their experiences when their children were found before mom even knew they were gone. It happens.

And it's not on purpose.

Media tries to help reduce these incidents by giving tips that are helpful but the language used only seems to perpetuate the rising anger and judgment towards

parents who make this grave mistake of leaving babies in a car.

"Place something important in the backseat so you will remember to grab it."

Let's just make it sound like we make these mistakes because we are careless and don't categorize our children as important. Unintentional or not, this opens up a whole new reason for listeners of this tip to cast all kinds of judgment.

  1. Do/place/tie/remove something that will trigger a response from you, reminding you about your baby in the back seat. You could forget your purse or wallet (I certainly have!) so putting your left shoe in the back is something you are sure to notice is missing.

  2. Download the app Kars4Kids Safety and have a customizable alarm set to remind you of your precious cargo in your vehicle.

  3. Be hyper aware of a change in your routine. Forgetting a baby in a car is largely related to this.

We cannot watch our children or be perfect 100% of the time but we can still be incredible mothers doing a fantastic job that even when we make mistakes, big or small, we can still believe that about ourselves.

#baby #wilmingtonnc #wilmingtondoula #labordoulas #motherhood #parenthood #postpartumanxiety

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