Forgotten Baby Syndrome – Are you at risk?

Sometimes I forget things. Everyone does, right? But I’ve never forgotten my baby.

Yesterday, I finished posting my blog about Green-Light Fever and I took a break to read the news on my Google homepage. I was shocked by an article about the dramatic rise of accidental deaths of children in overheated cars.

Among the statistics quoted in the article was this: “Since 1998, 463 children have died of overheating or hyperthermia in cars in the United States, the majority of whom were accidently left behind by caregivers.”

It seems, according to the article, that there has been a marked increase in caregivers and parents who forget their sleeping children are in the car. Instead of depositing them at daycare, they accidentally leave them behind and just go to work or go shopping.

OK, I’m honestly horrified.

I have to say if this has happened to someone who is reading this post, I can’t imagine your pain and I wouldn’t dream of adding to it by judging you. I will say, though, that this phenomenon should be a wake-up call to our Green-Light Fevered culture to SLOW DOWN.

Lest you think this news article was exaggerating the issue, as I researched this, I found a website dedicated to preventing “Forgotten Baby Syndrome.” This compassionate site for parents provides insight into the triggers of this syndrome which are sleep deprivation, stress, change in routine and trying to juggle too many things at once (what modern parent isn’t doing that?).

The site and the article offered tips for parents, such as putting a stuffed animal in the front seat when your baby is in the back “as a reminder” or putting something “you know you’ll need” like your cell phone or purse in the back with the baby!

Simply put, we are now living in a culture where some parents are more likely to remember their cell phones than their babies.

Isn’t this the same culture that has fought to chip away at a culturally agreed upon day of rest because that’s “religious” in nature? As we’ve pushed to make Sunday (or Saturday, if that is your Sabbath) more and more like every other day of the week, haven’t we lost out?

Many individuals who fought against Sunday being set aside for God did so under the banner of freedom but do we seem free when we are so driven that we can’t sleep, can’t rest and can’t remember that our babies are in the backseat of our cars?

Mark quotes Jesus this way: “Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28 NIV) The Sabbath (or day of rest) wasn’t commanded as a religious weight on our backs; it was a gift to us from a loving Father who knows we need to rest and recreate because He designed us.

So, the last thing you should do now is refer some exhausted, overworked parent to this blog post and say “See, you need to slow down.” That’s not going to be helpful unless you also offer to watch their children for a few hours so they can nap or read a book or catch up on a few things.

It’s not easy to swim against this cultural tide. Our family did it by jumping right off the grid and choosing to home school, living on one income. Slowing down came at an enormous financial price. My daughter was sixteen before I even HAD a cell phone but she’s always known I was reaching into the back seat because I remembered HER not my purse.

Now that my children are older, it’s tempting to sit back and judge the younger generation of parents but, shame on me, if that’s the choice I make. I will forever be thankful for parents and church friends who supported us along the way.

As believers, we need to find real ways to encourage and exhort one another to live out our faith in practical ways – and that includes taking a day to rest, trusting God enough to get a night’s sleep, remembering our children, supporting one another’s efforts to slow down.

The yellow light cure is not an easy prescription to fill! In a frenzied, economically-challenged, activity-driven culture, slowing down feels as foreign as learning to write with the opposite hand. It’s uncomfortable. It takes practice. It seems impossible. It’s scary. There’s little support for it. That’s why we need a day-to-day, minute-by-minute relationship with Jesus to pull it off and to help others do it, too.

So here’s my challenge – are you over-worked, over-tired, stressed and trying to do too many things at once? Is your baby at risk? What else could you be risking by ignoring God’s gift of rest? What if obeying the call of Christ on your life today meant asking for help, turning off the Internet or phone, leaving work in the car and sitting down to do nothing? Are you willing to go to sleep for Jesus?

If this statistic about these accidental deaths of forgotten children isn’t a giant flashing yellow light for our culture, I don’t know what is.

As for me and my household, we’re going to take a nap.


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7 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Anonymous says:

    This made me cry Lori. I never left a baby in the back seat (thank God) but I have lost track of priorities at times…we do need to stop. or at least slow down.

  2. The article made me cry, too, anonymous. I hope we never stop crying over statistics like this and I hope it’s always shocking, too.

  3. Wiping the tears. Wonderful article filled with great reflections.

  4. Cheri says:

    Lori,

    You’ve written a wonderfully compassionate and eye-opening post here, and I so appreciate your ministry.

    Blessings, my friend,
    Cheri

  5. More than a decade ago, we went to the park after church on Sunday for a picnic lunch before heading home. My baby fell asleep under the tree, my other two toddlers played on the play structure. My husband and I sat and chatted under the tree, enjoying our time as a family.

    When it was time to go home we packed up our ‘stuff’ like the picnic basket, the blankets, diaper bag and toys. One of us got that stuff packed into the back of our van, while the other one started buckling kids in car seats. That one went to start the van so it would cool off in the summer heat. The other one got in the passenger seat.

    Assuming then that everything was in order we left. On our way home we stopped at a mall to do a quick errand. It was the worst moment of my life when I noticed my baby’s car seat was empty! I won’t tell you the rest of the details, except the ending.

    We went back to the park and found him still fast asleep under the tree nearly 1 1/2 hours later. When we’d left the park was full of people due to a baseball tournament. When we got back the park was empty. We believe God put a wall of protection around our son.

    We were not tired. We were relaxed and enjoying a slow Sunday afternoon. I have very conscientiously practiced keeping the Sabbath for many, many years. But mistakes happen. We both thought the other one had buckled in the baby. It was a mistake I hid, and feared, and was ashamed of for many years until I read a passage in Isaiah that said,

    “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? … she may forget… ”

    Then I knew that not only was I not the first to do such a horrendous thing, I would not be the last. I’ve grown in grace toward other mothers who make honest mistakes with their children and have to deal with the harsh judgments of others. You don’t understand the mistake, or the need for grace, until the story becomes your own.

    I’m glad the whole of that verse in Isaiah says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
    Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
    See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” Isaiah 49:15-16a

    I agree that rest is critical, we need to have our priorities straight. Thanks for pointing that out.

    We’ve done the slow-down thing… we also homeschool, my husband left a fabulous job so our family could settle somewhere cheaper and get out of the rat race, we take Sundays truly OFF, and we spend time as a family in fun daily. These are important points you have made. Thank you. This article was very well written.

    I particularly liked your admonition to offer to babysit and help out instead of just wagging our fingers. Good job!

  6. Thank you, Carla Ann, for your transparency and open heart! I always tell other parents that the most dangerous time for my kids was often when both of us (mom and dad) were around because we often assumed the other one had them in sight! Thank you for coming by. I trust God will bless others through your story.

  7. Over a decade ago, we went to the park after church on Sunday for a picnic before heading home. The park was full of people attending and playing in a baseball tournament. My husband and I chatted, relaxed and enjoyed watching our two toddlers playing on the play structure while our baby slept under tree beside us.

    When it was time to go, we packed things up – one taking kids the other taking ‘stuff’. One of us got in the van to start the air conditioner. The other got in right after. We both assumed the other had put the baby in the car seat.

    It wasn’t until we reached a mall in a neighboring city that we noticed our baby was missing. That was the worst moment of my life! When we finally got back to the park 1 1/2 hours after leaving, there were no people in the park and my throat was sore from screaming.

    God did a miracle that day – our baby was still fast asleep under the same tree. Nobody took him, nobody saw him. I lived in fear, hating myself and doubting my ability as a mother for ages until I read a passage in Isaiah:

    “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
    … she may forget…”

    I realized that not only was I not the first mom to do this, I wouldn’t be the last. God gave me grace then as He does now. I’ve learned that same grace needs to be extended by me to other moms who also make mistakes with their children.

    It’s not until the horrible story becomes our own is that grace easy to extend, but we need to.

    My husband and I were both relaxed, we were not stressed, and had been practicing a no-work Sunday for years. It was not a matter of stressed out, over-fatigued parents. It was a mistake, a misunderstanding.

    Yet, the priorities you have laid out here are important. That’s why we homeschool, my husband left a fabulous job so we could settle in a cheaper area and be together more as a family. We also spend daily time as a family in fun and eat three meals a day together. Yet, mistakes are possible.

    I appreciate what you’ve written. It is needed and you’ve done an excellent job of communicating clearly. I appreciate your admonition to us to not chastise others without also offering our arms, legs, hands and time in babysitting, etc.

    I’m also grateful God ended that passage in Isaiah this way:

    “… Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” Isaiah 49:15-16a

    Great work!