This week, Annie was busy working on the sale of a business.
She had barely slept, skipped meals and was not looking after herself.
And this week, Annie almost killed her baby.
When Annie returned to her car at lunchtime on Tuesday to collect something for work, she was shocked to discover her baby girl was in the back seat – five hours after she had locked up the car and gone to work.
Thankfully, she was still alive.
Annie contacted Mamamia this week with a simple message: It could happen to anyone:
On Tuesday I unintentionally forgot to take my baby to day care and left her in the car. 5 hours later, I luckily had to go to my car to get something and found her. Luckily for us she is ok. Had it been a summer day or had she been left there until I was supposed to pick her up from day care she would have died.
I had heard of this happening to other parents before and judged them saying “how could anyone forget their child”. I now know exactly how it can happen to anyone…
She had been so quiet in the car and I had so much on my mind that I unconsciously went into auto-pilot. She is doing well and is unaffected by it. I will never forgive myself for what happened and the right now the flashbacks are horrible. I have to live with what I have done for the rest of my life. Yes it was an accident, but that doesn’t change what happened.
Annie was hours away from a lifetime of guilt and regret. Hours away from a potential manslaughter charge and a jail term of up to 20 years.
But Annie’s story is not rare.
In February, 22-month-old Noah Krespanis was discovered dead in a hot car outside a day care centre in central Victoria.
A month earlier, a New Zealand mother mistakenly believed she had dropped her 16-month-old son at day care, but later found him dead in her car, parked at the hospital where she worked.
In the US, dozens of babies are fatally forgotten in cars every year.
In Australia, seven babies have died this way in the past three years.
And, this week, Annie’s daughter was almost the eighth.
Fatal distraction or ‘forgotten baby syndrome’ – a defence successfully used by Bendigo woman Jayde Poole last year after she was charged with the manslaughter of her five-month-old daughter – doesn’t discriminate.
A parent’s wealth, intelligence, age, ethnicity and organisational skills are irrelevant.
Prosecutors argue it’s criminal negligence, but experts say it’s a lapse in short-term memory that can happen to anyone.
“Distraction is one of the worst things to occur for your short-term memory,” Monash University Professor Matt Mundy recently told 60 Minutes.
“Your brain is capable of forgetting something, you’re capable of not remembering you didn’t do it and, therefore, when asked, you can fill in that information from previous experiences.”