I remember the day well. It was a Saturday. I’d started it drinking raspberry leaf tea and ended it eating spicy lamb chops, hoping desperately that one of these things would kick start labour before I went in to be induced.
In between the old-wives tales, my husband and I spent several hours at a car dealership, test-driving an SUV we were looking to buy for the sole purpose of being able to drive around with our kelpie and our soon-to-be-born kid at the same time.
Neither the tea nor the chilli worked but we did end up with a new car. And this car has HEAPS of toys in it, but not for the reason you’d think.
You see, the most important toy in the car stays with the car at all times. He’s a shaggy bear who’s aged nearly 40, called (imaginatively) “Big Ted”. One of my childhood bears, I retrieved him from my parents’ house after my son started childcare. His sole reason for being, now, is to warn my sleep-deprived brain that my son is in the car. Big Ted is my furry guardian to help prevent “Forgotten Baby Syndrome”.
Forgotten Baby Syndrome happens when parents have been convinced they’ve dropped their kid off at childcare, or elsewhere, except they haven’t, and their quietly sleeping child has been left in a parked car for hours or even the entire day. In our hot Australian summers, and internationally, children have died because of this. Forgotten Baby Syndrome is the stuff of nightmares.
According to experts, Forgotten Baby Syndrome comes about with the perfect storm of sleep deprivation, stress and an unexpected routine change. Aren’t these factors a hallmark of parenthood? Even people without children can imagine how easy it is – I mean, have you ever driven in the car for 10 minutes and zone out so much that you wondered how you got through all those sets of traffic lights?
For some ultra-tired parents, tragedy could strike simply because they dropped their children off in a different order. For example, you have a baby daughter and a school-aged son. Your routine is always to first drop your daughter at childcare, then your son at school. But one day, your son’s school has a pupil-free day. So you drop him off at his aunt’s house, fully intending to then head to childcare to drop off your daughter.
But that slight alteration to the routine, combined with tiredness, means your brain is on autopilot and guides you straight to work. If your daughter happens to fall asleep on the journey, you have no sound to remind you she’s there.