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A Mom's Fatal Mistake

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A mother who accidentally killed her child wants to save yours.

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Over the weekend, mom Mirlande Jean-Baptiste of Palm Beach spent three hours in a salon getting ready for her wedding day. But while she was getting her hair and nails done, her 4-year-old son Gregory was dying in her hot SUV in the parking lot. Her sister said they had dropped Gregory and three other children off with a friend---Gregory must have snuck back into the car without them knowing. Momlogic spoke with a mother who accidentally left her son in a hot car, ultimately killing him.

When Raelyn Balfour was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter for leaving her 9-month-old son, Bryce, in a hot car for seven-and-a-half hours, many moms on the Internet were outraged. But Raelyn, who's now six months pregnant and has a 14-year-old son from a previous marriage, says it's her life's mission to show parents that this could happen to them--and share strategies on how to prevent that. Momlogic called Raelyn for her side of the story.

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"I agree with the parents who say I failed my son," she says. "I did--I took it for granted that I was the perfect mom, super mom, and would never forget my child in the car. I would watch the news and hear these stories, and think: How could someone forget their baby? But I did. Me--a mom who had spent hundreds of dollars Fed-Exing my breast milk to my son when I was traveling for the military so he'd have the very best. That's the kind of mom I was. If you don't think this could happen to you, think again."

She recommends moms make a habit of checking the backseat whenever you exit the car, whether you think your kids are there or not. (Raelyn was certain she'd dropped her son at daycare, even though she hadn't.) Try leaving your purse or briefcase in the backseat, so you'll have to retrieve it before leaving the vehicle. If it's possible, don't put your child's car seat directly behind you. Make sure your child is in your field of vision at all times. "My son was behind me and I couldn't see him in the mirror," Raelyn explains. This grieving mother is also working with kidsandcars.org to help create legislation mandating safety devices in cars that will warn or prevent parents from accidentally leaving a child in a car. "I made a promise to my son in the hospital as I held him and had to kiss him good-bye," she says, sobbing. "I told him every day for the rest of my life that I will tell the story no matter what ridicule it will bring or how hard it will be to say it. I made a promise that my son's death won't be in vain. It won't be for nothing."


next: Where is Caylee Anthony?
42 comments so far | Post a comment now
Raquita January 30, 2008, 1:15 PM

Oh I know it can happen to anybody - I left my daughter in the car for long enough to walk from the car to the door of where i was going before I remember I brought her with me and she was in teh car.
I now make it a point to put my purse in with her when I get in the car.
I also think that acquitting you was the right thing to do - losing your son was too much for a mistake, and parents who forget how easy things go bad may want to just pause before going on about outrage.
Parenting is hard enough, it really is.

EG January 30, 2008, 2:32 PM

This happened recently in our town. I guess the mom worked near the daycare, so she parked at the daycare and went to work. When she went into daycare to pick up her baby they told her the baby hadn’t been there that day.

I absolutely believe this could happen to anyone. I like the suggestion of putting your purse in the backseat.

Anonymous January 30, 2008, 2:41 PM

I love that people are being supportive. If being a mother has taught me anything, it’s that an overwhelmed mom can make huge mistakes. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive yourself.

Butrfly Garden January 30, 2008, 3:10 PM

I know when I dropped the kids at daycare (after an almost hour drive), there were a couple times that I drove right past it. Routine messes with our heads- especially when the days tend to blur together. If my kids had been sleeping babies instead of older (louder) kids, it’s quite possible I could have never realized my mistake. I’m glad you have used this opportunity to speak out. Tragedy is just tragedy unless we use it to prevent more.

Dylan's Mom January 30, 2008, 3:47 PM

How can a mother leave their 9 month old child in the car for over 7 hours? Wouldn’t it be second nature by then that you have a little one travelling with you? I understand feeling overwhelmed as a mother and making mistakes but I simply cannot undertand how this kind of thing happens…

Bryce's Mom January 30, 2008, 11:57 PM

To Dylan’s mom: I said the same thing, but my routine had changed with my husband and my husband put our son in the car behind me that day and a spare carseat where he would normally have been. Bottomline: When I looked back at the spare car seat it was empty and my son had fallen asleep. My husband and I both feel responsible and want to make sure parents understand that it CAN happen.

Jackie January 31, 2008, 2:40 PM

I know how hectic mornings with children can be. I was on my way to drop my son off before going to work. I was preoccupied with my own thoughts about the upcoming day. I pulled into the parking lot at work and got out of the car. My 4mth old son stirred from sleep and wimpered. If I wouldn’t have heard him do that…I hate to think what may have happened. I too like the idea of putting your bag in the backseat. I feel for you.

emma February 1, 2008, 1:02 AM

Dylan’s mom.. people are human.

Natasha February 1, 2008, 9:49 AM

Wow! When I first started to read this I kept thinking how the heck does this sort of thing happen?!?!?! Now I know that unfortunately it can. To Bryce’s mom: Thank you for making my children’s lives, and many other children’s lives safer! Whatever anyone says about this…my children will never be left in a car because I am aware of such a simple mistake! As people, we tend to make mistakes and this is one that I wont be making because of Bryce and his mom. Thank you for being brave, and keep spreading the word. I know I will pass on this story!

Maddox's Mommy February 1, 2008, 9:54 AM

My son was about 7 weeks old when Bryce passed away and words can not describe the heartbreak I felt and feel for Jarrett, Lyn, Bryce, and their 14 year old son. I know them very well and I can not fathom the agony, pain, and sorrow they will live with for the rest of their lives. My husband and I have learned a life altering lesson from this tragic event. We call each other every time we drop our son off with a babysitter as soon as we get back in the car to continue our journey to work. For our sanity and first-hand knowledge that this can truly happen to ANYONE we do not stop calling each other until that confirmation has been made. The four seconds it takes for you to acknowledge/confirm with someone the most important event of the day (in this context) is worth more than what I can express with words. We love you Bryce!

Wendi February 3, 2008, 3:56 PM

I have an 18 month old son right and I also have a son that is 10 years old. For the older son, I was a working single monther and this young one I am able to stay at home. With that said, I can’t even imagine for one second that I would leave them in the car like that. They have been and always will be on the fore front of my mind. They are what life is about. It is my JOB to take care of them, no matter what! I know that life is hectic and we forget things, but when you are able to forget the most important thing in your life, something is wrong.

When you are blessed with a child, nothing should be on your mind more than the saftey and happiness of that child. My children have and will always come first. That is the JOB of a mother.

I feel bad for the moms that have lost children to this, I know you are in pain. For those of you who think that this is something that could just happen to anyone, well I pray that you all will make your children and their saftey first in your mind and life each and every day.

mom to 4 cams February 3, 2008, 4:20 PM

all 4 of my kids are always my priority! however, life can get hectic and when it’s running from sport events to high school to pre school with mom taking everyone one day to dad taking them the next anyone who is human can feel frazzled. i said i could never be that stupid….until one day i was just going to run in to pick up a roll of film. while standing in line to pay i remembered i had the baby with me. he was in the car. thankfully he was safe but the “what if’s” were overwhelming. that was 6 years ago and i remember it like it was yesterday. i always check and i will never be ignorant enough to think it could never happen. to the moms who have said it is our job to take care of our children….well obviously it is our job but do not think you are above any kind of accident happening..it is when one thinks like that that accidents do happen. my love and prayers to you raelyn and how awesome that you can tell other parents about your mistake to help others. we are only as sick as our secrets and by you sharing you will help others who think it could never happen to them!!! xoxoxoxo

mom to 4 cams February 3, 2008, 4:21 PM

all 4 of my kids are always my priority! however, life can get hectic and when it’s running from sport events to high school to pre school with mom taking everyone one day to dad taking them the next anyone who is human can feel frazzled. i said i could never be that stupid….until one day i was just going to run in to pick up a roll of film. while standing in line to pay i remembered i had the baby with me. he was in the car. thankfully he was safe but the “what if’s” were overwhelming. that was 6 years ago and i remember it like it was yesterday. i always check and i will never be ignorant enough to think it could never happen. to the moms who have said it is our job to take care of our children….well obviously it is our job but do not think you are above any kind of accident happening..it is when one thinks like that that accidents do happen. my love and prayers to you raelyn and how awesome that you can tell other parents about your mistake to help others. we are only as sick as our secrets and by you sharing you will help others who think it could never happen to them!!! xoxoxoxo

Charles February 4, 2008, 1:02 PM

Accidents happen because people have a tendency to go on automatic and follow habits or patterns.

To prevent accidents, of any kind, make your actions deliberate and purposeful, especially when it comes to the safety of your children.

Bryce's Mom February 6, 2008, 10:53 PM

Thanks so much to the parents who have commented. I am collecting stories about parents who have had close calls and would love to hear from you if you want to share. My email address is: bryces_parents@hotmail.com

Thanks for supporting my family and I.

Lyn Balfour

Dee June 18, 2008, 2:08 PM

7 & 1/2 hours no way, sorry

Mom of 2 June 24, 2008, 2:37 AM

I attribute all outcomes in life to Gods ultimate plan and believe that life and death r decreed.i think it arrogant of people to think they can control these things.obviously we have choice in right or wrong actions but actions r judged by their intentions or rather should b.This is a huge trial for the parents to lose a child in this manner.May God compensate u for ur loss and reward ur patience in light of this great trial.When we start to realise that we r not in control of anything and attribute things to the All powerful we wil make sense of things even as unimaginable as this tragedy.

Kennyta July 2, 2008, 3:43 PM

i dont see how anyone can lose there child for that long and not know it. Hell my kids are constantly screaming and pulling at me wanting attention. I know they are there so if they quit for 7 or so hours i would know it

Aaron & Eli's mom July 2, 2008, 5:19 PM

As a busy working mom with 2 youngsters and someone who has almost left for work with bedroom slippers on, I can attest to how busy mornings can be. I was in tears when I read the end of Lyn’s story (about her promise to her son). I’m truly sorry for the loss of your precious child, but thank you for reminding us all that our children are our first priority.

Deana July 2, 2008, 11:35 PM

My neighbor is young with small children to care for. Because her husband is in the military she holds most of the responsibilty of caring for their children. Before I eventually just had to get rude and come to the realization that I was going to be “that” neighbor, I was sick with worry that I was going to back over her almost 3 year old child because he was never being watched and half the time she didn’t even know he was missing from their home. We do live in between several horse farms but reguardless, he needs to be supervised. And usually his 6 year old brother is left to watch him. I have a four year old myself as well as a 14 year old and I always know where they are. I was just angry and worried all the time that I was going to find him face down in their uncovered, ungated pool or under the garbage mans truck or my car. Several times he was found locked in the car of the neighbor whos between us, he was just scolded and the neighbor still leaves her car unlocked for this to happen again. He is also allowed to play in their vehicle which I have warned them is a horrible idea. They are young and don’t want to listen so my husband and I decided that the kids could not be in our yard anymore and we have just severed ties. They are moving onto a base this weekend and honestly I am scared to death of what might happen to them there but I just don’t know what to do. The sad thing is is that I see her as supermom in some aspects and then she does stuff to put her in the worst mom of the world catagory. How is this possible?


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