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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
Alicia July 21, 2008, 2:52 PM

I know this would not help every situation…but why don’t the daycare centers call to check on a child that has not arrived.
I teach kindergarten and if a child is not in school someone from the front office will call to check on them - and with about 900 kids, we are not a small school!

foxymama July 21, 2008, 6:37 PM

This is tragedy to the fullest. So awful and senseless.

Truth July 21, 2008, 10:05 PM

This is a sad horrible story… I am not sure how I feel about it. But as far as the suggestion about the purse in the back seat I just read… well its the only reason I am sending a post. I completely disagree with putting your purse in the back seat or anywhere to remind you. Your children should be much more important than your purse as far as memory. I am sorry but I just found that a little sad. That you would always remember your purse but not your child? Just my opinion though.

Anonymous July 22, 2008, 12:02 AM

If your life is that hectic it is time to slow down! That is one thing wrong with society today, we are always in such a hurry…always hurrying..we forget about the important things ..namely our kids! I find it interesting the responses to this article and how they are drastically more compassionate than the replies to the story they posted on here a few weeks ago about the family with like 8 kids that left their 4 year old special needs kid in their van all day. Everyone’s comments were far less forgiving…

Vivi July 22, 2008, 6:12 PM

I think that when something like this happens, it needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. Some parents, like you, truly did not mean to do this. It was a tragedy, plain and simple, and I admire that you are willing to stand up, take responsibility and use this situation to help others. Parents that leave their kids in the car while they go drinking in the bar, or those awful parents that did not miss their special needs child for 17 hours - not at lunch, not at dinner, not at bedtime - I do not believe that was an accident and they should be punished accordingly.
I am very sorry for your loss and I hope that by coming forward you -and Bryce- will save many lives.

Kate July 23, 2008, 7:35 AM

Something like this happened a couple of years ago here in Louisiana. A father left his 2 year old in the car on the 2nd day of school after he dropped off the older child at school. Apparently the whole family was running late. My little boys had gone to that same day care for 2+ years; one of them was in the same class as the one who died. It was heartbreaking for the family and the community, and I agree with some of the others here that in general, we are in too much of a hurry. One sad thing I have thought about ever since then is, of course, this death had nothing to do with me, but I have asked myself why I did not know these parents better? I used to hope their little boy would be there when I got there with mine, because they played well together and it made the drop-off a little easier if their boy was there. It later turned out that I worked in the same place as the mom, even had called her on some business while at work, but never made the connection because I never took the time to say more than a rushed hello in the hallway. What if we had all slowed down and and said a kind word to each other , so that we all looked forward to seeing people we knew in the morning, not just rushing around? Would that have helped the dad remember somehow? Maybe not, but you never know what reaching out to someone, even in small ways, might do. I wish I had.
And ever since then, I have tried really hard to be more careful with my kids, even though I was careful already . We have 4 kids over a 7-year span, and 2 full time jobs plus military reserve duty, between me and my husband, and he has told me that one time he did get to work with our eldest child when she was a baby, thankfully he realized in time, but it is scary to think about. Thanks to this Mom for trying to warn others. Sorry for the novel.

aimee July 25, 2008, 6:57 PM

no way… 7 1/2 hours is way too long. in that time you think that youd think of your child, that theyd come to mind & youd realize it. vehicular manslaughtler can be an accident too, but someone should be responsible. especially if its a hit & run. i would consider the leaving the child in the car the hit & leaving him in there for that long the running. you should have kept a purse back there in the first place as a parent, i mean you have another child & should know. but it upsets me that for some reason a lot of these women feel that they would look in back for a purse… but not for your own child? is that more important? id notice leaving w/out my child before i noticed leaving my purse. i can maybe understand a few minutes but now over 7 hours! i doubt that there would be as much support had the baby been left home alone for that long & something happened, or fell into a pool unsupervised, or any number of things. neglect is neglect & some mistakes are too big to go un punished!

Vicki July 30, 2008, 10:31 PM

I am sorry, but I just don’t buy the story of the two parents and seven siblings not missing the special needs child until morning. At the very least, someone should have missed him at bedtime!!!!!!! Come on!! If he had special needs, why wasn’t he missed just because of that? If you have to do special things for any child, you are going to miss the child before morning.

Robin August 8, 2008, 6:16 AM

It is so sad, but so easy to do unfortunately. One year at Christmas time, we went to get a Christmas tree, and we took two vehicles, well the guys took the tree home, with our son in the carseat, who was 1 1/2 at the time, and they took the tree inside and guess what? Forgot him, as he is usually with me during trips. Well, my daughter and I came home after stopping off at the store for tree trimmings to find him crying in the carseat, It still makes my stomach turn at the thought of it. Thank goodness it was November, and we live in California. I will never forget the sound of his cry and the look on his face…..
I am so sorry for the children who have lost their lives and the families who had this happen, I understand. We are two of the most overprotective parents, and if it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone.
I do not blame parents, one bit. I do, however, have an issue about daycare workers leaving them in a vehicle, because that is what they are doing, driving kids around right?> Maybe I am being hypocritical, but the only reason daycare workers need to take the children somewhere is for a fieldtrip, or maybe to pick them up etc… I still feel for anyone who has done this by accident. I cannot imagine what grief these parents feel, and how they can go on. I am glad that some are telling their story, even at the idea of getting ridiculed, because they know in their hearts their child couldn’t have died for nothing, it has to help some other kids, and hopefully prevent them from the same fate…
Good luck all…..
Check the backseat please!!!!!

Emma August 11, 2008, 9:58 AM

This happened recently in our city. Until I heard the details, I too thought that this was at the hands of terrible, negligent parents who didn’t deserve to have children. Now that I know the details, I completely understand how this all too often happens to the best of parents due to simple miscommunication. Those who refuse to see how this can happen need to understand that it too could happen to them. Judge not lest ye be judged. These parents, after all, have only themselves to blame and have to live with that guilt for the rest of their lives. That is punishment enough. My heart goes out to them. Kudos to those that are working toward making sure parents are well informed in the hopes that this does not happent to other children.

Vicky August 22, 2008, 9:11 PM

to Kennyta:

You sound like a stay at home mom. Which in turn means you are at home most of the time with your kids. If you drove to a job, lets say 15 years, then you have a baby. Hum, lets think about this. You were in a routine for 15 yrs, then all of a sudden your routine changed. Still thinking ! Your baby is behind you , you can’t see him/her. Your running late and there are 12 people waiting on YOU for a meeting thats starts in 4 minutes. You have an elevator to go up. Ok, you pull up in the parking lot, grab your purse and hop out. You dont notice your child around because you are at work and your child is SUPPOSE to be at the sitters. Ok, get the picture. Think about it. Maybe, just maybe you jumped out of the car, didn’t see your child and went in to work for the day or maybe you leave at lunch time. Then you see your child in the back seat. Makes you think, doesn’t it ????????

Bex August 23, 2008, 1:22 AM

I have a different perspective to offer on this topic. I am now 26 years old, and do not have children. When I was a child however, we were very busy. there was cheerleading, ice skating, baseball, swimming, girl scouts and who knows how many other activities to get to. One night my older sister was skating and I was at cheerleading. My mom returned home with my sister at 10 PM and asked my father if I was asleep. At that very moment I was sitting at the local high school (I was 9 years old) wondering where my dad was. He was always the first parent there, so the coaches just let me go off to the car line. I will never forget that night. I was so scared. When my poor father arrived to get me I could see the look of relief and terror on his face. He didn’t forget about me, he mixed up the days. He thought I was skating with my sister, not at cheerleading. My parents love us dearly and would never do anything to hurt us. I just wanted to let those of you out there who are so negative know that this CAN HAPPEN to ANYONE. I bring up that night to make my dad feel guilty at times and we always laugh about it, and thankfully I am here today to laugh about it. My heart breaks for parents who have not been so fortunate to have their children to laugh with. But please, know you are only human, and accidents are just that - accidents.

Lory August 23, 2008, 9:55 PM

I would also like to help come up with a couple of systems. One idea is that ALL daycares should maintain a system that will alert a parent when the child is not there. It seems like the majority of the cases are daycare related with rushing.
I also like the automobile alert idea.

Leann August 24, 2008, 5:54 PM

I’m so sorry you had to lose a child, but how can you forget your child in the car?? Even if I’m so consumed with the hectic antics of a day I could never forget my child in the car. It is just force of nature knowing you bring him/her somewhere with you to remember or even check if they have left the car or not. I just don’t see how someone can forget and just leave their child in a sweltering hot car all day long!!

Anonymous August 25, 2008, 10:14 AM

I’m a mother of two and a daycare provider. When I first heard years ago that someone left their child in their car, I was appalled. Pretty much the same reaction we all had when we saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center-What a horrible accident- but then another story and another until it seemed like an epidemic. I don’t get it,we as parents know to cover the electrical outlets, put locks on cabinets, don’t lay your baby on beanbag chairs and so many other things that’s just a given. After reading about tragic drownings, we watch our children a little bit closer then we normally did.HOW HAS THIS HORRIBLE ORDEL OF LEAVING CHILDREN IN CARS GONE OVER SO MANY ADULTS HEADS?!?!?
Your children don’t stop needing you after the womb!

pam September 5, 2008, 9:13 PM

I do understand how this happen. When my son was small I could put him in the front seat with me and then it changed and he had to be in the back seat. I was a single parent and quess my mind just went to la la land and not thinking, but I forgot he was there with me, if he had not made a sound it still scares me to this day. I am so sorry you lost your child.

Michelle September 12, 2008, 9:22 PM

We can all try to sit in judgement on Raelyn, and others who have made this fatal mistake, but only God has the right to judge them. I can only pray for her that she receives Gods forgiveness which He has promised to all of us who call on His name. Only He can heal the hurt in her heart and help her to remain strong for her other children. I cannot say that I know how she feels, I can only try to learn from their mistakes, being the mother of a 10yr old and a 1yr old myself. I cannot imagine losing either of them, so from now on I will always look back twice before getting out of my car. God Bless you and keep you and all the other families who have gone through such tragedies.

Michelle (Nassau, Bahamas) September 12, 2008, 9:24 PM

We can all try to sit in judgement on Raelyn, and others who have made this fatal mistake, but only God has the right to judge them. I can only pray for her that she receives Gods forgiveness which He has promised to all of us who call on His name. Only He can heal the hurt in her heart and help her to remain strong for her other children. I cannot say that I know how she feels, I can only try to learn from their mistakes, being the mother of a 10yr old and a 1yr old myself. I cannot imagine losing either of them, so from now on I will always look back twice before getting out of my car. God Bless you and keep you and all the other families who have gone through such tragedies.

K. Cleaver September 19, 2008, 8:34 AM

My heart goes out to the mom. I know how it is to go on autopilot and I also know how it feels to forget something important. We are human and make mistakes.

For the nasty person above that said, “Your children should be much more important than your purse as far as memory.” You don’t get it. The point is that women grab their purse all the time starting in high school. It’s one of those routines that we do without a thought. I have no place to put my keys after I get out of the car if I don’t have my purse. Putting the purse in the back with the child is a safety measure. It isn’t saying that your purse is more important than the child. It is a very good idea.

Jackson October 5, 2008, 1:11 AM

i think that anyone who leaves their child in the car obviously does not have there head on straight. There is absolutely no way i would forget my daughter. i think the problem is that (and don’t take this the wrong way) moms are working as well as taking care of the kids and the house and it gets very overwhelming. I say this because I don’t recall this ever happening 10-15 years ago because moms were just moms and had only to focus on their kids. However, this still leaves no excuse. Your children are your responsibility, they are your mini yous. Don’t forget them. It breaks my heart everytime I hear of these stories. Let try and make it a point to put our kids first above everything else!


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