March 24th 2018 was an ordinary Wednesday morning, getting my two boys, Jacob nine and Caleb four ready for school and my daughter Myah two, ready for toddler group.
Her friend Rachel was joining us that morning.
My husband Brian and I put the four children in my car, Jacob in the front in his booster seat, Caleb, Rachel and Myah in their car seats behind us.
It was a drizzly, dull morning, I was driving on the back roads heading for Jacobs school first.
As I approached a crossroad, from the corner of my eye I could see a car coming down from my left at speed, followed by the deafening bang of that car hitting my car.
There was nothing I could do to stop it, it happened so fast.
I gripped the steering wheel as my car span out of control. The screams coming from the children were haunting.
I remember thinking this is it, we are all going to die and if I don’t die what state will I find the children in. Everything felt like it was going in slow motion.
The car flipped upside down, again and again, and then we stopped suddenly, upright, the front of car in the ditch.
I was shaking, my heart beating out of my chest with fear. I felt like I was living a nightmare.
Jacob was hysterical, screaming crying and repeating ‘this is all a dream, this is not real.’
I unlocked my seatbelt and turned around. I could see Caleb and Rachel but not Myah. Caleb was whimpering, and Rachel was crying, visibly frightened.
I got out of the car, not really knowing where I was, and frantically looking around for my daughter.
The scene was terrifying, bits of car and glass all over the road as well as toys and spare booster seats. I was screaming for Myah.
To my right, a few feet away on the grass verge was my little girl, still harnessed into her car seat sitting upright, a large graze on her right cheekbone but she was ok, she was moving, she was screaming and crying and I thought how happy I was to hear her cry.
I ran to her and quickly checked her little body for signs of broken bones and damage.
I held her little face, trying to reassure her that she was safe while still feeling utter disbelief that she was ok. When the car flipped the first time, her window smashed and when it flipped the second time, she exited the car.
The car hit us on her side so instead of the seat belt locking at impact it released it as the force was so strong.
Jacob was by my side the whole time; he was in a state of sheer terror.
I unbuckled Myah from her car seat and went back to the car where I took Caleb out of his car seat and Jacob took Rachel out of hers.
I then sat on the wet grass with all four children huddled into me feeling like the luckiest woman alive to have them all here beside me, alive.
The person who was driving the other car was alone. She came to a dead stop when she hit us, not stopping at the crossroad sign or the stop sign. She got out of her car and walked towards me as I was sitting with the four children on the grass verge, she was asking were we ok. I screamed at her ‘get away from us, look what you have done.’ She turned, crying and ran back to her car. I hated her in that moment.
What happened next was a frenzy of passers by helping us.
Jacob retrieved my mobile from the floor of the car and I rang Brian, we were two minutes from home. He arrived on the scene and held us all.
We were all relieved to have him there, it made everything seem less terrifying. He has always been our rock. The Ambulance’s and fire brigades came and we were all taken to hospital.
Rachel’s parents met us at the hospital, thankful that there youngest daughter was ok. They were fantastic and a huge support to me that day and in the coming days and weeks.
The doctor that met us at the hospital thanked me for having the children in the correct car seats as he was in no doubt that it was the car seats that saved them all that morning.
After some X-rays and lengthy observations of the children, the doctors sent us all home, giving each of the children a teddy bear which would become a great comfort in the coming months.
We settled the children into their pyjamas in front of the TV on the sofa. They were very quiet. I was feeling dazed, finding it really difficult to comprehend what had happened that morning.
I kept going over the accident in my head, trying to see if there was something I could have done differently. I wasn’t distracted while I was driving; I wasn’t driving fast, so other than taking a different route I couldn’t have prevented the accident.
The lack of control I felt was overwhelming. I was responsible for keeping my children safe and I didn’t.
Little sleep was had that night, Jacob had night terrors, waking every few hours in a heightened state of fear and finding it difficult to settle down again.
Myah stayed in my bed, she woke frequently, screaming and crying with a look of terror on her face and I couldn’t calm her down.
She would eventually settle with Brian holding her and reassuring her that she was safe. Caleb slept through the night; he didn’t show any signs of emotional trauma for the first week.
When I woke the following morning, every part of my body hurt, I couldn’t move. The pain was overbearing. I cried.
The pain was a shock reminder of what had happened. Brian helped me dress and arranged for the children to go to our friend’s house for a few hours while he took me to the doctors. I was prescribed some pain relief and anxiety medication and ordered to rest.
The following week the children returned to school. Brian stayed home to help me. Jacob and Myah were still having frequent night terrors.
Myah was also having extreme outburst of anger where she would kick and hit me and throw herself to the ground, screaming with all her might.
I began to notice a change in Caleb, he was whining a lot, was very clingy, and over compliant.
His teacher reported he didn’t participate in activities, preferring to sit on her lap and be held. They were wonderful and gave him what he needed to get through his day.
He had a complete personality change to the point his voice was unrecognisable. I realised as their mum I could only do so much, I felt way out of my depth as to how to help them.
A month after the accident Jacob and Caleb began to see a play therapist, separately. Myah was too young. The therapists helped the boys work through their feelings through play and gradually I began to see an improvement.
Both boys continue to see their play therapists. Being in a car unsettles them. Caleb likes his hand to be held while in the car and he gets anxious when we are in a place with a lot of cars such as the city.
He talks often about his understanding of what happened, and as he’s growing up and becoming more articulate by the day he seems to have more questions.
Jacob tells me he is doing fine; when he thinks of the crash he feels like he fell asleep during it. Myah doesn’t have anger outbursts anymore but still has the occasional night terror. Most days she has a meltdown in the car, she cries excessively and through the sobs she says her back is sore.
We calm her down by rubbing her back or distracting her. Our GP believes it’s not physical but psychological to what happened that day. Out of the blue recently she told me that mommy’s car crashed and she was flying and fell into the bushes and the doctor gave her a teddy in the hospital.
I’m still on pain medication daily but only as I require it. Some days are better than others. I wake up in pain but I go about my day doing the usual mommy stuff. I see a physical therapist regularly which has helped immensely.
I don’t like driving anymore; I drive if I have to. Whenever I see a car coming from a side road my chest tightens and I tense up, my stomach in knots.
I used to fall asleep easily but not anymore. Sometimes while I’m falling asleep I’m jolted awake as I see it happening all over again in my mind, and during the day as I’m doing ordinary things it will hit me with such force.
The crash happened and there isn’t a damn thing I can do to change that. I am determined that we will all move on; to laugh more and love more and make some beautiful new memories along the way.