After a full day of work for both me and my husband, an almost full day of daycare for our 14-month old, two stops for gas and food, and unexpected traffic, we had been driving for over seven hours on our way to Dallas. Once we hit hour six which really was around 9pm, my husband asked us to switch and for me to drive the remainder of the trip into Grand Prairie, Texas to visit family. Our 14-month old was doing pretty good for her first road trip, I must say. When my husband and I switched driver seats, he went to the back where he could close his eyes in the back and hopefully go to sleep for a bit. To his dismay, the baby was at that point of no return where she was ready to be out of the car seat so no sleeping for him. As she kicked, screamed and hollered in the back seat I tried to verbally console her but if you all know this was the literally the “point of no return” where nothing was helping. There was no magic word, electronic, snack, drink, toy, or anything that would make her feel better for the last hour. Unfortunately, we were driving on an interstate in the middle of the night that was down to one lane and full of construction. After about five minutes of the loud screaming and crying, she was at the point where she was starting to cough and choke on her own tears and snot. So, we did the unthinkable, the thing that we said we would not do – we took her out of her car seat while we were still driving.
All mothers or fathers have had that thing that they said they would never do before the child was born and then over time you either became more relaxed with those restrictions or you are put in situations where those “never will I (blank)” things are your only choices.
In our eyes, taking her out of the car seat while we were still driving on the interstate was the only option. After holding her and consoling her in the back for some time, she of course fell asleep on my husband and we enjoyed silence for a while. However, we were trying to be responsible and put her back in the car seat but as soon as her cheek left his chest she started crying again. Reluctantly he kept holding her on his chest until she fell asleep again and I was left with him and her in the back of the car sleep.
Once we were getting closer, I let our family know that we were about 20 -30 minutes out from arriving at their house. We were out of the traffic and it was just my car and a few other cars passing us on the interstate. After all, it was almost midnight at this point. All of a sudden as I am going down a small hill on the interstate, I start seeing brake lights and then I am starting to roll over debris in the roadway. I start slowing down and those brake lights that I just saw a few seconds ago start to disappear because those cars are now dodging something in the roadway.
Out of my peripheral vision I can see a pickup truck to the left of me turned the opposite direction of us with no lights on.
From what I could see, the truck looked like it had been hit on the side. When I glance back in front of me, I see an 18-wheeler truck in front of me at a dead stop with blinking lights. Now let me pause and tell you that while the speed limit is 75 mph on this particular interstate, vehicles are really going 85 mph. So imagine coming to an almost immediate stop after going down a hill in a downward direction and now your vehicle is what others are dodging. I was essentially stuck behind this 18-wheeler truck with cars flying on either side of us. At this point my husband could feel the car stopped and had woken up. Normally he is a calm, cool and collected person when it comes to driving scenarios but I could hear it in his voice when he said “Bae, don’t move.” He could see me looking through my rearview mirror and my side mirrors to take any chance to drive around the truck to just get out of this situation. There were cars flying on either side of us just to avoid us and I was just praying that these people were paying attention when they came down this hill because if not, they would be hitting us before they realized what was going on.
In addition to the fact that people were flying around us, I could now see in the rearview mirror that another 18-wheeler was coming down the hill and I could hear the truck braking so hard that the truckload was starting to swerve sideways. At this point I am internally freaking out because all I could think is “we are about to become another statistic of an accident where you hear that a child was involved and was not properly restrained.” I could see my husband in the backseat with a look of fear that we were either about to be hit from behind with so much force or that if we even try to take a chance and go around this truck someone else going 85 mph would hit us even harder from behind.
We were in an unthinkable situation where you have to make some type of decision and fast!
All of a sudden my husband says “Bae, when I say go, just go.” In that split second decision with the other 18-wheeler still braking so hard we were seeing sparks now, I heard my husband say “GO!” At that moment everything I was taught in driver’s education classes and while I was learning to drive went out of the window because I trusted when he said “GO” and I did not look in my rearview mirror or my side mirrors to “double check” him and make sure that nothing was coming. I turned the wheel and hit the gas so hard that I learned the true meaning of the saying “pedal to the medal.” I’m pretty sure that I left skid marks on the road when I hit my gas. Thankfully there weren’t any cars coming and we were able to get out of that situation. My husband and I could not sleep that night and I spent the whole night trying to research accidents that happened that night on that interstate because I’m pretty sure another accident happened after us.
I’m not proud of taking our child out of the car seat while we were still driving on this road trip, but I had to make a decision in the moment to comfort her. I hope this story resonates with another mother to realize that we all make decisions we are not proud of but you have to make a decision in certain moments, right or wrong. Thankfully this specific decision resulted in me having the ability to tell my story.