Yesterday, I experienced the scariest 5 minutes as a parent to date. I thought I would be able to get this out in writing last night, but it has taken me until now to be able to recover from the panic I felt and the sheer terror that was coursing through my body for the remainder of the day yesterday.
The morning started out so nice. One of my closest friends came over with her 3 kids and we headed to a little community day event. We had hot dogs and the kids played in the playground and we got to chat in little broken bits and pieces (as one does with 5 kids between 2 mamas).
I treated the girls to popsicles and a really fun dance demonstration started about half way into the popsicle-eating. The kids were all invited to come dance and Portia and Madeleine both got right in there. It was so cute watching my little 2.5 year old and 4.5 year old getting into the dancing and stumbling through the moves. It got to be too much for little Madeleine and she came over to me with a popsicle melting down her arm.
I looked over at Portia and noticed her popsicle melting down her arm too as she danced, so I went and relieved her of it. I took Madeleine’s as well, wiped her hands and face with a baby wipe and scanned the area for a garbage bin because now I was the one holding two melting popsicles and dirty wipes.
I turned to walk about 10 steps to the garbage can and by the time I turned back around to walk back to Madeleine, my stomach had already sunk because I couldn’t see her standing beside the stroller where I had left her. I told my friend right away that Madeleine wandered off and she started walking around the park searching frantically too.
A minute turned into two and it was feeling like WAY too much time. I started panicking. And my hands were shaking. I was asking strangers if they had seen my little 2 year old and another way-too-long minute went by. It had now been 3 minutes too long.
The music stopped. The dancing stopped. All I heard over the microphone was “We have a missing child”.
And that missing child was my child. My baby.
Deeper fear crept in and I had enough time to play through every terrible situation every parent has nightmares about.
She fell somewhere and hurt herself. She walked out into traffic. SOMEONE TOOK MY BABY GIRL!!!
I had to get up there in front of about 100 (maybe 150 people), with a trembling voice and admit that I had lost my baby. “She’s blonde. Her name is Madeleine. She’s wearing a blue and white striped shirt. She was right here with me.”
Four sentences a parent never ever wants to announce over a loud-speaker. I promise you that.
“MADELEINE. MADELEINE. MA-DE-LEINE” was all I heard next and through teary, blurred vision, I watched everyone around me jogging around calling my teensiest’s name out. All the adults there. All the little kids there too.
From across the park, I watched a woman running toward me with Madeleine in her arms.
It took every ounce of the being I had left in me to keep my feet planted on the ground and not collapse to my knees. I wanted to break down in a crying, shivering heap but was very aware of the 100+ strangers watching me grab Madeleine from the woman’s arms who found her. All that came out of my mouth was “we found her. Oh my god, we found her”. And I hope I thanked the woman properly, because looking back on it all, I can’t even remember if I did. (If by some random chance you are reading this… THANK YOU THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES OVER THANK YOU!)
I hope no parent ever has to go through what I went through yesterday. The panic, the questioning, the doubt that crept in.
Madeleine had left the park and was walking down the street. I’m wondering if she knew how close we were to home and she decided to try and walk back. I really don’t know. All I know is that for the longest 5 minutes of my life, Madeleine was lost!