The only reason I am reliving this moment and documenting this horrible event, is because I want Hannah to read this one day and comprehend how she nearly caused her mother to have a stroke, on the spot.
Remember this post about zoo. So it was about 4pm, we were all winding down and I’ll admit that my wits were not at their sharpest after a long day at the zoo. No excuse though. Colleen was pushing Jordan in his pram, Darren was pushing the two boys in the go kart, Byron was pushing Hannah in the stroller, and I was… well I was carrying my camera or stuffing my face with chips or something. Ha! Hannah wasn’t buckled into her stroller; and we were ok with her popping in and out of it, to get closer to the “aminals” or to go for a little run or to go and pick some flowers. As I remember it, the guys went to the loo, and the kids were running around us. When they returned, the boys jumped back into the go kart and I assumed that Hannah had jumped back into the pram. But she didn’t. On we walked, chatting and laughing and discussing our next destination. I can’t be sure, but I know it was over 5 minutes later when Byron asked “where’s Hannah?”
Nothing I write here will clearly articulate how I felt or how my mind and body reacted in the moments that followed. First I looked into the pram, as if Byron hadn’t don’t so already. Then my ears went deaf. You know when everything sort of sounds like you’re under water. My heart was pumping and my spit was warm and liquidy – you know how saliva feels just before you are going to vomit. We had probably walked about 30 metres from where I remember us last being together. She was nowhere to be seen. We were now at the top of a hill, I looked far down the hill and couldn’t see her. But I was paralysed. Byron and Darren started running back towards the direction we had come from, but I just stood there. Like an idiot. I had no idea what to do. After what felt like forever, I eventually looked at Colleen and I think I told her that I needed to go and look for Hannah, I can’t even remember what I said now. And then I took off running. I was thinking about Maddie. You know Maddie who disappeared from her parents hotel room. Really? I was thinking about her? Now?! Then Byron came walking around the corner, WITHOUT Hannah, and I felt like crying but two steps behind came Darren carrying my Hannah. I can’t even say I felt relief because I was still feeling weak and the adrenaline was still gushing. Of course the mood lightened and we were laughing and joking and Hannah got back into the pram, nonplussed, but I still felt like I needed to pee or poo, or vomit or do all three things simultaneously.
They say that Hannah was happily spinning one of those Ola ice cream boards, not a care in the world. Later I watched her at Papachino’s. She wandered off and had a conversation with a woman, who then picked her up and put her on one of those zebra rocking toys. She was quite happy to let a complete stranger pick her up and chat to her. And she stayed there for a long while! Not once did she look back to see where we were, or if her mom or dad were still around; she is just at that age where the world is just perfect, where everyone is a friend and where no one can harm her. Which is wonderful and beautiful to watch, her childlike innocence is refreshing. But like Maddie, children can be taken without a trace and their innocence misused and abused.
I cannot imagine, or begin to comprehend the earth shattering tragedy of losing a child… in whatever way… death or kidnapping. This experience has left me feeling so very unsettled. I haven’t become psycho-mom who won’t let her kids out of sight, but it has jarred me into once again realizing what a gargantuan task I have in being a mom. If something had happened to Hannah in this instance, it would have been my fault, it would have been down to my own carelessness. Hannah is a little baby who relies solely and utterly on me for her full and total well being. I mean that is HUGE. And I’m not beating myself up here, parents aren’t perfect and mistakes will happen but in the grand scheme of things we have this huge responsibility to grow and nurture and care for these little helpless beings. Come on, that’s BIG!
So while I enjoy parenting and all that comes with it, this was my reminder that I’ve been charged with a huge task, one which I yearned for and fully accepted, and while I can’t be everywhere, all the time, I need to have my wits about me 24/7 if I don’t want to stuff this parenting thing up. It may sound unrealistic and unfair to the normal adult, but it’s the truth for parents. Baby comes first. No matter what.