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In An Instant

Original Source: CHICAGO NOW: 19 MAY 2010
Carrie Goldman on 05.19.10 at 8:46 PM

Annie Rose at the zoo earlier in the day

One minute she was there.  We had pulled the kids out of their strollers so we could

ake some pictures of my two girls with my sister's two girls.  After the photo session, the four little girls milled around, three of them sharing a single ice cream cone, while I spent a moment packing up my camera and rearranging my bag.  

I glanced up and asked, "Where is Annie Rose?"

My sister, Jenny, and my cousins, Beth and Janie, turned their heads to scan the area surrounding us.  

I didn't feel scared for the first twenty seconds.  I assumed she was poking around in the stroller basket or looking at an exhibit a few feet away.

When none of us called out, "there she is!" I suddenly felt sick.  The crossover from not feeling worried to feeling panicked happened within seconds.  My legs grew shaky, I couldn't breathe, my eyes spilled over with tears.

"Annie Rose!" I screamed, running frantically in circles, moving faster than I've moved in 35 weeks of pregnancy.  "Annie Rose!"

She was gone.  We were at the zoo, and there were crowds everywhere.  Usually I dress my kids in bright colors when we go on outings to busy public places.  For some reason, today I had pulled out jeans and navy blue T-shirts for both Katie and Annie Rose.  

It occurred to me that anyone could snatch her up, and I would barely be able to distinguish her from an adult clad in jeans and a sweatshirt.  Someone could actually disappear with her.  I wanted to throw up.  

We split up, and I ran blindly.

My cousin Janie was smart, and she headed toward the exit.  She found Annie Rose, who had covered a lot of ground in a short time.  Annie Rose was crying and frightened; I was crying and frightened.  I grabbed that baby and held onto her and thanked God that it ended this way.

For the next hour or so, my autonomic nervous system remained on high alert.  We left the zoo, and during the whole ride home, my breathing was shallow.  My eyes kept watering, and I felt like I was going to break into sobs.  

I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that I had not kept a close enough eye on her.  She didn't get lost.  I lost her.  Three-year-olds wander, and it is my job as her mother to never look away.  In almost seven years of parenting, this has never happened to me.  Why now?

Is it because Katie was my only child for so long, and I could devote my complete attention to her whereabouts every second when she was three years old?  Is it because Katie was adopted, and I am subconsciously aware that someone gave her to me to watch over and I dare not ever glance away?  Was I complacent about Annie Rose?  Or is it simply because I have two kids now and it is impossible to keep my eyes on both of them every minute?

I thought about how many parents must go through this horrible experience every day, and how very lucky we are that nearly all of the kids are found.  

I tortured myself with thoughts of the few moms and dads whose children are not found, and I almost couldn't bear to even imagine such a scenario.  I know that if Annie Rose were still missing, there would be no joy ever again.

And I felt real anger at the parents of young
Madeleine McCann, the British three-year-old who disappeared from a ground floor cottage in 2007 while she was sleeping.  In the McCann case, her parents left the little girl and her twin baby siblings unsupervised while they ate dinner at a restaurant 130 yards away.

I am wracked with guilt for losing track of my child because I was distracted for an instant at

Carrie Goldman

the zoo.  I truly cannot fathom making such an irresponsible, careless decision as to purposely leave my babies unsupervised while I went out to dinner.  The parents of Madeleine McCann are

to blame for the loss of that child.  They betrayed their duty to protect her.

The experience at the zoo reminded me of how awesome the responsibility of parenting is.  Whether we adopt our children or give birth to them, we have entered into a sacred covenant to protect them.  It was unintentional; it was innocent, but the truth is that I glanced away from Annie Rose for an instant too long.  

Grateful does not even touch on how I feel about the way it turned out.  As soon as I saw Annie Rose again, everything was okay.  I glimpsed into the hell that could have been, and I was blessed to return to the heaven that is my life. 


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