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
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
"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
McCann, the British three-year-old who disappeared from a
ground floor cottage in 2007 while she was sleeping. In the McCann
parents left the little girl and her
twin baby siblings
unsupervised while they ate dinner at a
130 yards away.
I am wracked with guilt for losing track of my child because I was
distracted for an instant at
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
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.