For the past two years, I have struggled to put into words how becoming a mother has changed the way I view the world. I’ve written, and subsequently deleted, several posts on the topic.
Once Ryan took a breath outside of my body, a worry grew in me that I had never known before. The first time he slept through the night, I woke to a sunlit room and bolted to his crib, frantically chanting still-be-breathing-still-be-breathing-still-be-breathing to myself the whole way.
It didn’t end there. I worried that bad fevers wouldn’t break, that one day I would forget I had him with me and would leave him in the hot car. I worry about car accidents and childhood cancer and pools that aren’t gated. And guns. Guns have gone to the very top of the list.
News like we all heard out of Connecticut
this week is the very highest level of horror for a parent. I’ve been a mom long enough that I don’t quite remember how news like this would have affected me before. I know I would have been appalled. I’m sure I would have cried.
But as a parent? Oh, God.
I thought about how Ryan ran back to me for one last hug that morning because he knows how much I love it when he does that. I thought about how I called out a quicker-than-usual goodbye to my guys and shut the door because I was running late and still had to blow-dry my hair. I thought about the wrapped Christmas gifts piled in my bedroom and how I’d been wanting to drive Ryan around the neighborhood to see the Christmas light displays.
What if never saw him again?
Unthinkable. Unlivable. Impossible.
But it’s not impossible. It’s the truth for twenty families. Forty parents don’t get to see their kids’ faces light up on Christmas morning. They don’t get to watch them perform in a school play, they won’t teach them how to drive, they won’t lug boxes into their college dorm rooms. They are robbed of so much pride and happiness. And that morning, they had no idea their entire reality was about to change.
They probably didn’t take an extra five seconds to hug a little harder than usual or pay extra attention to the sound of a little voice calling “bye-bye, mommy!” They didn’t get to hold their children when they were scared and tell them everything would be ok. They didn’t have the option to sacrifice themselves in place of their kids. They just lost them. They went to work or they went Christmas shopping or they went to a meeting and while they did mundane things, their children died.
Those kids should have come home with backpacks full of homework and secret notes written from classmates and a rejected apple from lunch. Instead, their backpacks sat empty in a classroom, mere feet away from their little bodies.
My heart is in a hundred million pieces. I can’t stop thinking about those babies – they were really just babies – and their families and the whole community. I can’t stop thinking how there are no guarantees that Ryan is mine forever. Maybe I get to keep him until the day I die (please-please-please), but maybe not.
The truly terrifying thing is this: I could be the best mother in the world (I mean, does it get any better than this Dad?), and Ryan could still become very, very hurt. Or very, very sick. Or very, very dead. At any moment and for no good reason.
Changes need to be made. We cannot protect our children from everything. But we can stand up and voice our opinions. And that is what I will do.
In the meantime, for those interested in helping the families of Newtown, here are a few options:
The Emilie Parker Fund Facebook Page
The United Way Sandy Hook School Support Fund
The Newtown Memorial Fund
The Newtown Parent Connection