I thought we lost Ethan once. When he was almost two. He was there and then he wasn’t. And as horrible, as heart wrenching, as sick as that feeling makes me feel, I still feel it every single time I think about it.
We were at a family get together at a restaurant. My brother had been working in Hawaii for months – almost a year I think – and he it was for his homecoming. I was 7 months pregnant with the twins, and Ethan was 19 months.
All four of my siblings were there with their children, as well as my parents and a scattering of friends. It was a big group. Since the weather was nice, we chose to sit outside on the patio.
We ate. We laughed. We had fun. The kids ran around. We took lots of pictures. It was a really nice evening.
And one second, Ethan’s over against the railing playing with his cousin. The next second, he is gone.
Totally and completely gone. Disappeared.
I asked Jason if he’d seen him. No but he was just here, he said. WHERE IS ETHAN?, I shouted to everybody. Nobody had seen him.
Jason and my brothers and brothers-in-law all scattered, running through the restaurant and into the bar. Asking people having dinner and the waiters and waitresses if they’d seen a little boy in a blue shirt walk by. None of them had.
At the time, I was 7 months pregnant with the twins and supposed to be on bed rest. Doctor’s orders said no strenuous activity, and to stay off my feet as much as possible. It didn’t matter – I didn’t even think about it. I ran directly into the parking lot.
I remember how the parking lot seemed to endlessly stretch into the horizon in all directions. How empty it seemed, though it must have been packed. No cars driving in or out of it. I remember raising up my face to the sun and thinking, “So this is what it feels like to have a child disappear” as the sun warmed my skin and my tears. I remember running to our car, wondering if he had wandered to it looking for us. Had someone opened the gate between the patio and the parking lot and unknowingly had a toddler follow them out?
I remember my belly feeling so heavy, and how I almost just sunk to my knees. I could hear people yelling “Ethan!” still.
And I remember wondering how I could go on to bring home two new babies when Ethan was gone.
Then I heard Jason yell “Babe, he’s here!”
This all happened within just a few minutes, maybe five at the most, but I remember it feeling like a lifetime. And I had never felt so empty or guilty.
Turns out my dad got up to use the restroom, and Ethan had followed him into the restaurant, so my dad took him into the restroom with him.
I never, EVER want to know that feeling again. EVER. It is an indescribable feeling that makes me nauseous to remember.
Have you ever lost your child? Isn’t it a horrible feeling that no words can describe?