Monday, March 20, 2006

The Day I Lost the Baby

I was recently reminded that it was about this time of year, fifteen years ago, that I lost the baby. Now, I don't mean one of those sad perinatal losses - I mean I lost the baby, as in I misplaced her.

This was back when I only had two children: darling CharmingChild (before he morphed into DestructoBoy) and sweet Princess PeachFuzz (before she became Princess BroccoliTop and later Princess BunHead). Charming Child was 16 months old and Princess PF was 3 months old, so we had a double stroller. The monstrosity weighed more than a VW Beetle, but it allowed one child to ride behind the other, and it had a full faux-leather canopy and a fabric mesh basket that ran the entire length of the undercarriage.

So on this particular day, we were leaving a large department store. I placed CharmingChild in the front seat, and put Princess PF in the rear seat, reclined. It was a sunny day and we had quite a lengthy walk to our vehicle, so I put the canopy up and off we went. Princess PF was nicely shaded and I could just see the top of CharmingChild's fuzzy little head at the edge of the canopy.

When we got to our minivan, I parked the stroller and went to open the sliding side door. This was back in the Dark Ages when minivans 1) had only one side door, 2) had no remote locking system, and 3) were as ugly as homemade sin. Anyway. I got the door unlocked and opened, and turned to take my children out of the stroller, when I discovered that Princess PF was gone. No baby in the back seat. No baby in the front seat.

Whaaa????? I looked back at the route we'd taken through the parking lot. Surely she didn't fall out? Wouldn't I have heard her cry? And besides, the pudgy little wailer couldn't even roll over yet, unless all that breastmilk had suddenly kicked in to turn her into an athletic prodigy, and she'd vaulted out of the stroller. But another quick search of the lot assured me she hadn't fallen out.

Had someone grabbed her in the 5 seconds it took me to open the van? I didn't think so. I hadn't heard footsteps or an engine. And CharmingChild, who could talk the ears off a herd of elephants, had been pretty quiet. If someone had approached the stroller, he would have launched into his regular routine of "Hiya! Hiya! That's my sister. Do you have a snack? I have juice. My mommy's right there. I like alligators. Do you have an alligator? I have an alligator on my blankie. Where's your car? ....."

So what in the world had happened to the baby?!

In desperation, I got down on my hands & knees to look under the van, thinking perhaps she really had fallen out of the stroller and was under the vehicle. No baby. But when I turned my head the opposite direction, there she was. Princess PF was quietly and calmly lying in the mesh basket under the stroller, as if it were the most normal thing in the world to have one's backside suspended 1/2 inch off the ground in a flimsy, swaying cargo hold, while gazing upwards towards one's brother's diapered bottom.

Relief was quickly replaced with alarm. Had anyone seen me toting my baby through the parking lot in the basket? What would they think? Was CPS on its way? Was I going to be the feature story on the six o'clock news? Without further delay, I buckled both children into their car seats, threw the stroller into the back of the van, and took off. I don't think I've been back to that store since.

Oh, and Princess PeachFuzz was none the worse for the experience. Except that now she has a weird phobia about hammocks.

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