I was about six months pregnant. My belly was big, but I was feeling good. I had energy and was happy to be spending a few hours alone with my toddler.
I had just dropped off my other son at his preschool and decided to go shopping with my toddler for a few hours. We were having a great time. We rode the escalator, we shared a pretzel and we pointed to colors and shapes that we saw in the mall. Then I decided to walk into a clothing store to look at kids’ clothes.
As I looked, my son continued to compete for my attention. “Look at me, Mama!” he would say as he tried to hide behind the clothes. “I see you,” I said, with only one quick glance up. “Oh, this shirt is SO cute! Do they have a 4T?” I became distracted by looking at all the cute little boy and baby clothes - so distracted that for a few seconds, I didn’t realize that my son was no longer hiding in the clothes next to me.
My thoughts snapped back to reality and I looked up. I didn’t see him. I called his name. No answer. We were in the middle of the store so I quickly moved up toward the entrance, calling his name and trying to look behind displays. When I reached the front of the store, I still couldn’t find him. I ran back to the display where I was when I realized that he was gone. There was a salesperson putting more clothes out. She had been there the whole time. “Did you see my little boy?!” I asked her loudly and in a panic.
“Uh, no,” she answered. She started to say something else but I couldn’t hear her. For a moment, I felt like the store was spinning and my stomach felt like I might throw up. I started searching again for him, making my way back toward the entrance of the store, this time pushing past people. I was looking behind hanging clothes, pushing them right out of the way where other women were looking. It was rude, yes. But it was because my son was missing.
Each time I called for him, my voice became louder and was beginning to crack. Two store employees ran up to me. “What is he wearing?!” one woman asked me. They stared at me but I couldn’t answer. No words were coming out of my mouth. “WHAT DOES HE LOOK LIKE?!” she asked me firmly this time.