Monday, December 17, 2012

Empty and full

There’s no QWA this week. I just didn’t feel comfortable writing a post about how wonderful, cute and sweet my son is after so many parents recently lost their children.

Here in California, I couldn’t be physically farther away from the tragedy in Connecticut, but as a mother, it feels so close. Our love for our children unites all parents, and we all felt the impact of last Friday’s events.

That could’ve happened anywhere. What if that was my child’s classroom…?

Per usual, I heard the news via Facebook, my sole periscope peering up from the rock under which I live most of the time. Then the story was everywhere I turned. From stunned, to incredulous, to gut-wrenched, my emotional response was reminiscent of the morning of September 11, 2001.

No. This can’t be real. No. They’re just babies…

In the twenty-one months since Quinn was born, I’ve had to shield him from my tears on numerous occasions, never wanting to upset him by seeing me cry. I haven’t always been successful, but I managed to hold it together on Friday.

After Hubs returned home on Thursday night from an eleven-day business trip, part of which was overseas, he decided to come home from work early on Friday. Quinn was still napping when Hubs tiptoed in. He had been with customers all day and hadn’t heard what happened, and he could tell immediately that something was wrong. It’s rare that I learn news before Hubs does, and the tears I’d been holding back finally fell as I shared the story. Speaking the words out loud added reality to the events.

Children are dead…

Hubs held me in his arms and whispered, “Quinn is safe. He’s asleep in his bed. He is safe.”

But is he really? How safe is any child anymore? After this?

Morbid thoughts invade my brain, and I think about all the emptiness left behind in the wake of this tragedy. The classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary sit empty today, no longer bursting with laughter and activity. Twenty children’s beds are empty now, as are their parents’ arms.

In the emptiness, I’m full of grief for those parents whose loss is beyond comprehension. I’m filled with gruesome thoughts I can’t turn off. I imagine how terrified those children must have been in their final moments, and my heart aches. I’m full of sadness when I think about the unopened presents under their Christmas trees and the gifts from Santa that remain hidden away in closets and under beds.

I’m full of anger for the futures of the children who survived this tragedy and the innocence they’ve lost. How have they been permanently traumatized by these events? Did those gunshots somehow alter who these children were on their way to becoming? Will they ever be the same?

I’m full of doubt and fear as Hubs and I slowly begin to discuss the prospect of having a second child. I barely stayed on this side of the brink after Quinn was born. This intense love I never knew existed caused me to do crazy things and think crazy thoughts.

It’s a good thing Quinn isn’t old enough to be in school yet. I would definitely keep him home today, and probably tomorrow… and probably the next day…

I know that’s the irrationality of a first-time-parent talking, and maybe if we have a second child, I won’t have postpartum depression and anxiety at all. But as soon as I start to think I might be capable of giving Quinn a sibling, something happens to change my mind. This school shooting has been hard to recover from. 

How can I possibly keep two children safe?

All that love might drive me insane. 

Matt wanted to put Quinn to bed on Friday night. I didn’t want Q out of my sight, but after being gone for so long and after the day’s tragedy, I thought Hubs might really need that bonding time with Q. So I kissed them both and went to the gym for some stress relief. I tried to lift weights, but my heart was already so heavy. So I jumped onto the elliptical machine and tried to run through my anger and grief. I ran for an hour. I ran until my side cramped up.

My anger and grief were waiting for me at the end of my run.

The line of televisions on the wall all played news coverage from the shooting. All except one.

One TV played Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and I cracked a small smile. I hope some families out there found comfort and joy in that holiday classic after a tragic day. I hope those parents looked at their children laughing on the sofa, or giggling amid a pile of pillows and blankets on the floor in front of the TV, and said a prayer of gratitude.

I definitely did.