Someone’s baby

On our way home last night, after picking Evan up from my parents’  house, my husband and I had a brief exchange about a recent tragedy in our area. Three teenagers, two of them siblings, were killed in a car crash on Friday night.

In the darkness, with the radio barely audible and waves of yellow light from passing cars illuminating us briefly, our conversation was peppered with words including, “sad”, “terrible”, and “unimaginable.”

There was a time when I could discuss loss without feeling like the air was being sucked out of me. Since becoming a mother, when I hear about a death, any death, I am rendered weak. I feel a lump in my throat, and one singular thought pervades.

That was someone’s baby.

I could drop to the floor, and cry, and become lost in that thought if I let myself. I am convinced that as we bond with our children, a switch is turned on inside us that was perhaps inaccessible before. Turning on that switch allows us to have an immense, deep, all-consuming love for our child, but it also activates a unique vulnerability, and compassion for others.

I knew that having a baby would bring me closer to my own family, but I didn’t realize how much more connected I would feel with humanity as a whole. I’ll say it — motherhood turned me into a complete sap.

I find it almost impossible to watch the news now. Stories of child abuse and neglect, young men in war who fell victim to a road side bombings, violent crimes and unexpected tragedies are just too much for me to hear. Everything comes back to that one thought, and it just won’t leave my mind.

No matter what, no matter how life may have shaped a person for the good or bad, he or she, and each of us, was once someone’s sweet, perfect, precious baby.

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44 comments

  1. I can relate. Since having my son 11 1/2 months ago I find my heart ripping out of my body every time I hear a baby/child cry and nobody does nything about it. I want to yell “HELLO??????? This child needs something!!!!” I feel like the baby/child needs to feel secure and no matter what the reason is, they cannot control their emotions and need security. My son has changed my whole world and I could NEVER allow him to feel unsafe or for him to feel like he does have to me to come to and hug and to feel safe.

  2. What a horrible tragedy…having the “air sucked out” is exactly what is felt.
    It makes you hug those around you a little closer for a little longer!

  3. My kids are 12 12 and 13 and every time I hear something like this my heart weeps. It’s that maternal instinct we get upon giving birth that goes out to every other mother that suffers tragedy. I look forward to the day when the news is filled with good stories about children…sad thing is, no one reports it.

  4. Reading this just made me tear up. So true.

  5. I completely agree that now that I’ve had kids, I am a lot more sentimental when I hear of the ‘bad’ in this world- whether it be on kids or not. I just don’t like the thought of my kids growing up in such a world where bad things happen to anyone.

  6. I feel the same way. My biggest fear is something happening to my children…I don’t know how I’d survive it.

  7. Very well put.

  8. I feel exactly the same way. It can almost be debilitating if I let myself think of these tragedies too long. Saying that, I can’t even imagine being the parent, grandparent, sibling of “someone’s baby”.

  9. I’m with you on this… since having my daughter I get so emotional when I hear about tragedies that affect kids..this includes chronic illness like cancer. Or if I read about someone losing a baby the same age as mine to SIDS, it breaks my heart!

  10. I totally relate to this feeling, but I want to learn how to come out on the other side of it. Right now, I am choosing to bury my head in the sand and ignore sad news. It’s just the truth. I don’t watch the news. I won’t watch sad/tragic movies. I just can’t stomach it, and that really started happening after having a child. While I don’t think my ultimate goal is to become a CNN junkie or anything, how do we come out on the other side of this, where we are embracing this deep emotion that motherhood gives us, and the anguish we feel when we hear about “someone’s baby” (I really do think that exact same thing). How do we not just run away and pretend that the sadness isn’t there? Because ultimately that isn’t really a sustainable (or responsible?) response to the hurts of the world, either. Does this make sense?

  11. I was a fairly new mom (my son was a little over a year old) when my sister tragically lost both of her sons (4 & 6) in a house fire. I knew my sister was going through the most painful experience she would ever have to endure but in it all she had her two daughters (one was fighting for her life in the hospital) my sister couldn’t move. She was so overcome with grief that she literally couldn’t pick herself up. He layed on the lawn in front of what used to be their home and wept. In my trying to help and thinking about the girls I said to her “Nikki, pull yourself together, the girls need their Mom right now” I will never forget the blow I got when she said back to me “Your son is alive, mine aren’t. Until Lewie is gone you can’t tell me how to act.” Right then and there it all changed. I couldn’t judge her, I knew that if I was in that situation I would be every bit a mess as she was. As the older sister, I was just trying to get my sister to see what she had and not what she lost but I soon learned that it takes time and we all deal with our grief differently. I don’t know that a parent ever gets over the loss of a child but they can use their experience to help others get through it as my sister has. She is an amazingly strong woman and I admire her for all she has been through and where she is today.
    I too avoid stories that are about the death of young people, I don’t watch the news ever. It’s too heartbreaking. It is also a reminder tell our children everyday how much we love them and be thankful for what we have.

  12. I feel similar, I can’t even bear to think of any child being hurt in any way!

  13. I hear you! I don’t even think “What if that were my child…” It’s just an automatic empathy for the suffering of children, be it abuse or neglect, or a tragedy, or bullying, you name it. It always gets me upset.

  14. I totally agree with your post … after I had my first child I could no longer watch one of my favorite shows, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Too many shows about terrible things done to children.

  15. Crissy I have the same feelings you too. I have had 3 friends from high school loose children in the last year (2 tragic accidents and 1 was a sweet 4 year old with a heart defect.) I just could not stop thinking about them. I still think of them often now.

    I now find myself tearing up at almost every tragic news story. I don’t watch the news at all. I think we develop a new sense of compassion when we become moms.

  16. I feel the same way. I remember watching a movie when I was pregnant where a little girl was killed and I could feel my daughter doing somersaults inside of me. I started to tear up and I looked over at my husband and he had tears running down his face. For a long time he didn’t say anything and when he finally did all he said was “Being a parent changes everything”.

  17. Pass the Kleenex! This is exactly what goes through my head whenever I hear about any tragedy.
    ANY. TRAGEDY.
    The person or people involved were, once, someone’s baby. The guy who killed someone, the one who was killed… They were BOTH someone’s perfect little one at some point.

  18. I do agree with you Crissy- i worry about my children all the time! I have had friends pass away when i was in high school and my heart goes out to their parents!
    The other day i found myself saddened by the other aspect of this- being the child watching a dear, loved, helpless parent go through the un-imaginable. Life shortened and many years taken away by alzheimer’s- and for this one paticular mother it struck her at the very young age of 55. Her daughter who is in her early thirtys now with young children of her own, came to visit her mother at the facility where i work at and have for four year now. The daughter was attempting to feed her mother lunch and as i and another employee move her mother up in her chair for proper positioning the daughter looks at me and say “i think i’m upsetting mom- she doesn’t recognize me but she is calling me mom and crying.” I then look at her mother and she is crueled up into a ball patting her knees and tears just rolling down her face. It then hit me so hard that i began to choke up myself and told the daughter that it is not her fault, there is no way that her visiting would ever intentionally hurt her mother! As i walked away down the hall i began to cry and couldn’t imagine her loss- yes her mother is still in physical form with her but mentally has no concept of who she is nor any memory verbally spoken between them. I have three children and i do believe that i am a good mother, willing to do anything to make her children happy. I am certain that her mother was the same- i have known the daughter for four years now and being a social worker family history is part of my job. I felt so much loss for this daughter and struggle to aid her when i know that this is so hard for her. I hope that i never put my children through this- i know that it is no one’s fault but i pray that i spare my children this pain. Thousands of families are going through this and my hearts go out to them.

  19. Shanna, I am so sorry about your sister-in-law, so sad. And yes, I am in Chillicothe.

  20. Remember when the tsunami hit a few years ago. I heard a story about a mom who was with her two kids. She had to let the older one go or all three of them were going to drown. (They all survived.) The story was heartbreaking and all I could think of was what would I have done in her place.

  21. I agree. Children are the precious. It’s hard to hear stories like that. I got teary eyed reading the responses.

  22. I too have a very hard time reading about tragedies. I always did but even more so now as a mom. I don’t even attempt to read anything involving children under the age of 13.

  23. You’ll be suprised at the bond between a mother and her child gets stronger. My wife would do ANNYTHING for her childtren and being such an emotional person, she feels anyone’s pain when it comes to kids. JUST LIKE YOU.

  24. I often find myself thinking the same thing when faced with news of the unimaginable!

  25. I couldn’t agree with you more. Now when I hear of loss, or even of children that are fighting with disease, it hurts to the core. I become very emotional and pray that my babies never have to experience such a thing. Hearing of abused or missing children stays in my thoughts for days rather than a passing minute while reading the news.

    Being a mom makes us more compassionate and shows us a completely different love.

  26. I KNOW. I can’t even watch the news. I read it online, so I can totally avoid all the baby violence and keep up with things like politics, which are important. I mean, it’s totally irresponsible to live under a rock, but I just can’t handle these kinds of stories without bear hugging my babies (which they are rather used to at this point.) I’m so glad you are having that Kitchen Aid contest- I really enjoy your writing.

  27. I totally agree. I couldn’t have wrote it any better. I find it impossible to watch movies and shows that harm children. I’m a lot more sensative in general but extra emotion when it comes to children. And so is my husband. He is nor
    ally always straight faced and seemingly uneffected by things most people are, but since becoming a dad he can’t even watch his favorite CSI and Law and Order type shows if it relates to child crimes. He literally looks sick and changes the channel. Even watching Paranormal Activity 2 the other night was turned into multiple questions of turning it off. The child wasn’t even harmed but was the subject of the “ghosts” wanting and it freeeaked us out. That is the most sensative I ever see my husband, when kids are involved. And I just turn into a crying mess. I was a ball curled on the couch in my husbands lap while watching a documentary about a mom and dad stranded for around 9 days in a car in the snow. She breast fed her infant and 4 year old to keep them alive and I LOST it when she told about her darkest moment when she realized her infant had stopped smiling and babbling.

  28. I think too much of thoughts like this, and it saddens me & makes me scared! Mostly at night when I’m in bed… I think about diseases my family or I could get, people dying, child abuse, torture, etc…and it really gets to me. I know it sounds strange, but I think you get it.

  29. Yep, I completely relate. Our daughter is not yet 1 and now, I can hardly stand to watch the news. I’ll read the headlines just to stay abreast of what’s going on in the world, but anything beyond that depresses me. The world suddenly seemed so much more depraved the moment I had someone innocent and vulnerable to protect. It breaks my heart and makes me want to cry!

  30. Not just mothers feel this way. I get upset and feel so bad for the parents of these families when something so tragic happens. I often ask, “Why? Why did these young lives have to be taken so soon?” Death is a part of life, we all know that. But when the lives of someone young is cut short, it’s like a part of you dies. I may not know the teens who died but I am still hurting over their loss. There’s that big “What if?” that comes into play but it’s a what if that will never be answered.

    I know it’s different between a child and a spouse, but I know that each day my husband leaves for work something could happen. Losing him would be nothing short of devastating. I imagine if I had a child I would be devastated as well.

    Three lives gone that should not be gone in the first place. So incredibly sad.

  31. I feel that way too. Two months ago a cousin of mine was killed in a car accident. He was 18, we were close. All I could keep thinking was he’ll never get to ___. The things his mom will never get to experience with him. It was one of the most terrible things I’ve had to go through. In February his daughter was born, she’ll never get to meet her daddy. It is absolutely tragic.

  32. I understand completely what you mean. My daughter was born not even a month before Hurricane Katrina, and I would literally break down in tears at the sight of children suffering — particularly beautiful little brown babies who looked like my own. Motherhood absolutely unleashed in me a kind of empathy that I never knew existed.

  33. My best friend was killed 3 weeks after our college graduation. She was hit by a 4 time offending drunk driver. I have this memory of her mother’s cries that still (it will be 15 years in May) rings through my ears saying, “my baby” while draping her body across the casket. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I pray to God nightly for protection over my children. I am with you, there is no greater loss than that of a child.

    • Melanie, I had a friend from high school who was killed by a repeat offender drunk driver as well. It was absolutely terrible, but I really think the gravity of her passing sunk in even deeper for me after I had a child.

  34. yes i get these feelings all the time. and i dont watch news. it pains me to read these online! so you arent alone!

  35. I completely agree with you and feel 10000000% the same way!!

  36. I could’t have said better!.. I agree 100%

  37. i agree. having a child ignites a love that we never knew existed. But it also opens us up to so much fear and pain.

  38. I am the same exact way. I cry at everything and I certainly don’t need to know the person to start hysterically crying about their death. It breaks my heart. I had a little girl 15 months ago today and if anything were to ever happen to her, I would be lifeless, without a doubt. I don’t see how people go on. This recent story had me in complete tears – sobbing that I couldn’t even repeat it to my husband without sobbing again!

    http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/pilot-delays-takeoff-dying-year-olds-grandfather/story?id=12611342

  39. I can totally relate to your feelings. I am a very emotional person, but ever since becoming a mother to 2 absolutely amazing boys – I lose it every time I hear about kids being abused or anything similar. Just recently I was watching Dr. Phil and saw the “Hot Sauce” mom on there, I had to change the channel because I just couldn’t hold it together. They showed her making the child swish hot sauce in his mouth and then take a cold shower, you could hear the heart piercing screams – it was horrible. He is only 7 years old!! I was a mess, a basket case over how this little boy was treated. I really dont know how I would react if anything ever happened to my boys, a mothers love is unlike any other.

  40. I agree, Crissy. I haven’t watched the news on TV in more than 15 years because I just can’t. I get so emotional over the deaths reported by the newscasters–mostly because all they seem to care about is that it is “NEWS”. Well, it isn’t just news when someone dies–it is a family torn apart, lives shattered, the end of someone who was dear to their friends and family. And the reporters just continue to stick a microphone in the faces of these grieving people for the sake of “getting a scoop.” I just can’t bear to see how they uncaringly intrude on people at their most vulnerable. It was someone’s child, no matter how old they were.

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