The second worst moment of my life
It was horrifying.
My heart stopped beating for the entire 60 seconds I could not find Scarlett. She was snuggled into her big brother's three-sizes-too-big snowsuit, ensconced in her car seat and placed in a shopping cart at Fiesta Farms, a grocery store I frequent - and feel safe in - in the city's west end.
I pulled up alongside a patch of fresh basil in the produce isle, parked the cart an arms-length away - maybe less - then turned around to stuff some herbs into a plastic bag. It wasn't even 10 seconds before I turned back, instinctively reaching out for the cart's handle.
It wasn't there.
What? I swiveled around.
"Where's my baby?" I said, quietly, at first trying to remember how many steps I'd taken since I last saw the cart. Where did I leave it?
It's not in front of me. It's not behind me. It's not down the next aisle. "Where's my baby?" I said louder.
"Where's my baby?" I screamed, scrambling down the aisles, then running through them. "Where's my baby?"
The entire store - other moms shopping, employees unloading produce - stopped and stared at me.
"Where's my baby?" I screamed again, making eye contact with everyone who came into my line of sight.
My chest felt empty.
"Here's your baby," I heard a woman say meekly.
"I. Am. So. Sorry.," she said. "Here she is. I have her."
The lady - a nice lady - wheeled around to meet me stumbling down an aisle with organic mushrooms. She was also buying herbs and didn't notice that she'd wandered off with the wrong cart. She seemed almost as scared as me.
I'm so tired these days I could have wandered off with someone else's cart too.
"I'm so sorry," she said again. "When I heard you screaming for your baby I looked down and realized I had the wrong cart."
It's okay. "It's okay," I said. The anxiety bubbled into my head and pushed against my tear ducts as I took hold of the cart and looked at Scarlett, who was still sleeping - through the whole thing.
It was the second worst moment of my life. The first was last spring at the zoo. Ted and I each thought the other parent was watching Hudson when he wandered off. For about three minutes we couldn't find him. I was pregnant with Scarlett and running down a stretch of pavement on one of the zoo's paths when I spotted his little yellow t-shirt and grabbed him.
I was never going to let anything like that happen again. I won't ever again.
"That was the most horrible thing I've ever seen," a woman I didn't know said to me a few minutes after Scarlett and I were reunited today. Her hand was at her heart. "Can I give you a hug?
"Okay," I said, stunned. "Thank you. I... thank you."