When I saw the story in my newsfeed, I almost didn’t click it.
The headlines were horrific—a young mother discovering her infant son unresponsive in his crib, a favorite blanket, handmade by his grandmother especially for him, wrapped around his head. Seven months old, put down for a nap with a kiss and a cuddle, and then—gone.
A parent’s worst nightmare.
Seven month old babies should be learning to clap, delighting in endless games of pat-a-cake. They should be rocking back and forth on all fours, toying with the idea of crawling across the floor and into a whole new world of adventure and discovery. They should be blowing raspberries and smearing peas all over high chair trays, flashing gummy smiles and doling out wet, open-mouthed kisses.
Seven month old babies aren’t supposed to close their sleepy eyes and never open them again.
I have a seven month old myself, a beautiful, joyful little girl. And she’s reached such a fun age, learning so many new things every minute of every day that I can practically see her brain growing.
I cannot imagine having it all taken away.
What I can imagine is the mother of this baby, breathing a sigh of relief as she clicked the door shut behind her sleeping baby. Maybe he fussed all morning, or kept her up all night cutting a new tooth. She was grateful, probably, for a few minutes of quiet, maybe looking forward to an overdue shower. It’s a scene that’s played a thousand times in my own life—in yours, probably, too.
That’s what leaves me so unsettled, so tempted to scroll past the story unread. This mother is me. She’s you. She’s all of us.
And she, to borrow a line from Hamilton, is going through the unimaginable.
There’s a lie we tell ourselves as parents, I think, that says if we don’t give bad thoughts space in our heads, they won’t materialize. Tragedy is best kept at arm’s length, boxed up neatly inside our newsfeed, because the alternative—the reality that it can happen to us—is unthinkable.
Accidents happen. Tragedy strikes, and death comes knocking. We can’t prevent it, and we certainly can’t predict it.
But what we can do is read these stories. We can open the links, look into the faces of the mothers and babies and friends and strangers, and we can offer support through our solidarity. We can extend grace instead of judgment. We can lift up prayers in place of passivity.
And, we can hug our babies a little tighter, because every day, every moment, is truly a gift.