When Prince died, I distinctively remember trying to actively stop my mind from racing. I had been a toddler Mama, and with that comes a complete change in your brain – at least that is how it felt. From the moment Prince was born, I never stopped thinking about where he was. When he became mobile, however, it became almost impossible to get my brain to think about just one thing. If it was silent, I would always be looking around identifying potential hazards or wondering where he might have crawled off to.
As so many mothers who have lost children can likely relate to, when your child dies your brain does not stop acting as that child’s mother. When Prince died, my mind raced. I would look for him when it was silent, only to then painfully realize over and over again that he was not there – and why. I didn’t feel normal because I couldn’t stop my mind from racing.
Prince didn’t start crawling until he was 8.5 months old. For weeks, he would get on all fours and reach his hand behind his butt as though he was trying to push himself across the floor. Then, he would do what we called the Quasimodo crawl. We called it this because he would walk on one leg and crawl with the other. While Prince was later to crawl than Stela, he loved his independence. Shortly after crawling, he was walking (and then trying to run).
I frequently had to chase him places as he was always determined to run in the opposite direction. He would run down the street like a little determined fellow who was so curious about the world. There was not a moment in my day when I didn’t think about his safety. For months after he died, I would instinctively look in the back seat of my car expecting to see his face smiling back at me. It is impossible to turn off your motherly instincts – even after your child dies.
Stela has been threatening to crawl for a couple of weeks now. This past Saturday, I took her to a gym class where she was able to observe several other babies crawling on all of the equipment. Stela, being the cerebral little diva that she is, watched them closely. There were moments when I could almost see little light bulbs going off in her head as if she was thinking, ‘Oh snap! That is how I am supposed to do that crawling thing!’
A few hours after her gym class, Stela crawled for the first time. As I sat on the floor with her trying to grab the cell phone, that ended up being the crawl motivator, out of her mouth – I cried. While for many parents this might feel like a frantic time, I finally feel like I am normal again. There are still moments when I look around and think about where Prince is, but now my mind also races for Stela. My Mama brain has kicked back into overtime as my infant is quickly becoming mobile.
I complain a lot about the lack of sleep I am getting, and how many hours I spend trying to get my child not to go after all that is dangerous in our home. That said, I cannot express how thankful I am to have this opportunity to be my daughter’s mother. From the moments she is punching me in the face at 2am, to the times when she does the Mama dance as I walk through the door after work – I am constantly aware of how precious her life is. I am constantly grateful that I am able to be her mother.
It used to bother me when I would hear the news talk about the death of a child. The reporters almost always follow those stories by telling parents to go home, and hug their child just a little tighter. After Prince died, I always hated hearing this because it would always make me think about the parents who would have to go home without their children – those parents wouldn’t be able to hug their children at all.
Instead of telling all of you to hug your child a little tighter, I wanted to share this all with you today as a way to express what I have gone through. My hope is that no parent will have to experience the pain that I felt losing Prince in order to appreciate their children the way that I do. So when you hear my story, it shouldn’t just make you go hug your child tighter. It should make you realize that you should love your child every day. It should make you think about how privileged you are to be a parent, and how you should hug your child tight every single day. It should make those tough moments when your toddler is throwing a fit, and being a little monster (because they all are like this at one point), a little easier.
When Prince was around six months old, I took him into a fast food restaurant to grab a sandwich before running back to the house. He was tired, and decided to throw a royal fit inside the restaurant. He screamed, kicked, and caused such a scene that all of the non-parents gave me the stink eye until I left. I remember how frustrated I was with him that day. I remember that in that moment I did not appreciate how precious even that time was with him. Today, I would give anything to go back to that moment, and relive it with him a million times – just to be able to hold him in my arms one more time.