I had been watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in the living room at home. My one year old, Annabelle, was napping soundly in her room upstairs and Sophia, who was only a few weeks old, had dozed off in the swing next to me. I was just starting to drift off myself when I heard a strange noise from the baby monitor. I remember picking up the monitor and holding it to my ear. The noise sounded like bubbling water. For some reason, it alarmed me enough that I got up and went upstairs. I quietly opened Annabelle’s bedroom door.
At first I thought she was just tossing and turning but then I realized she was actually jerking from side to side, up and down. I screamed and ran to her, pulling her from the crib like a limp doll. I quickly examined her. Her face had fallen on one side and her eyes were rolled back into her head. There was mucus coating her upper lip and coming out of her mouth.
“MY GOD! MY GOD! HELP ME!” I screamed over and over as I desperately tried to hold on to her jerking body. I ran down the hallway to my bedroom where I laid her on the bed and dialed 9-1-1.
“HELP ME!” was all I could say, over and over. “PLEASE HELP ME – MY BABY IS DYING!”
The woman on the other end of the phone kept asking me questions that I couldn’t answer. What is your name? What is your address? How old is your baby? I didn’t answer. I just looked at my daughter with the horrifying realization that she would never be the same.

“This is it. My daughter is gone; she will be like this forever.” I looked at her face and observed how fallen it was on one side; I couldn’t imagine she would ever be normal again.

After what seemed like an eternity, a police car pulled up in the driveway. It was snowing. I had no shoes and no coat but I was so desperate to get Annabelle to them that I ran out the front door carrying her in my arms, screaming for help.
The police officer ran to me and led me back into the front entryway; he told me to put Annabelle down.

I didn’t want to let her go but I obeyed. I laid her on the carpeted floor and two or maybe three paramedics came in the front door behind me and swarmed her. The police officer took me by the shoulders and led me into the kitchen, where we couldn’t see Annabelle.

“WHAT’S GOING ON?” I screamed “WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY BABY?!” Now I was the one thrashing.
“Ma’m, try to calm down,” the officer said. “We see these almost every day. Just try to calm down.”
Every day? What the hell?
“We see these all the time. Does she have a fever?” he asked.
It took a minute for his question to sink in.
“I don’t think so…no…no, she doesn’t have a fever,” I replied.
The police officer turned and walked into the front entryway where Annabelle was. When he came back he said simply, “104. She’s at 104.”
Five years later and I’m standing in the center of Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America. I’m with my three children and husband. Sophia has been gone for four years and I’ve since had another daughter and a son, Eve and Alec. I’m standing next to Alec’s stroller, supporting his neck with my hand while I stroke his light brown hair. His eyes are open but the left side of his body is jerking violently to the side, drool is pooling in his mouth and neck. I whisper softly into his ear, “it’s ok my sweet baby boy…everything is going to be ok.”
I take a few deep breaths and get to work. First, I tell Chris to get his phone and take a video of Alec. “Remember,” I say. “The neurologist is going to want it.” He quickly takes out his phone, aims it at Alec for 5 seconds or maybe 10 and then he turns to take the girls away – we both know they shouldn’t see this. Then I gently slip Alec out of his fleece coat and remove his checkered hat, careful to not let his head bump into the metal rod on the side of the stroller. I unbutton his long-sleeved onesie and pull it up to his neck, exposing his bulging tummy. I check to make sure his airway is open – that nothing is in his mouth. And I just kneel there, holding his neck, stroking his hair as his body jerks. Shoppers pass by unaware of what is happening just inches away.

Chris returns and tells me that help is on the way. He distracts Annabelle and Eve by offering them juice boxes while I keep stroking, stroking. And whispering to Alec, and myself. “Everything is going to be ok.”

The paramedics arrive with a gurney and I explain that the seizure is in its 9th minute. That his sister had the same thing when she was a baby. That they needed to take his temperature; give him some medication to make the seizure stop since it had been more than five minutes. I slowly spell my name, Alec’s name and date of birth. I recall his weight from a recent visit to the pediatrician and I tell the paramedic so he’ll know what dosage of medication to administer.

And then I step away and let them take care of Alec. I turn to Chris and tell him that I will ride in the ambulance to Children’s and that he should call my mom and meet us there. I follow the gurney through the mall to the waiting ambulance as they insert a needle into Alec’s tiny arm. “Everything is going to be ok,” I tell myself.

People have told me that I’m the strongest person they know. They tell me they can’t imagine living through the things that I’ve lived through. Some even tell me they wouldn’t be able to get out of bed if they were me. They want to know how I do it. They want to understand my resilience.

And I’m just starting to understand what they mean. I’m toying with the idea that maybe I am strong. Maybe I am resilient. Maybe my children will look back one day and remember me as a warrior, like my sister says I am.

“So what is my secret?” I sometimes wonder. And all I can come up with is that I’ve learned to accept that disaster is only a phone call away. That tragedy can strike when you least expect it; whether you are standing in the center of a mall or watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. That loss is a part of everyone’s life and that mothering children is as terrifying as it is gratifying.

I think about the mother I was when I held Annabelle’s seizing body, screaming at the 9-1-1 operator. I think about the mother I was when I cradled my baby Sophia’s body in the Emergency Room after she had died, screaming at God. And then I think of the kind of mother I was when I cradled Alec’s body, whispering, “Everything is going to be ok.”