The Day We Thought Our Child Went Missingby Sarah Hurst
There is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for the moment when you truly believe that your child has gone missing. The way your voice catches in your throat as you shout their name in an unrecognisable sound. The deafening thud of your own heart beating hard against your chest, whilst the blood whooshes past your ear drums like the violent roar of a stormy sea. The way time suddenly stops and everything moves in slow motion…your own steps…the twist of your partner’s face as they look frantically in all directions…the echo of their own calls. You feel like you’ve been dragged down, suddenly, into a strange nightmare. Adrenaline pumps through your veins as you try, frantically, to climb back up and out. Think. Think! Why can’t I SENSE where my child is?? I grew them in my womb for 9 months, why don’t I know??...
You can’t believe you’re here. You don’t believe this is happening. Your legs shake and you start to dissociate… “Police please. My child is missing…”
Two years ago, this is a situation we faced. Arthur, our son, was 3 years old. Charlotte was a baby. We decided to have a ‘clear out’ of clothes and unwanted items upstairs. The children were in their bedroom whilst we went from their room to our room, up and down the attic ladders, taking bags of clothes and toys downstairs and putting them in the boot of the car. Suddenly, I heard a child crying outside. I ran to the children’s bedroom and looked out of the window to see the neighbours’ child crying in their garden. I relaxed, momentarily, before the hairs on the back of my neck started to prickle…I looked around the room, but Arthur wasn’t there anymore…
“Arthur?” I shouted his name. He’s terrible at hide and seek, he giggles, says ‘I’m here!” and gives the game away. There was no sound. I ran from room to room. “Where’s Arthur?!” I asked my husband in a panic. We crossed paths a dozen times as we looked, called his name and willed him to appear. We stood in silence. We listened. Nothing. He wasn’t there.
We ran downstairs to see the front door was still open from our loading of the car. Running onto the driveway we noticed the gate was open onto the street. My heart sank. Arthur was an escape artist at the best of times, but I never imagined this. I tried to strap Charlotte into a baby carrier before running up and down our street calling his name. My husband made his way to the main road, faster than I’d ever seen him move. Our street was empty, there was nothing and no-one to be seen. I knocked on neighbours doors, but no-one answered. My husband came back, “He’s not there, I can’t find him!”.
I called 999 and asked for the Police. I explained that our 3yr old was missing and gave my address before my signal cut off the call. I started to call back when I heard my husband shout from inside the house, “NOOOOOOOO….”
I felt sick. What had he seen? How bad was it? I didn’t want to go inside. I didn’t want to know.
Suddenly, he spoke again… “Don’t EVER do that again!”
Relief washed over me as I realised that he must be talking to Arthur. He must be okay.
Arthur came down the stairs, crying. I called the police back and explained that he had been found. The emergency services explained that as an officer had already been dispatched, he had a duty to continue and to check that everything was okay and that the child was safe. I felt embarrassed and silly, that we had managed to lose our child in our own house and called for help, and now I’d have to explain it. The police officer quashed this idea and explained that in future if we thought he had gone missing then we should call STRAIGHT AWAY, as they would rather be on the hunt sooner than us wait to double-check if it was a false alarm and potentially lose precious time looking for him.
So where had he been?
Well, this day was the day that Arthur suddenly became a master at hide and seek. He had bunched his duvet up along the edge of the bed and laid out flat underneath it, completely still and completely silent. He was having the time of his life waiting to be discovered…and he definitely didn’t expect to have to meet a Police Officer at the end of it all!