It started when Mia was born. I would sink my head into the pillow after getting her to sleep, barely able to keep my own eyes open, only to toss and turn, unable to silence the thoughts. I have never had a panic attack but I think sometimes, when my mind travels to those places in the dark, I’ve come close — my breath tripping to catch up with the palpitations of my heart trembling careless and clumsy.
The things I let myself imagine — horrible, cruel, nightmarish things. In a way, I reason that by imagining them, they couldn’t actually happen. What are the chances that the nightmare becomes the reality?
I saw the headlines on my computer last week and refused to click on them, but then later my mom started to tell me the story, and like a traffic accident, it was hard to turn the other way. I’m sure you’ve heard it by now, the two small children in NYC murdered by their nanny, Yoselyn Ortega. How the mom, Marina Krim, took her three-year-old daughter to a class and returned home to find her other two children in the bathtub, stabbed to death, and the nanny turning the knife on herself when she walked in. How this mother ran down to the lobby of her building, clutching her three-year-old to her and screamed. And screamed.
Lucia (“Lulu”) was six. Leo was two. Just hours before, Mrs. Krim had written a post on her blog about how “Leo speaks in the most adorable way”. (The blog has since been taken down.) The latest revelation is that Lulu tried to defend herself. This shakes me to my bones and makes me sick, the lump in my throat something hard and cold, because I can’t fathom anything more difficult to live with than the knowledge that your child tried to defend herself against her killer and lost. The grief I feel for this mother is but a slice of the grief I would feel if they were my own, but it is genuine all the same.
This is what keeps me up at night, the things that go bump in the night inside my head.
Mia is afraid to sleep alone. Every night she clambers into our bed at some point, something Zach hates and I love. (Admittedly, he gets the “butt” end of her — the jerky kicks and errant farts — while I get her arm flung across my neck, her sleepy breath warm on my skin.) I used to tell her there was nothing to be afraid of, that she’s safe in her warm bed and we’re just down the hall and nothing will hurt her, but at five, she’s catching on to that hollow promise. So I’ve started to acknowledge her fears, to talk about why we lock our doors and don’t talk to strangers and what to do if she’s ever in danger, or feels like she could be in danger, or doesn’t feel comfortable in a certain setting. She’s trusting by nature and makes friends in record time, so it’s a difficult concept for her to grasp, that the world is not all good.
But how do we explain something as senseless as the Krim murders when we can’t even make sense of it ourselves? Isn’t this part of the reason why this story has captured the nation’s attention? Because of its sheer shock? Because as mothers with small children, we recognize our worst nightmares being played out in Marina Krim’s reality? Because we all have people in our lives who we trust with our children? And though we barely take the time to acknowledge it, every time we leave our children, we leave them with our hearts.