All of America is heartsick over the news of the Connecticut elementary school shooting. Undoubtedly, every parent feels nauseated and chilled by the evil story that unfolded. As a mother and a pediatrician, I am having a visceral reaction to the loss of TWENTY beautiful innocent lives as well as the adults who succumbed to a mad man’s rampage. When I saw the news on CNN and ABC, I felt doused with icy water and nauseated to my deepest core.
I think I can speak for most pediatricians in my expression of the horror and futility racing through our vessels when we hear such stories. This act of violence and evil counteracts the very premise of our medical practice or vocational mission: to promote the happiness, health and well being of a child. We know how hard it is to raise children, we’ve been in the trenches with all our patients’ parents, and also getting pretty muddied in raising our own children. The initial 4-6 months of sleepless nights (up every 2 to 3 hours to nurse a fussy gassy baby) can dry up the bone marrow of even the most robust parent. When the respite of sleeping through the night finally happens, teething starts. Babies and parents are up again. And then comes the worry. The worrying about weight gain and weight loss, strange rashes and dry skin, deciphering crying and temper tantrums, development and the possibility of autism. The list goes on and on. As a parent, we put on a cowl of worry the very second that precious squirmy wiggling baby is placed into our arms.
Raising a child to reach the age of 18 (or 22-30 nowadays) is a painstaking gram by gram process. Every ounce of breast milk or formula is recorded in a parent’s mind. Every mustard seed yellow stool and sopping wet diaper is changed with care. Stools that are “atypical” are examined and sniffed and deliberated over. We cheer when our constipated child has finally pooped out that ginormous stool. Some overzealous parents may even do the post-poo-poo dance. I know I do. Every pound and inch is lovingly measured against a doorway or growth chart.
The time and love it took to nurture these 20 sweet angels (and consequently let them fly off to grade school) is what makes me so sad. These Newtown parents have made it through the difficult infant, toddler and preschool stage. The teething has ceased and the temper tantrums have finally abated! The funny comments and insightful hugs have begun. The sweet smiles and fragrant kisses abound. Kindergarteners and grade school kids can be so much fun. They recount the silliest stories and have a way of regarding the world that always turns the cloudiest day into sunshine. The parents were on the precipice of enjoying soccer games and Little League practices and gymnastics meets. They were rearing to race to piano lessons and clap at tuba recitals! These children were starting to read in Kindergarten and dreaming of changing the world in first, second and third grade. They may have had their own aspirations to be a teacher or musician or doctor or athlete. At the age of five or six, the possibilities are endless. This slate was starkly wiped clean and young lives were called home much much too early.
These families have had their guts wrenched out of them. They will be burying their little ones in lieu of attending holiday pageants and stuffing striped stockings. My heart grieves with them, but cannot possibly comprehend the keening sorrow and despair they are going through. I will pray for them now and nightly. I will hug and kiss and squeeze my four spicy dumplings with my own arms tonight.