Unless you live in a bubble you cannot fail to know the name April Jones. At the time of writing this she is still missing, presumed dead, one week and counting after she first disappeared.
Watching the news is currently too devastating. A fear too close to home has been realised.
I don't know her, or her family, but every loving parent, whether they gave birth to their child or not, shares the same paralysing fear of this terrifying event.
When you’re pregnant you’re biggest fear is probably giving birth.
Women just love passing on disturbing tales of labour where pelvises get cracked, vaginas suddenly become connected to the colon in a way they never should, fainting midwives collapse mid-push (that’s mine) and lost pints of blood seep across the floor as pale partners gingerly steps over them.
But giving birth, while painful, and quite clearly a less than exciting prospect, is nothing compared to the fear you will experience once your child is outside of your body. Yet nobody tells you this.
After nine months of willing time to pass by at the speed of light so you can meet your offspring who are obviously all destined to be a rockstar/Einstein the second/the President of the United States, it dawns on you that being nestled in your womb was the safest your child will probably ever be, but now it’s far too late to push them back in (although, during one friend’s unsuccessful attempt at natural birth, the midwife did indeed have to push her giant baby back up her vagina to be pulled out of her stomach, caesarean style. Scared yet? Don’t be).
At the end of all of that pain you get a baby. It’s not like other kinds of pain; where you’re just left with a broken arm or a nice appendix scar. You get a chubby little baby that just wants a cuddle.
That’s not to say you will immediately feel that rush of love for your baby - I didn’t. But that instinct to protect them is there even through clouds of brutal post-natal depression, I know.
As with so many of these missing child cases, the parents are often first in line from members of the media and public to get the blame, often more so than the real perpetrators.
And while I’m sure there are many parents that truly neglect their children, letting a child play in a communal garden in the town with the lowest crime rate in the country is not deserving of the accusations of child neglect levelled at April’s poor parents. So to all those blaming them, just stop.
To quote Janice Turner in The Times this weekend, "a lost child is the most ancient of fears… few parents have not felt it in some diluted form. The small hand let go while you hunt for your purse, the boy who was building a sandcastle when you last looked up from your book." This includes me.
I’ve lost sight of Gabe once, at a soft play party. I put my coat on and bent down to tie my shoelaces and in the 20 seconds or so that took me he’d gone. He was found by a frantic me and everyone I’d made look a few minutes later lying in the ball pool. I cried when I found him.
Those few minutes are still the worst of my life. It’s amazing what horrors the mind can conjure in just minutes. All we should have is compassion for the family of April.
Gabe’s just four years old so I know where he is every minute of the day but what happens when he’s fourteen? At some point I am going to have to watch him leave and hope he comes home again.
If I think too much about this I would never let him out. No parent would. We’d all be completely mad with the fear. Not only the fear of losing our beautiful son or daughter but of losing our own sanity; how do you keep living after losing a child? You can’t dwell on it, because it will consume you.
When I moved back to London alone with Gabe, when he was five-and-a-half months old I had nightmares for weeks about not being able to protect him should someone break into our flat.
Today the police admitted that they may never find April’s body. I have never lost a child so cannot speak of that pain but for me I feel that him being lost would be worse than him being dead. The not knowing means you would, of course, imagine the worst, while always hoping for the best.
How do parents do it? Have faith each time your child walks out the door that they will come back? At some point do you just stop thinking about it? Stop imagining the worst and let your child live a free and exciting life full of adventure and joy?
Back to Janice Turner’s wise words, “We should not wall our children inside our anxiety...maybe we would be braver, more rational, if we switched off the rolling news and live blogging of events that will only magnify our fears."
I guess all we can do is educate them about the world, teach them to be smart in and out of the classroom, teach them to be responsible with drink and drugs and all the risks that come with them, teach them to make smart decisions and sadly, tell them in a way that doesn’t make them lose faith in human nature, that not every human is good at heart.
A truth that I still can’t, or don’t want, to fathom.