Oh. My. Gosh.
My mom and I took the kids shopping today. I had a coupon for a good sale at Children's Place and my mom had a coupon for something at Penney's and I needed to get out of the house, so off we went. No biggie. Had a good experience w/ putting the baby in the Moby wrap for the first time (he'd sit there for a few minutes, but never very long). (He also did GREAT in April's Mei Tai the other day, so I knew it would work in general.) Got some great clothes for both kids, found a great black mini skirt for my Abby costume for tomorrow (I found a plaid one, but I wasn't in love and it wasn't a perfect fit, so when I saw this - which I can also reuse for date nights - and it was on sale, I grabbed it) found a beautiful painting which I got for under $13 including tax - it was a great trip.
Right up until it wasn't. Right up until it was something straight out of a nightmare.
Fuss disappeared. We were at JCPenney's upstairs and were walking through housewares. She ducked around a display of throw pillows and I said "come on, Fuss" as I was responding to a text message. When she didn't immediately appear, I walked around the display and she wasn't there. I started calling her. My mom started calling her. I walked up and down the throw pillow aisles and there was no Fuss. I headed back towards the elevators. My mom headed up through the lamps. No Fuss. We were calling and calling her and no Fuss. I ran into an employee and told her that I was looking for my little girl - 2 years old. She immediately got on her walkie talkie and notified the other employees. My mom had been approached by another employee who was also putting her description out on their "net". By this time, she had been missing for a couple of minutes, but I was so sure that she was going to pop up any minute and say "hi guys!" My time line is a little fuzzy, so I don't know how much time went by, but when she wasn't immediately found in the area, they put out a Code Adam (where they lock the doors and post employees at each exit). Two employees offered to go downstairs to see if she had gotten on the elevator and gotten lost. Another took me down via escalator. By this time, it had been awhile. I had called my husband at work. I kept thinking she'd be there any second, but I realized that I had to call him. (He immediately dropped what he was doing and left work, sighting a "Family emergency") When I got downstairs I heard a man say "it's been long enough, we need to call the police" and I just broke. Two older ladies approached me - customers who were there to shop. They both asked what was wrong and began to help me look. Another Penney's employee came came up to me and assured me that we would find her, that the doors had been secured quickly and she was in the store somewhere. I learned later that another employee walked down the mall all the way to the food court (a pretty far distance) to verify that she hadn't gotten out of the store and gone wandering. We searched under tables and in clothes racks, behind pillows and under beds. We went down an unused office hallway several times. I saw at least 30 different employees looking for my kid. I visibly saw the people guarding the exits to the store. They were awesome. They all remained calm and efficient. And then someone found her. She had somehow (still no idea how) gotten into that hallway of unused offices, opened the door, gone in and then couldn't get out with no lights and a heavy door. She must have been hiding under a desk or table or something, because I saw one of the employees open each door and stick his head in each room, but he hadn't seen her. My mom and I clung to her for several minutes. She was a little pouty in that I'm-kinda-scared-but-I-don't-know-why sort of way, but otherwise completely fine.
We're going to be avoiding Law and Order reruns for awhile. I kept thinking about those shows and how in real life there is no guarantee that it will all be resolved in 60 minutes.
The whole thing took less than an hour. But... I feel like I never want to let her out of my sight again. My mom asked me to never take both kids to the mall by myself. Even with 2 adults, it was hard to keep track of her. By myself, it could prove to be impossible.
It was weird. My late FIL had run this store more than 15 years ago (long before I was involved with this family) and I kept finding solace in that, somehow. Like "it's THIS store - it will all be alright" even though that made no logical sense. But once I heard them mention calling the police, I freaked. Like this was really serious. Something bad could have happened. I was sobbing and a little hysterical.
She is fine. I am fine. My mom and my husband and my son are all fine. She fell asleep on the way home in the car and has remained that way for hours. I never, ever want to have that happen again.