You'll recognize her from "Dancing With the Stars," but we bet you never thought Brooke Burke would share one of her most intimate mothering moments with you. In this excerpt from a chapter in her book, "The Naked Mom," she does just that.
I can't be positive about this, because it's one of those taboo subjects that only the closest friends usually dare share with each other, but I'm pretty sure that most women harbor at least one shocking, guilty secret about their worst mommy moment. I don't mean the funny tales from the trenches about little Brittany answering the phone and telling a prospective employer that mommy's on the toilet. I'm talking about those heart-stopping moments when something unthinkable happens, and - justifiably or not - you blame yourself.
Mine came when my second-born was around a year old. Neriah was at preschool, and I was meeting two girlfriends for coffee at Starbucks. When I got there, Sierra was asleep in her car seat, but the parking gods were smiling down on us, and there was a space right out front. So I rolled the windows down enough to let air in, put one of those sunshades on the windshield, locked the car, and zipped inside, figuring my friends and I could enjoy our coffee at a table outside right by the car, and I would let Sierra sleep. But after we had gotten our drinks, my friends settled in at a window table inside, and without thinking, I plopped down with them.
We'd been chatting for maybe 20 minutes when I heard a car alarm start blaring. Glancing out the window, I could see a small crowd gathering and heard people shouting. I suddenly realized it was my car at the center of this ruckus. I had completely forgotten about Sierra! My heart was pounding out of my chest as I leaped up and ran outside to find an angry mini-mob surrounding my car, trying to get in through a window to rescue my poor daughter, who was red-faced and screaming inside. I was shaking and crying as onlookers screamed at me, "What's wrong with you?"
My girlfriend hustled me into the driver's seat with a stern command: Get in the car and just go! Go! Sobbing, I drove away, quickly turning down a quiet side street to pull over. I held Sierra and apologized to her and cried with her. I was terrified, and so humiliated and pissed off at myself for being so friggin' scatterbrained that I had left my child in the car. I could have been arrested for neglect. My children could have been taken away from me. My daughter could have died. I felt like the worst mother in the universe. Call it baby brain, or just sheer irresponsibility, call it whatever you like, but it was awful, and it makes me shake even today to recount it. I felt guilty beyond words. It's still a painful memory, obviously, but I eventually accepted that this was one of those times when the universe was sending me a wake-up call: I needed to slow down and pay attention.
Brooke Burke, co-host of TV's "Dancing With the Stars," is a mother of four, president of BabooshBaby.com, co-CEO of ModernMom.com, and author of the recent book "The Naked Mom" (New American Library), from which the above is excerpted.