Everyday I am a mother, I experience new emotions I never knew I had. Today was an emotion I could have done without. This morning, my toddler scaled the side of his crib and went head-to-head with the hardwood floor below. The floor won.
I knew I was in for some broken bones somewhere down the line as the mother of a rambunctious boy who would be best off wearing a hazmat suit, helmet, shin guards, and elbow pads on a daily basis. But, I was thinking 10, 11, maybe even 13 -- not one-and-a-half.
T was out for a swim and I was home alone with the kids when I put J down for a morning cat nap. He had gotten up at 5:30 a.m. (yes, a.m.) and was already losing steam. Put him in his crib. An "I love you," kiss and hug later, I shut his door. He did the obligatory cry, which he always does before he conks out. But, this time was different. The crying went on for only about a minute when I heard the thud.
I rushed upstairs in a panic to find J walking out of his room, screaming. "Oh no!!" I cried, clasping my hand to my mouth. As if it wasn't shocking enough to see him OUTSIDE his crib, his mouth was smeared with blood. I'm a huge wuss when it comes to blood anyhow, but there is nothing quite like seeing your child bleeding. It's horrifying. Especially if you're not yet sure how bad things are.
I scooped him up in my arms immediately, held him, and kissed him. Don't cry. He needs you. Pull your shit together. I sat down and checked his mouth to see if he'd knocked any teeth out. Everything looked intact. Just a cut. Sigh of relief. Then, I noticed the arm.
His lower forearm, right above his wrist, looked...funny. There was a noticeable dent on the side and he wasn't moving it. At this point, the screaming had turned into sobbing. It wasn't manic, but soft and steady as if to say, "It hurts, Mommy. It really, really hurts." I choked back tears, took a deep breath, and yelled out to M, "Honey, get your shoes on, we have to take J to the hospital. He hurt his arm."
"But, I'm watching my cartoons!" she yelled back. I suddenly had this visual of dragging my preschooler out to the car by her hair. "Sweetie, you can watch your cartoons when you get home, but right now J is hurt and we need to have a doctor take a look so he can make him better." She humored me, slipped on her sandals, and we scrambled out the door with the tinkling piano from Angelina Ballerina still on in the background.
We quickly got in the car and drove to the same hospital where I gave birth to both kids -- which luckily is three minutes from our house. Stay calm. He's going to be fine. You're his mother. You are going to take care of him.
Got into the pediatric ward pretty efficiently and had J's arm x-rayed. I held down his hand while trying to keep the heavy x-ray apron/blanket thing that weighs about 560 pounds on top of his little body. It suddenly occurred to me how small his nails were. His hand looked so tiny and fragile on that cold, white table. Why didn't I just get him from his crib the minute he started crying?
"Hold it like this," the technician directed. He wanted me to hold his broken little arm at an angle. I can't. I can't. I can't. He's in so much pain. I can't. But I did. I held that little arm down with my son kicking and screaming, his face covered in snot and tears. Hurry up and take the fucking x-ray, dammit! My eyes welled up. I breathed in and blew out with my lips pursed.
"Got it," he said.
Meanwhile, M is in the x-ray booth with the technician. "What's that beep? What's that red light on his arm? Is his Jacky's arm broken? How broken? Is it bleeding? Can you tape it together? Are you a doctor? "
The technician showed me the x-ray and there it was. The white line across his forearm. Evidence of his pain and my failure.
The three of us headed back to our E.R. room and saw Daddy headed toward us. He had gotten my messages and his face was pale and worried. J immediately reached for his father. T held him tight, kissed him, whispered, "You're fine. You're going to be just fine." I held my 4-year-old's hand as she reached up to stroke her baby brother's foot. "It's OK, Jacky. It's OK."
Lucky for us, said the doctor, the break was clean. No need to set the arm, which would have meant putting J under. The nurse put his toddler arm in a toddler splint and fastened a toddler sling to it. He was ready to go. The pain reliever must have kicked in because the boy was suddenly all smiles, flirting with nurses, and babbling into his Daddy's cell phone. Me? I was still huddled in the corner rocking back and forth, waiting for someone to take me away in a straight jacket.
Oh yeah, that Mommy Guilt is a powerful thing. It will stop you in your tracks and make you second-guess everything you know to be true about yourself as a mother and a human being. It's all completely ludicrous. I know, logically, I am a good mother. Keeping my children safe is a priority, as it is for pretty much all parents. Still, I can't help it. I'm still haunted by his pained cries and not being able to take his hurt away. It's not "Could I have done something differently?" It's "WHAT could I have done differently?"
I know I can't control it all...I can't stop every accident, spill, bump, scrape, scuffle. They can and will happen. Hello, they DID happen. What I can do is be thankful he didn't hurt himself more seriously...and move on. The only thing that can come out of too much Mommy Guilt is Neurotic Control-Freak Mommy, which is sort of what happens when Bruce Banner gets super pissed off and turns into that green, muscle-bound maniac in ripped clothing.
I'll keep reminding myself of this as I purchase a crib tent to SEAL Spiderman in his crib.