Last weekend I had a first…a big, scary first! My daughter is almost four months old and the vigilance and hovering my husband and I initially brought to our parenting has admittedly waned a bit as we’ve become more comfortable. Well, shame on us! Last weekend my daughter taught me another lesson.
I felt the enormous fall from grace in the form of her perfectly executed swan dive off our bed onto the hardwood floor. I had placed our (non-rolling) little one on the bed squarely in a barricade of pillows for good measure. As I turned away to get a few things out of my closet, I tuned into her excited growling and grunting and turned around just in time to see her launch herself over the pillows onto the floor, head first. The immediate silence before the scream seemed to last for several minutes during which time my heart leapt into my throat. As I scooped her up, Baby A. let out cries of a sort I had never heard before and I just hugged her as tight as I could, with each of her cries going straight to my heart. I finally pulled her away to assess the damage, fearing some sort of gushing wound. Miraculously, there was no blood, only a quickly forming goose-egg on her temple. Alone at the time, I immediately called my husband who promptly came home. At that point, there were more tears coming from me than Baby A. I was shaking from all of the fearful thoughts that were on a constant stream through my head. Was she ok? Was there internal damage? Would she ever be the same? Would she ever trust me again? Would my husband trust me? Heck, Did I trust myself? And How did this happen? How could I have ignored one of the most frequently repeated “rules” of caring for infants – don’t take your eyes off them for even a second – and DO NOT leave them unattended? I couldn’t believe this had happened on my watch.
Playing the conservative card, and because we both needed peace of mind, we opted to take Baby A. to the ER at Children’s to be examined. It is fair to say that I was a wreck on the way to the hospital and upon arriving I was sure a police officer was going to be waiting to talk with me about the “incident”. Fortunately, instead we were greeted by a very kind triage nurse who shared her own similar story as well as her tissues with me. Baby A. had several head x-rays taken followed by six hours of observation. As it became clear that she was indeed ok, I spiraled deeper and deeper into a pool of self-loathing. The following day as I held her, my internal dialogue played like the meanest mean-girl rant possible as I chastised myself over and over. Even now, almost a week later, a replay of the event sends me to tears.
As I’ve saturated my journal (and any free-time I’ve had) this week with thoughts about what happened, I’ve realized that her fall was actually much bigger than the height of my bed. For me, it has brought home the reality that in Baby A. is going to get hurt and have pain in her life – while I hope a goose-egg will be the extent of the injuries she might experience; I know better that more dramatic injuries are likely – from broken bones to a broken heart. I wish I could protect her from all of these things and keep her happily swaddled, content to suck on her Sophie, but I now know better! This leads me to the second “ Lesson of the Fall” which is that I’m going to mess up as a mom. It seems silly to say – I’m far from a perfectionist – but with all the guidebooks, websites and classes out there, I think we new moms are set up with so much advice and “how to” insight that it seems impossible to falter. During my pregnancy I took my vitamins, ate organic, did yoga, researched the safest cribs and carseats, furnished the nursery with bamboo and non-voc paint….blah blah blah! Baby A. arrives and the how-to guides shift to instructions on breastfeeding and sleep training. Similarly, I promptly adhere to the wisdom of the parenting sages out there and feel confident that my husband and I are doing it all “right”. Well, Baby A.’s fall – on my watch – made me realize that in fact, we’re on our own in this journey and Marc Weissbluth, Heidi Murkoff, Kathleen Huggins, Terry Brazelton and the entire Babycenter.com “June 2010 birth club” – while full of well-meaning and well-researched expertise – they cannot possibly provide me with enough tools or skill to navigate my daughter’s upbringing without error. So, while my daughter’s fall has indeed marked my own fall from grace, I am grateful for this lesson early in our parenting journey. I know there are more mistakes ahead, and really the thought terrifies me, but I am going to try and give myself a little more space for those inevitable mistakes.
Anyone else have a “fall” to share?