Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Fall from Grace

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 “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?


  1. Mama A! Big virtual hugs to you. I think we all have a story like this to share...
    When Marlo was 6 months old i had her in her infant car seat on top of the kitchen table (about 3 feet up), where I always put her when I was cooking or cleaning in the kitchen. She was not strapped in, and was in the middle of the table. Well, I turn to take some beets out of the oven and I hear a loud noise, turn and as if in slow motion she is sliding out of her carseat and off the table onto the hardwood. The whole thing took half a second but seriously it lasted 10 minutes in my mind.
    She did that silent cry at first and then wailed like she never had before. And then of course I started to cry. She stopped well before I did, and I called the doctor right away...the nurse said that she seriously gets one of these calls every day.
    She asked if she could move her arms, could smile (she was totally giggly in about 2 minutes after the fall), did she have a bump, did she throw up, etc. and told me to monitor her and if she did anything odd to go to the hospital. So I strapped her in her carseat and watched her like a hawk for 2 hours.
    She was totally cool of course! And then about 2 months ago (8 1/2 months) she fell off the couch onto the hardwood when I wasn't looking...but I wasn't as upset this time around because I have come to accept that this will happen.
    I know I am a great parent and doing everything I can to give her the best life she could have...she is going to get hurt, we are both going to cry...but that first time it happened I too thought child services would come knocking!!
    Much love mama!

  2. We managed to get through our daughter's first two years without any major falls - although she has rolled out of our bed a couple of times!
    Our scariest incident was a just a couple of months ago when we first moved to Boston. Hannah had done a pretty good job of navigating the stairs of our triplex and we had decided that since she was older and capable of climbing stairs we would only put a gate up from the living room down the steepest set of stairs to the laundryroom/entryway.
    On this particular day the gate (which screws into the wall) lay propped against the wall as we made our way through the apartment hanging shelves and pictures. My mom was there, helping keep an eye on Hannah, when we asked her to help us hang something in Hannah's room. In a few seconds Hannah went from being in the room with us, down the stairs to the livingroom, and then down the stairs to the entry. It was then that we heard the telltale sounds in rapid succession and in seconds knew what it was: thumpthumpthumpthumpthump! crash!
    The three of us ran down the stairs in those few moments of silence when you can't breathe and then the screaming crying started. She was laying at the bottom of the stairs, face down, on top of the dog dishes. My husband was completely traumatized and got teary (one of only a handful of times I've ever seen it), and I (uncharacteristically) became completely calm. She was crying. That was good. If she had been knocked out I would have lost it. I checked her limbs and asked her where it hurt. "head. boo boo head." She had a nice egg forming where her head had landed on the dog bowl, but other than that (miraculously) seemed unharmed. We called our ped back in NY, but by then she had already stopped crying (also a good sign) and was playing with her Elmo ice pack. I found myself saying to my husband (and to myself) "it's ok. It's going to happen. She's going to fall. It's ok." It's horrible and terrifying, but its going to happen. You can't put them in a bubble. But you can hang a gate, which my husband did immediately. Hannah climbed off my lap and went over to inspect it. She dropped to her tummy, crawled underneath it, and popped up on the other side. "ta da!!"

  3. The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my iphone and tested to see
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