And yet…welcome to motherhood!
There are many things I can be thankful for. I can be thankful, for example, that even though I have four kids and am pregnant with the fifth, this was my first time taking a kid into the ER for stitches. I can be thankful that we had a wonderful plastic surgeon sew her up. I can be thankful that there may not even be too bad of a scar. And I can certainly be thankful that the Duplo piece she fell on–yes, the little kid Lego that I had thought was totally innocuous–wasn’t just an inch lower, which could have permanently damaged her eye.
I am thankful for all those things. And I am thankful that after getting her stitches and taking a tiny nap, my daughter O mysteriously and immediately returned to her normal, smiley, happy self.
She recuperated much faster than I did. And even now, I’m still reeling from the fact that for a mom–any mom–this kind of emotional roller coaster is nothing more than mere occupational hazard.
I had left her and her siblings with the sitter as I went to the OB/GYN, bladder full, for my checkup on Baby Number Five in utero. As I was walking into the building for the appointment, I answered my phone to learn from the sitter that O–trying on standing, cruising, and walking all at once–had fallen and cut herself pretty badly. Upon ascertaining that the wait time at the OB was the usual 45 minutes, I drove home to check on her.
She was smiling, but the deep cut in her eyebrow looked pretty bad–definitely bad enough to warrant a trip to the pediatrician. One look from the pediatrician, and we were on our way to the pediatric ER at the hospital. I called the OB to reschedule my appointment, the sitter to make lunch for everyone else, and my husband to find out if he could come join me for the stitching (thanks to the train schedule, the answer was “no.”)
In between those things, I cried.
I know that she could have just as easily fallen on my watch as on the babysitter’s. I know that I shouldn’t second-guess myself. I know that especially when you have a billion kids–or even just one–accidents happen.
But I cried. I cried because my baby was hurt and was too young to understand what was going on. I cried because my bladder was full to bursting. I cried because in my haste, I had packed no food, no diapers, and no stroller for my young friend in the backseat. I cried because I hadn’t slept and was exhausted. I cried because I would have to forget about taking my boys to the Broadway show I’d promised them that afternoon.
I cried because, as I texted my mother as we sat in the waiting room, O on the floor happily playing with a toy barn, “Today is the first day that I have ever felt that actually, I can’t do this.”
“You are doing it, and very well,” my mother texted me back. It will never cease to amaze me that my technophobe mother can text.
But was I, really? I mean, the thing is, when your kid is bleeding from her head, you take her to the hospital. It’s not a question of doing it well: you just do it. You take care of her. You push down the fact that seeing the needle going in and out of your daughter’s face really makes you want to puke, and instead you sing “Elmo’s World” over her screams, over and over again in the most reassuring voice you can muster. You smile when you feel like crying. You tell her how proud you are of her, even when you aren’t so proud of yourself. You say, “It’s okay, it’s okay,” over and over again–even when you feel very, very un-okay.
“Holding her down watching him sew up her face while she screamed was awful,” I texted my mom after.
“Get used to it,” she texted back. My mother is the Dumbledore of the “Tough Love” school of thought. “You are a mother.”
It’s okay, it’s okay.