This was my status update on the night of November 7, 2012. I was sitting on my couch, feeling like the Worst Parent in the World. My 1-year-old twins were sleeping peacefully in the nursery. My husband had gone to bed, too, but I was wide awake, replaying the incident over and over in my head, trying to figure out how I had allowed myself to commit this lapse of good judgment. I normally reserved Facebook updates for cute pictures of my son and daughter, or of the Food Network recipes I was so proud of myself for successfully replicating, but tonight was different. It was a plea: Let me know I’m not the only one.
For the first year of the twins’ lives, I went everywhere and did everything that moms with just one baby did, in part to prove to myself that I wouldn’t become one of those women who never showered or left the house all day. There I was, in the cute coffee shop, managing to feed the two of them at once (while feeding myself). I was there in the baby boot-camp class, ready to bench press my two oven roasters. We always arrived on time, while many mamas of one stood at the door pleading with the instructor to let them in 15 minutes late. As a family, we took field trips, flew on a plane, and dined in restaurants. There was nary a curb or narrow doorway that could hold me back, even as I pushed an increasingly heavy double-wide stroller.
People commended me for “just getting out of the house.” Sure, staying home seemed like the easier option but instinctively I knew that if I didn’t get out every day I’d become a harried, sweat-pant wearing shut-in. Even though many women do what I do, I felt like a mommy badass–in other words, invincible.
The morning of the accident, me, Bun-Bun, and Little Man went to a music class. When we got home, strangely, it began to snow. Realizing we were house-bound for the rest of the day, the babies and I played together in the living room. After the third hour of this I started to get a little restless. In truth, I was bored. Leaving the babies on their play-mat like I always did, I ducked outside to check the mail to see if one of my freelance checks had arrived. When I came back, I opened the door slowly, knowing that the twins might be on the other side of it. That was when I heard my daughter’s heart-shattering scream. It was different from her “I’m hungry” cry or her “I’m frustrated” or sleepy or any other type of cry I’d ever heard come out of her. Dropping the mail, I rushed to her and held up her tiny index finger, which I assumed got caught in the hinge. Her fingernail had come almost completely off and there was a small amount of blood. Wrapping her injured finger in a Band-Aid, I tried to phone my husband and the pediatrician and my parents.
What was I doing making all these phone calls? I don’t know. I probably would have called Miss Cleo for advice if my survival instinct didn’t eventually kick in. Secure the children, it told me. Pull the car out of the driveway. Make sure you have bottles and diapers. I tried to do all of this while trying to comfort Bun-Bun as Little Man went on a freedom spree, joyfully unraveling an entire roll of toilet paper.
Thankfully, moments later my husband walked through the door and we piled in the car and drove to the emergency room. Running through the snow into the hospital, I worked myself up into an even bigger frenzy. “It’s my baby’s finger!” I yelled dramatically as I burst into the pediatric ER holding Bun. I was so over-the-top, you’d have thought I was Lindsay Lohan in a Lifetime movie-of-the-week. But it worked. We were ushered in immediately and a nurse performed triage.
The next six hours were spent holding Bun-Bun as her hand was x-rayed (thankfully nothing was broken) and trying to entertain my son as a plastic surgeon reattached Bun’s nail (reassuring me that the old one would fall off and a new one would eventually grow in).
Later, sitting on the couch with my computer, I felt a mix of emotions. I felt selfish–so what if I needed a break, didn’t my babies deserve my full attention? Stupid–I could have so easily put them in the Pack n’ Play. Why didn’t I put them in the Pack n’ Play? Unworthy–I couldn’t shake the image of Bun-Bun’s exhausted, tear-streaked face as she lied on a gurney, her da-da stroking her curly hair as the surgeon looped blue stitches through her unbearably tiny fingertip. Unable to even think of sleep I turned to social networking. “Has anyone ever done something like this and if so can you tell me so that I don’t feel so alone?” I typed. Within moments, the stories began to trickle in.
“My baby fell out of a shopping cart…he wasn’t strapped in. I was convinced they were going to call social services on me.”
“I was breastfeeding and when I went to change breasts, I flipped my boy off the bed and onto the floor.”
“I locked my baby girl in the car and the police had to come. We were both screaming and crying.”
And there were more stories. Of babies crawling off beds and falling off couches, of heads accidentally bonked into crib rails and of one grabbing for an apple and getting cut by a knife (yikes!). These were good people–good parents–who just like me, had fouled up. By the end of the night there were 30 comments–some posters revealing that they had never told anyone this before, others saying that they had spent a good 24 hours considering putting their child up for adoption.
Accidents are something no one talks about, but the truth is, they do happen. In a perfect world, we would all be vigilant parents 100 percent of the time. And even then, our kids would probably still get hurt. The Facebook post didn’t make Bun-Bun’s finger heal any faster but it sure helped me. One mom summed it up best: This shit happens.
Of course Bun forgot about the injury the very next day and managed to carry on with all her normal activities, even with the bandage on. Three months later, a new nail has grown in. The check I was checking for in the mailbox will go to pay the emergency room bill, and we may need to discuss coloring the next time I go to the salon.
Post-accident, I am more cautious but not fearful in my parenting. But it’s nice to know that if something does go wrong, there’s a safety net of friends who are willing to speak openly and honestly about this thing called parenting that we are all trying so very hard to do right.