Okay, before you call child protective services, let me explain…
Three months ago, my husband and I were playing with our 4 ½ month old when it became quite apparent that it was time to sing “Poop Monster” (to the tune of The B-52s, “Rock Lobster”). We’ve pretty much created a song for everything involving our daughter: “We’re Not Gonna Cry Now,” (“We’re Not Gonna Take It”), “Rolling on the Carpet” (“Rolling on the River”) and “Food Glorious Food…” that one needed no editing.
After a brief stare off to determine who would change the little stinker, it was I who danced my little one upstairs to change her. I sang; she smiled. After the “Bare Necessities” were complete, I picked her back up, gave her a big kiss on the cheek and as she smiled at me, we headed for the stairs. And it was right then that I threw her.
Please put the phone down and understand that it is my “Jewish mother guilt” that has lead to a slight exaggeration where I felt like I intentionally threw my baby down a flight of stairs.
The truth is, I was cradling my daughter in my arms, when I slipped. My little darling was startled and cried for about five seconds and then smiled for the next hour. I, meanwhile, have been scarred for life. And I’m not just talking about the giant gash and bruise I have on my forearm from where I slammed into the banister in an attempt to protect my baby’s still-developing brain from permanent trauma. I am referring to this all-encompassing feeling that I am a bad mother.
In a single moment, all of the great things I had ever done as a parent were tossed down the stairs with my little girl. It felt like every moment I spent playing, making up silly songs, breastfeeding, waking in the middle of the night, comforting, kissing, and smiling with my child were replaced by this one moment. Someone set the reset button and I could not be consoled. I had endangered my child. I was the mom who threw her daughter down the stairs.
Logically, I know that I did not do this intentionally. I did not do anything unsafe. I wasn’t running. I wasn’t skipping steps. I wasn’t sliding down the banister with my arms in the air yelling, “Woooo!” But the knowledge of all of this did not prevent the “bad parent” pang.
This was not the first pang I’ve felt since the birth of my first born, and I have a terrible feeling it will not be my last. As I attempt to grow my little human without the aid of an instruction manual, I now understand that they are inevitable; but why must I get them? Is it simply because I was born with Jewish mother guilt? Or do I feel the pressure to be perfect because of the bashing that goes on throughout parenting message boards, the judgmental looks and comments of certain “friends,” or by the strict “my way or the highway” regimented teachings of some Mommy and Me instructors, pediatricians, or other specialists? And does a little worrying that I am a bad parent actually make me a better parent? It’s most likely a filled in Scantron bubble of “D, all of the above.”
Sure, it took me three months of over-protectiveness, extra TLC (for my daughter and from my husband), and slow self-forgiveness that allowed me to regain a bit of strength and confidence as a mother to even write this. Now, every time we head down the staircase, I am able to sing with a smile, (to the tune of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” of course) “When we’re upstairs and we need to descend, we can always go…downstairs.”
So moms out there, I hope my story can allow you to forgive yourself for the pangs you feel. Let’s stand together for all of us who have accidentally let our infant roll off the changing table, put our finger in our child’s mouth after we just sliced a jalapeño, flipped the stroller with our baby inside, sprayed milk in our wee one’s eyes, or fell down the stairs while holding our most prized possession. We can forgive ourselves and let us not throw stones. Seriously, I’m not judging, but you really shouldn’t throw stones at your children.