7.05.2006wrote about a frightening incident involving her daughter, a rock, and a lot of blood. I read her story late at night, cradling Julia and was unable to leave a comment. If I had been able to leave a comment, it would have gone something like this:
"Wow! First off I want to tell you that the mark of a good mother is not that she keeps all risks away from her child at all times. It's how she reacts in a crisis. You may have thought about the consequences of blood on your clothes, but that didn't stop you from picking up your daughter. You picked her up, you cleaned her up, you sought help. You did not run around screaming that you child was going to die. You acted with efficiency, practicality, and love. Accidents happen. Thank goodness that this one wasn't worse, but the fact that this happened is no reflection upon your parenting skills."
How little did I realize at the time that within a couple days I would be needing someone to say that to me.
Julia has a jumper. One of those contraptions that hangs from a doorway so she can jump up and down. Only we didn't hang it from a doorway. We hung it from an i-bolt in the ceiling. It was screwed into wood and though it looked a little wiggly, when I first stuck it up there I had put all my weight on it and it held. We thought it was safe. A week or so ago my mom noticed that it looked a little wiggly, and she said something, but I dismissed her concerns. And she tugged on it and convinced herself that it was secure.
Yesterday afternoon, just before we were supposed to leave to go to my parents' house, Kristin wanted help on the computer placing an ad to sell our condo. Julia was getting a bit ornery, and didn't want to be held, but also didn't want to be put on the floor. She needed a nap, but I knew that we were going to be leaving soon, and she could sleep in the car. So I decided to put her in the jumper to see if that would distract her. So I stuck her in the jumper, she immediately started jumping, and I turned my back and walked less than three feet away to help Kristin.
The rest happened very quickly. I heard a noise and Julia gasp. I turned around and she was crumpled on the floor with the heavy attachment mechanism for the jumper on top of her. I must have turned around just as it all hit the ground, because in the moment it took for what I was seeing to register I was over there picking her up and she was crying.
She wasn't crying in the "Oh my god, I'm going to die right this second" type of cry. But rather in the "oh that was really really scary and I need my mommy" kind of cry. So I didn't think she was too badly hurt. But both Kristin and I were checking her out while I was holding her to me. And then we noticed the blood on Kristin's hand.
Julia's hair is so dark and curly that we missed the thick course of blood at first. But as Julia continued crying, the blood continued gushing down her back. I headed for the kitchen, in my head a continued refrain of "head wounds bleed a lot, head wounds bleed a lot. It's probably nothing, head wounds bleed a lot." I sat Julia on the edge of the kitchen sink and turned the water on. She was clinging to me, so I used the sprayer on gentle to wash off the blood. After I got the majority of it washed away I could tell that it was already clotting. And so even though I couldn't see the cut itself, I knew it couldn't be bad. And while I was rinsing her head, Julia's cries had subsided to whimpers. But still, she had at least 3 goose-eggs on her head besides the cut, and her eyes are so deeply dark, I was having a hard time checking to see if her pupils were ok (later the doctor told us that that's a very unreliable way of checking for concussion -- but how was I to know?). So we decided to take her to the emergency room. As Kristin changed Julia out of her formerly white outfit (now a delightful shade of pink and red), I gathered everything we needed for grandma and grandpa's house. Then we headed off to the emergency room.
As emergency room visits go, it wasn't that bad. We confused some people, but no one questioned my right to be in emergency with Julia. Even when someone questioned who Julia's mother was, and I told her that we both were, no one pushed. Kristin, as a social worker who sees the bad things people do to children, was sure that we would be questioned seperately about what had happened. But I'm guessing that they could tell from our distress and demeanor that we are not child abusers (though Kristin would point out that distress and demeanor do not absolve one of child abuse). Plus, Julia was in a great mood: chirping and flirting and bouncing. Every one who looked at her said she looked completely fine. The best emergency patient they've ever had. But still. Better check her out. One hour later we walked out with a $75 neosporin schmear and peace of mind. She was fine.
Still, as the adrenalin wears off and the repercussions set in, all the "what ifs" start entering: what if that contraption had hit her fontanel? what if she had fallen backwards instead of forwards and the contraction hit her nose and broke it? or hit her eye and put it out? She could have been seriously maimed or killed. If I had been standing right there, I might have caught it. But it seemed so secure. So safe.
Julia is fine. The picture above was taken later that night while she was playing catch with grandma and mommy. She's fine. But all night long I had nightmares of losing her. Misplacing her. Having her taken from me. And in the dreams as I searched and fought for her, still I knew that I deserved to have her taken from me. That, really, I had forfeited her through neglect. The words I would have written to K sound hollow to my ears.