You know that fear you feel when you wake from a nightmare and you’re convinced the killer is still in your closet? Or that pain you get in your chest when your best friend’s boyfriend cheats on her…again? Or that pit-of-your-stomach-instantaneous-gut-rot that overwhelms you when the car in front of you runs a red light and gets blind sided by a semi going 60? OK. So, maybe those are dramatic comparisons, but in the moment, I swear I felt them all today.
This evening, I was watching Coen by myself. He was getting sleepy, so I made a bottle and sat with him on the couch. Our dog decides now would be the perfect time to scratch, whine, and bark at the door to go outside. I hesitate, but decide she (obviously) can’t hold it. I sat Coen up with his bottle and made the six foot sprint to the front door to let her out, and that’s when it happened. I can still see it when I close my eyes, only now it’s in slow motion, like a scene from a thriller movie that is meant to send shivers down your spine. Stupid slow motion makes everything worse. He reached out for his mommy and when I wasn’t there, he tumbled forward, landing on his forehead, neck bending backwards on the wood floor. Nothing even had time to process. In fact, I am pretty sure I slammed the poor dog’s ribcage in the glass door as I bolted to his rescue.
I picked up my sobbing baby from the floor and held him so tightly to my chest, there was probably a suffocation hazard going on. As he screamed in my ear, about a jillion thoughts ran through my head. What if he’s paralyzed? What if he’s got brain damage or a speech impediment or dyslexia? What if he grows up like that guy in Memento? Oh, the horrors! I realize this was all a little unlikely and I was being slightly overdramatic, but a mother’s mind is entitled to run rampant when there is damage done to their children! So, I did what every mother would do…and panicked. I started to run around the house with him attempting to whisper a soothing “It’s OK…It’s OK…” (which probably came out more in the tone of “Oh my GOOD GOD, I’m going to jail for unintentionally paralyzing my baby and he’ll have to drink from a straw and speak using a voice machine and will probably be cross-eyed for eternity!”). I ran my fingers up his spine and tested his grip and moved his neck from side to side. In hindsight, this is pretty ridiculous since I basically failed anatomy and I’m not even close to having a doctorate in medicine, so what the heck was I feeling for anyway? You’re lucky I know where the spine is! But, it was nature’s instinct surging through me and, though irrational and stupid, I was obeying.
I determined his legs were working, his toes were curling, his fingers were bending, and his back was arching. I breathed a sigh of relief as I laid him down for his nap and called Nate to tell him about today’s Failed Motherhood Challenge. Once again (you’ll notice this theme throughout my blogging), he was a calm voice of reason and logically said, “Kids are flexible for a reason.” Is that true? If kids are flexible for a reason, mothers should be more resilient to pain and heartache for a reason. Seems unfair.
I talked to my neighbor who has a 9-year-old girl, and she remembers the first time her daughter face planted out of her carseat like it was yesterday. Apparently, it’s scar tissue that doesn’t fade (kind of like those marks on your new stomach!) and it sticks with you forever. Her daughter is fine (and actually just ran over to show me her report card full of ‘A’s), so we’ll just chalk it up to “an experience that had to happen eventually.” My kid will be fine too. He has thick skin like his mama and plenty of back-up brain cells from his papa, so we’ll be alright. Lesson learned (the hard way, but learned nonetheless).
I have almost completely forgiven myself, though my rationale isn’t 100% returned (I wanted to keep him up all night in case he had a concussion in his sleep…again, I’m no doctor). And, I was forced to admit to my father-in-law via Skype that “his mother” was the answer to his question, “What happened to his head?” So, there’s proof. Big, red, blotchy proof. That will fade, which is more than I can say for that damn slow motion replay running through my head every 5 minutes.
I am well aware that my future holds potential for much more dastardly catastrophes. Mental preparations must be made for the possibilities of falling off a bike, tripping down the stairs, touching a hot stove, sports injuries, fist fights, break-ups…the list goes on. And, you can rest assured that with each and every obstacle he encounters, I will feel like my nightmares are merging with reality or like someone just stomped on my heart.
Nietzsche said “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” My baby may be the one getting dropped on his head, but for some reason, I came out stronger. Maybe new moms remember that first time so clearly because it opens the gateway to a lifetime of mentally-exhausting, time-consuming, heart-wrenching, pain-staking strength training. The membership may be a bit pricier than Gold’s, but the payoff? I hear it’s remarkable!