Breaking

There’s a post I’ve almost finished in my drafts folder right now that I was going to put up today. It’s long and a little rambling, but basically boils down to “Check me out, I am an awesome mom!”

I will not be posting it.

On Friday, I took the kids to the playground for a playdate with one of Evan’s best friends. We had the same playdate exactly a week earlier, at which Caroline fell off a step and bumped her head. She had a little mark but was fine within seconds, although she told me about her “pay-ound bump” at least 10 times a day.

That is what we call “foreshadowing”. I also call it “Suzanne is too stupid to learn a lesson the universe tried to teach her and her baby pays the price.”

At the playground, Caroline decided she wanted to play with the boys instead of swing. I was glad for the chance to just sit and talk to my friends while the kids ran around. It’s not a huge playground and there were only two other parents there. I laughed when one of the other dads volunteered to help Caroline climb up to the slide – she turned her back on him and said “NO!” as she scrambled up herself. Hahahaha my silly daughter, so independent! I love that I can let her do her own thing! Look at me over here, chatting and checking Facebook!

I’m not exactly sure what happened next. My friend Cheri had walked over to check on the kids and I was replying to a message on my phone when I heard her say “Evan you can’t push Caroline!” I started to get up, snapping “Evan! Don’t push your sister!” like I do at least hundred times a week when I saw Caroline fall backwards off the very top of the 6 foot tall playscape.

WHOOSH. WHOMP. SCREAM.

She fell flat on her back, or as flat as you can fall when you head is half your body weight. My world divided into two at that moment – my physical actions and things I said out loud versus my racing thoughts and worries and the part of my brain that was so terrified it froze in one long high pitched buzz.

In my head it registered that it was good news that she was crying – it meant she was conscious and breathing.  One of us picked her up, but I can’t remember if Cheri grabbed her and handed her to me or if I sprinted from my picnic table fast enough to scoop her up myself. I stripped off her dress to check for obvious bruises or bleeding or anywhere a bone might be sticking through her skin. No bones, no blood. She was crying pretty badly, but I couldn’t tell if it was a scared cry or a pain cry.

Then my brave, independent girl pushed me away and tried to climb back up to take her turn on the slide. She only made it one step before she started crying even harder, grabbing the front of her throat and saying “neck neck neck!” over and over. My brain started buzzing louder, shouting at me that I never should have picked her up at all and who knows what kind of damage I could have caused to her neck or spine. My body held her gently and walked back to the picnic table to grab my bag so we could go to the hospital. I calmly ordered Evan off the playground and into his car seat. He was not happy about leaving. Thank God Cheri knows my kids well enough to be totally comfortable wrestling the screaming 3 year old into the car while she explained to him that pushing Caroline was naughty and she was hurt so we had to go to the hospital. He was pretty upset and by the time we reached the ER both kids were tear-soaked, not to mention filthy from the playground. I think the second luckiest part of the day was that no one called CPS on me. (In fact, the entire staff was nothing but kind and sympathetic and ready to do anything to help us.)

The luckiest part of the day is that after two CAT scans and a chest X-ray, the pediatric emergency doctor cleared Caroline of a concussion, head injury, or spinal injury. Her lungs are fine, her brain is fine, her speech is still clear. Her collar bone, on the other hand, is not. She broke it on the left side, a clear break on the chest X-ray although from the outside all she has is a tiny bit of swelling.

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything they can do for a 20 month old with a broken collar bone. For the next 4 to 6 weeks her little body is going to spend all its extra energy healing the break and I’m supposed to keep her still and quiet. She is only allowed Motrin or Tylenol for the pain (and all the popsicles she wants).

In the meantime, I get to spend every day of the next 4-6 weeks (and probably the next 40-60 years) thinking about what a crappy mother I am. I let this happen. If I had been right there next to her I could have grabbed her arm. I could have caught her. I could have stopped Evan from pushing before anyone got hurt. Yes, it was an accident, but a more cautious, careful, attentive mother would have stopped it. My “let them do their own thing!” approach means my baby is literally broken. I can’t stop thinking about how lucky I am that she wasn’t injured more seriously – if she’d fallen at just a slightly different angle the results could have been tragic.

I appreciate people trying to make me feel better, but I don’t think I actually deserve to feel better. She could have fallen, even if I was right there. Maybe trying to catch her would have made it worse. But the combination of being distracted by my phone and her breaking a bone is the kind of thing that gets written in newspaper stories filled with words like “negligent”, “unfit”, “irresponsible” and “failure”. I now have definitive proof I’ve been doing this mothering thing wrong, and it’s an X-ray of my tiny little girl’s broken part. My own parts feel almost as broken.

I wasn’t paying enough attention and Caroline got hurt. The end.

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56 Responses to “Breaking”

  1. MommaExpat says:

    I don’t think you should beat yourself up about this, even if you’re not going to listen. Children get hurt and that’s something that’s going to happen again and again to them. I’m sorry Caroline got hurt, and hope she has a speedy recovery. And lots of Popsicles!

  2. LA says:

    I know you won’t listen. But, I promise you did not do anything to cause it and most likely could not have prevented it. Well short of wrapping her in bubble wrap or something. So I will make you feel better with my Mom fail moment to date because we ALL have them. My 14 month ate a rubber lizard like a fairly big one, as big as middle finger and my oldest told me. I did not believe him. It showed up in his diaper approximately 24 hours later. THAT could have been horrible like surgery horrible. And I noticed that he had it as I was cooking dinner and thought to myself to take it from him but got distracted. The universe warned me. I failed big time. The best we can do is learn from our mistakes we can’t change them and I actually listened to the ped and pulled all small toys from the playroom. Which if I am being honest rolled my eyes at when he suggested it.

    • bebehblog says:

      I do stuff like that all the time – I forget to shut the basement door or leave the markers out while I run up to do laundry or I see Caroline headed towards Evan’s cup of juice – and I don’t react fast enough. 99.9999% of the time nothing comes of it (besides juice on the floor) but it’s that 1 in a thousand time that someone gets hurt or almost hurt that we beat ourselves up over.

  3. Mackie says:

    I had read your blog for ages and never commented before. I had to reply because this post expressed exactly how I am feeling at the moment. I have a 4 year old who broke her arm on the second day of school and is sporting a bright blue cast. Even though it happened at school i still feel guilty. But it gets worse. My 2 year old now has a matching cast caused my falling off the sofa. I completely feel your mama guilt and although I will tell you what many have told me “it was an accident” I understand the voice in the back of your head that fills your head with words like unfit and neglect. I hope your beautiful daughter feels better soon. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

    • bebehblog says:

      Caroline falls off of things all the time and I’ve never worried. She’s a super tough kid. But when there’s a broken bone involved it’s so much harder to brush off, you know? I hope your munchkins heal quickly!

  4. Carol Davis says:

    Caroline is just carrying on the tradition of broken collar bones in her family. I broke mine and her Uncle Sean broke his.

    I know the felling of being the worst parent. Her dad was just learning to walk and fell against an end table and put a gash in his head that required 5 stitches. The day AFTER the stitches were removed, he fell again against the SAME end table. Fortunately, he didn’t need stitches that time, but if you notice, we don’t have end tables in our house :)

  5. Krista says:

    I’m sorry lady. This breaks my heart, I know you’re beating yourself up right now, because really, that’s what any of us would do if it were our child. Try to cut yourself a little bit of a break, for all the reasons you mention in your post. They are all dead on. And they were all what you would be saying if roles were reversed.

    Cuddle your girl, give her popcicles and chocolate, and instead, focus your energy on finding ways to keep a 20 month old child still. Cause I really have no idea how you’re going to do *that!*

    You’re a good mother, Suzanne. Don’t doubt that.

  6. Leah says:

    I once pushed my younger sister off our bunk beds and she got stitches. She once pushed my older sister off a swing and broke her forearm. My brother hit the younger one over the head with a baseball bat. The older one viciously kicked him in the junk. I don’t think there was anything my parents could have done to stop any of these.

    Moral of this story? Siblings. Are. Hard. Also, Be glad you aren’t my parents.

    • bebehblog says:

      E and his brother tried to kill each other several times as children, and I certainly remember some extremely unkind moments towards my own sister. I just need Evan to understand gravity before he starts doing any more pushing.

  7. Other Erin says:

    When I was about Caroline’s age, I was in the family room by myself and my parents were in the kitchen. No one knows exactly what happened but when they ran in, I was on the brick part of the fireplace (no fire) screaming as if the world was ending and holding my right arm.
    The doctor couldn’t figure out what happened but there was some minor nerve damage that they were told would manifest itself by my right arm randomly falling asleep/going numb during my teenage years (happened all the time) and less frequently as I got older (mostly gone now).
    Point is, EVERYONE has a story like this which means ALL THE PARENTS turn away for a minute. I think it’s a scary-but necessary-side-effect of letting your kids grow into their own people.
    Don’t beat yourself up too much.

    • bebehblog says:

      I’m glad you didn’t hurt yourself seriously…and I wonder how you did it? Although I find injuries on myself all the time that I can’t even remember where I got.

  8. Tara says:

    Oh, my, that sounds so scary! I’m so glad she wasn’t injured worse, and that no one called CPS – that is always my big fear when one of my kiddos gets hurt. Mama guilt is the worst, I hope you realize soon that something like that could happen to anyone! Haven’t we all been distracted by our phone or something else at some point or another? It’s just dumb luck that sometimes scary things happen when we aren’t paying attention and sometimes they don’t.

    • bebehblog says:

      I’m pretty sure if anyone had come in and started asking questions I would have TOTALLY lost it, so thank God for small mercies.

  9. I just want to hug YOU. You’re not a bad mom, though I understand the need to self-flagellate. You’re not a bad mom. Promise.

  10. Denae says:

    You could have been less than a foot away and paying attention and Caroline got hurt much worse. The end.
    We are beyond thankful she is relatively okay even if this healing process is going to be difficult for both of you.

    • bebehblog says:

      Both kids have definitely hurt themselves right in front of my eyes before – and probably will again. But it’s hard not to connect my inattentiveness to the injury. At least I am taking the lesson to heart.

      • Good moms dont need to take lessons to heart. But then again, bad moms rarely beat themselves up. ;D Hope Miss Caroline is feeling better. I had one of those kinds of breaks as a young child from roller skating. While not fun, it is survivable with Tylenol.

  11. Stacy says:

    Oh I just want to hug you! I do wish you wouldn’t beat yourself up so much, there is a reason it’s called an accident, but I would be the exact same way. I STILL think about the time my sister fell and split her forehead open on the fireplace when she was 3 (12 years ago!!) and how if I had been sitting just a few inches closer to it (as I should have been) she wouldn’t have that scar that she still whines about! I’m always amazed at how there are still injuries that doctor’s just have to say “Eh, it’ll heal itself!” about. Our bodies are miraculous and she’ll heal perfectly and merely remember this as the autumn of many popsicles!

    • bebehblog says:

      It would almost be easier if the doctor had tied her down – keeping her from falling/using her left arm is a challenge! And tell your sister to stop whining. Scars add character.

  12. Joanna says:

    I know I can’t stop your guilt, no one can. But I will (like the others) repeat that you are NOT a bad mother, so that perhaps at some point you believe it yourself. You absolutely can not protect your children at all moments, even if you are right beside them.

    I’ll pray for you guys, that you find some sort of routine while she is healing and that her recovery goes quick and as painless as possible. And when you are ready to accept that you are STILL a great mother, we’ll be here cheering you on like always.

  13. oh sweet thing, please go easy on yourself! i know that my words aren’t going to help you get past this, but i’m still going let you know that these things happen to everyone. when cayden was just a wee one barely walking, i was too consumed with something that i allowed him to fall down the steps. i saw him approaching the steps and still didn’t react quickly enough. it’s not something that’s easy to let go of, and it still hurts my heart when i think about it for too long. caroline’s a trooper and you know she’s going to heal quickly! try to let it go and remember that you ARE a good mother, no, a GREAT mother. those two kids have an awesome mama to look up to. remember that ok? big hugs and prayers with you while you all recover.

  14. Laura says:

    I’ve been in your shoes, or close to it. When Shelby was 4 months old she fell off the kitchen counter (https://payettestork.wordpress.com/2010/07/10/shelbys-first-trip-to-the-er/) Yep, mom of the year right here. More recently she whacked her head on a coffee table at the furniture store (https://payettestork.wordpress.com/2012/09/08/the-funchichure-store/). The very next day she fell down the stairs when I wasn’t watching her. She’s also fallen off the playground (maybe a 4-foot fall) and nearly fallen off the playground several times.

    I give her a lot of leeway and room to be independent (much to my husband’s chagrin), which means I don’t watch her every move. I can’t. I (now) have a newborn and I’m human. My takeaway is that yes, I should watch her more closely and, while I try, I also know I can’t protect her from everything. That doesn’t make me a bad mom.

    Try to go easy on yourself (hard, I know) and remember that you’re not alone in trying to find the balance between being a hovering mother and letting your kids have freedom and independence to learn on their own.

    • bebehblog says:

      I remember reading the post about Shelby falling back when it happened – and thinking “This sooooo could be me. I almost never strap Evan in!” I think that’s why I’m getting so much sympathy for Caroline’s accident. I don’t know any moms who haven’t turned their back for two seconds. It’s just that one in a thousand time that something happens and we beat ourselves up. I’m so glad Shelby is OK!

  15. Robyn says:

    Hugs to you and Caroline! I have tears in my eyes right now for both of you. Don’t beat yourself up…accidents are called accidents for a reason. Maybe your story will help us all be a little more vigilent…i know i have gotten a little too comfortable myself with my independent girl.

  16. This little story really resonated with me. I know you don’t want to feel better about what happened and you want to blame yourself, that’s natural.
    A couple of weeks back (at 36 weeks pregnant) I was carrying my toddler and fell. It was a simple accident I know that, I do know that. But I also know that I shouldn’t have been carrying two bags and a toddler, that I should have had more sensible shoes on, and that I wasnt looking where I was going. We landed in a crumpled heap in the road; my elbow and his head literally smashed into the floor. I genuinely thought in the first few seconds that I had killed him. He cried and I was glad, but then he stopped crying and passed out and I don’t think I will ever forget the guilt I felt and still feel. He is 100% absolutely fine. An ambulance was called and he had made practically a full recovery before we even got to hospital. Just to add to the fail on my part, the fact I was pregnant didn’t enter my mind until I was asked at the hospital if my baby had moved, I had hurt one baby and totally forgotten about the other.
    All I’m saying is accidents happen! They happen when you aren’t paying attention for a second, they happen when you are holding them close. The guilt is awful whatever. But the guilt does serve to open our eyes a bit more, although in honesty, I think these things are pretty unavoidable with children.
    I hope Caroline is feeling bett really soon, and that you can feel better too. X

    • bebehblog says:

      Oh my god, I am so glad you and your kiddos are OK! That’s so scary. I fell while I was pregnant with Evan and I remember feeling so, so guilty that I might have hurt my baby before he was even born. Thank you for your sympathy.

  17. Amy says:

    I think this resonates with so many people because there is a component of neglectful mother on her phone, but you never hear neglectful mother reading a book or changing a diaper or anything like that. I think you might have extra guilt because you were on your phone which is perceived as the worst thing ever. I think it is likely the same exact thing might have happened if you had left your phone in the car.

  18. I think the damage you would do to your daughter if you were a helicopter parent would be far more severe than the broken collar bone she has right now. You’re teaching her to be independent by not hovering over her on the playground. I think you’re a good mom who knows that accidents happen.

  19. You may not be ready to believe me, but…

    you ARE an awesome mom.

    And I agree with everybody else about accidents: they happen!

  20. FourInchHeels says:

    Be gentle with yourself, sweetie.

    You’re giving that little girl a gift by letting her explore her world, and the most overattentive helicoptering cannot stop every tumble she’s going to take or sibling-induced injury your children will endure. Caroline won’t remember that you weren’t hovering over her every move …. but what she WILL remember is that when she hurt, you were there and you cared. And that’s what she will carry with her, that her mother loves her.

    Be gentle with yourself. You deserve it.

  21. April G says:

    Oh goodness, BIG HUGS to you and your daughter! It is so normal for us mom’s to beat ourselves up over things like this, but please try not to be too hard on yourself.

    My niece broke her collarbone when she was 2 years old, when she fell off the seat of a chair in the living room at grandma’s house! One wrong angle and a bone can break.

    • bebehblog says:

      I’ve heard more broken collar bone stories this week than I thought possible. I should really count my blessings that it was a “good” bone to break and that she’ll heal very quickly.

  22. Susan says:

    No way. This is not your fault AT ALL. I read & love your blog and just had to put in my two cents. You do so many incredible and fantastic things with your kids, that you simply cannot let this incident take you down. Accidents happen. You have to just be thankful it wasn’t worse & help her heal. You’re a terrific mom and one I won’t stop admiring. I am sorry your sweet baby girl is injured, but she will certainly heal & you’ll tell the story of how tough and independent your daughter is to HER kids someday at the Thanksgiving table :) Feel better, mama.

  23. Jayme says:

    I only know you from the words and pictures that you share here and on IG and Twitter, so I may be the last person you’d listen to, but I wanted to say: you’re not a bad mom. You’re not a neglectful mom, or an inattentive mom, or a terrible, no good, very bad person. What happened to Caroline was an accident. End of story. I’m so sorry she’s hurt, and I’m so sorry Evan is hurting because she’s hurt, and I’m so sorry that both of your babies are feeling pain that we spend our whole lives to shield them from. But it wasn’t your fault. And don’t you dare listen to Caroline when she’s 16 and screaming at you that it was ;) Hugs to you and those babies, mama. Could’ve happened to any of us, and all of us.

  24. Audrey says:

    Oh Suzanne. I’m so sorry that happened to you both. I bet Evan feels as badly as you do in his own toddler way. And poor baby Caroline. Delilah keeps slipping down the stairs in her jammies, yet I keep letting her try to go down on her own. Maybe I need to pay closer attention to the messages being sent my way too. Don’t punish yourself forever for this accident, dear. She will heal and you will too.

  25. Kristi says:

    So, it happenend. Shit happens right? It is all about the response, imo. You can beat yourself up about it, which you probably will for a long time but you don’t need to. The reality is it could have been worse, she will recover and is probably too young to remember it later.
    Moments like these is when we do some of our best parenting and I am sure you did just that by staying calm and getting her to the ER.
    Your phone, your friend, a snack for the other kid… we are distracted by everything and in this case it was a sad accident that was no one’s fault.
    I am giving you a hug over the internet and sending Popsicles your way if you need some…think how much she loves eating them! :)

  26. Jess Judkins says:

    Oh sweet friend, your NOT a horrible mom! I’ve been to the playground with you and your two gingers and Caroline is a force to be reckoned with, she is very independent. When I was her age and we were stationed in Germany we had this slide in our playground that half of the slats were missing, but if you slid down and leaned on the side you could “dare devil slide” down. Well I was on that thing every single day! My baby sitter never said a thing to me, so when my mom came home early from work I proudly said “Look mom” and to her horror I slide down and over leaned and fell off this 8 foot slide. Broke my arm. And a few weeks later I broke my nose doing another dare devil stunt on another slide. Your a great mom. I’ve seen you in action.

    Praying for sweet Caroline and that she heals quickly and that she is able to sit still for the next few weeks
    xoxo

  27. Katie Gibson-Stofflet says:

    So if telling you it is ok does not make you feel better let me tell you this…. I have 3 children (20, 17 & 17) and they have never broken a bone. However, ask my son and older daughter and I am the most over bearing mother in the world who always has to know where they are and what they are doing and making sure they are doing everything right. My youngest daughter tells her friends it is because I care. You choose which makes you a better mother?????

  28. Christa says:

    I’m sorry. I hope all is well soon.

  29. Alena says:

    I just……hugs.

  30. londonmum says:

    everything everyone else just said … I’ve read your blog for a long time, you are a great mum, you adore your kids, they are adventurous awesome little beings and sometimes that will lead them into tricky situations. The guilt will get less as it should, as she gets better and is running around like a crazy thing. Glad she is ok and is it bad that I read your post and thought ‘ wow, that’s really impressive that she was able to tell you that her neck was sore!!”?
    Sending you all some London love
    xxx

  31. I have nothing new to add. Except to reiterate that you are an AWESOME mom doing the VERY BEST JOB you can. And, if it’s any consolation, I think every single one of us has a near-miss horror story, too.

    xoxoxo.

  32. Oh friend, this is definitely just an accident and I have like 5 stories where I wasn’t paying attention and one of my kids got hurt. It happens. Kids are quick as lightning and sometimes, they just happen whether or not we are right there. Don’t beat yourself up. You took 2 kids to the park to play with friends- in my book, that rates as an awesome mom!

  33. Rachel W says:

    I know everyone has said it over and over but it was an accident and they do happen to the very best of parents! Trust me you are not negligent in any way. I used to work in CPS and this was definitely NOT the things that kept me busy. Try not to beat yourself up too much!

  34. My heart goes out to you for how awful you felt because I know I would feel the same way! But please don’t!! It happens to the best of all of us mothers and it’s okay :-) You are an awesome mom.

  35. Michelle says:

    I totally get it. I felt the same thing after letting my daughter step off a kitchen chair 4 days shy of her first birthday. We were at the ER twice over three days, the second time finding that the skull fracture probably let out the pressure and saved her from getting a hole drilled in it. I got over it eventually. The only thing to explain it is that it is so hard to be on constant watch for the physical safety of someone so capable who doesn’t understand danger. When they advance, your guard falls. It’s normal, but that doesn’t stop it from sucking.

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