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.