A few months ago, my husband and I decided to take our
toddler on a whirlwind tour of Mexico. He loved the pyramids, the colorful
alleyways of Guanjuato and the white sandy beaches of Cancun. We loved
spending the time with him but, as our return came closer, there was one thing
that truly terrified me, and that was the thought of our three-leg flight home.
I was on the phone with the airline long enough for my precocious toddler to
learn how to climb onto our high king bed, and when I looked up to see why he
was giddily calling "MA! MA! MA!" it was already too late, and he had taken a
swan dive straight into the tile floor.
I screamed. Time stood still. And I
was certain he was dead.
I immediately rushed to his side,
checked to see if his neck or skull was broken, and grabbed him up into my
arms. He immediately latched but screamed and sobbed while he nursed, as I
frantically dialed the emergency line back home. As the patient nurse walked me
through possible symptoms and complications, my little boy dozed off, and she
encouraged me to let him sleep as long as he could be woken up. I slipped him a
little Advil, stuck an icepack on his head, and furiously started searching the Web to discover what complications lie ahead and when I could stop worrying. Icy
droplets rolled down his cheeks and pooled in my lap, and hot tears dropped
down my chin.
Most of the stories I read—and
there were more than I could imagine—were about what to do, but one story,
written by Nicolle Cliffe, allowed me to finally take a breath.
I swallowed hard, and finally worked up the nerve to ask: "I feel like the worst mom ever. Can I ask you if this happens a lot?"
"I wanted to kill myself. I remember thinking,
very clearly, that if she died, I would have to kill myself. It was the worst
moment of my life."
That was exactly what I felt, and thankfully
the story doesn't end there.
calling 911, Cliffe and her baby girl were whisked off to the ER in an ambulance. It turned out each one of her paramedics had a number of kids
and spent the ride to the ER keeping her up to date on her daughter (she was
fine), sharing stories of all the terrible things their own kids had survived,
and reassuring her that suicide was not at all necessary or called for.
two hours (with nudging every 10 minutes), my toddler woke up with a goose egg
and in great spirits. It was almost as if nothing ever happened, though my
friends might have wondered why we were only shooting photos from the side all
of a sudden.
that day, the pediatrician called to follow up, walk me through the symptoms,
and schedule a follow-up a few days later. She asked if I have any more
questions. I swallowed hard, and finally worked up the nerve to ask: "I feel
like the worst mom ever. Can I ask you if this happens a lot?" I could feel the
warmth come through the phone as she replied: "You know, I get at least one of
these phone calls a day, sometimes up to five. I know you're a good mom. Just
remember to be careful, because these little guys are fast, strong and smart."
there it was: Not only was my baby going to be ok, I was going to be ok as
well. My heart didn't stop racing for a week and even now my stomach turns
whenever I think about what happened and what might have happened. But the
events of that day also led me to realize that maybe all the stupid mistakes
and oversights that happen to new moms aren't a sign of mothers who need to get
it together, but a rite of passage and a reminder to be forever vigilant,
loving and grateful.