Momsomnia v. 268

That I can't sleep tonight isn't surprising really, given what I see when I close my eyes.

It's a nightmare, except it really happened today, so in addition to the terrifying visuals I have the added benefit of true guilt and real fear.

I am in front of the open oven, hands grasping two foil-wrapped sweet potatoes for dinner. I had placed E by the sofa, 10 yards away, surrounded by toys but I can hear that she is at the gate that blocks the stairs to the basement, as there is the telltale rattle of metal on metal. I am relieved that she is far away from the hot oven. She is safe and I am almost done.

She is safe.

Then I hear a strange sound from E. Grunting, definitely. Scared, maybe.

Just a little too far away.

I run for the gate. Which is open.

I look down the stairs and there she is, 6 steps down, crawling toward her big sister who is singing and drawing at my desk in the basement, out of sight.

I gasp or shriek or choke, I'm not sure which, maybe all three. At the sound, she looks back toward me and begins to fall. It's a tumble for the first step, then a flailing log roll, sideways down the next 6 or so steps to the bottom. She picks up speed as she goes, of course, as do I.

At the bottom now, we're both screaming. I grab her, clutch her to me and instinctively run to Z. Circle the wagons.

I tremble and shriek some more, until the real tears come. Then I stare at E, her pupils, her limbs, looking for signs of harm. She stops crying quickly and lunges for the pointy tip of the yellow pencil in Z's hand, then the floor. Time to crawl some more.

I call the pediatrician. I call CG. The nurse says all the things I already know: You're lucky the stairs are carpeted. No loss of consciousness is good. Check her pupils, watch for vomiting, sleepiness, changes in behavior. She's resilient. She's probably fine. Stay put. CG comes right home, takes me in his arms, appears not to hate me for breaking the first rule of motherdom: Do not break the baby.

I thought I closed the gate.
I must not have latched it.
It was just a minute.

She was already half way down the stairs.

There's dinner to make and an evening appointment for CG to keep and I limp through the usual dinnertime insanity, keeping a wary eye on E all the while. E keeps crawling toward the gate at the top of the basement stairs and rattling it. Rattling me.

At the end of dinner, E starts rubbing her eyes and I breathe in sharply. DANGER! SLEEPINESS!

CG touches my back and says gently, because he knows me and he's kind: It's her bedtime. She's just tired.

I nurse her, crying, stroking her face and her hair. I place her in her crib, apologize one last time and wish I had prayers to say to protect her.

I wish I could flash forward to tomorrow morning when she wakes up and crawls to the baby gates to rattle them some more and show me she's okay, she's tough, she's ready for more adventures.

I wish I could flash back to putting the sweet potatoes in the oven and make it not happen, at least check that freaking gate.

(Here's where you tell me all about how you, or your child, or your Rhodes Scholar, All-American brother fell down 50 flights of stairs as a kid and is perfectly fine.)

(Now that I've exorcised that, maybe I'll be able to sleep. Maybe?)


Swistle said...

It's okay, it's okay. Everyone is fine. It's okay. I will email you some of my own examples.

Swistle said...

Oh, and also, when I was about...4? 5?...I fell through the basement railing, a straight drop head first onto CEMENT, from about halfway down the stairs. TOTALLY FINE, and graduated in the top 10% of my class.

Swistle said...

Er, perhaps I should leave it to others to say whether I'm totally fine or not.

Swistle said...

And when I was 3 I fell down the stairs and broke my collarbone.

Perhaps these things would all be in a single comment if I hadn't fallen on my head. KIDDING, KIDDING.

Fran said...

Recently Pattie was playing in her brothers' room with them when we heard a thump and her crying (hurt-crying, not mad-crying). We rushed in to find her shocked brothers staring wide-eyed at her. They said they didn't know what happened but the best we can figure is that she was climbing up the ladder to the top bunk and fell off. (No, she is not allowed to climb the ladder and they know that) She couldn't put weight on her left leg but as we manipulated it from toes up she was fine. It was only when she tried to stand or walk. We were certain nothing was broken and it seemed as though she bumped her ankle/side of her foot on the way down. Two days of limping and she was fine. I know it's not quite the same....it's the guilt that kills us though. I am sure E is fine and I have a theory that the most brilliant people often have been dropped or have fallen on their heads! Have you ever met someone who hasn't at some point in their lives? If you have, their Mom just never told them!

Whimsy said...

Oh I'm SO SORRY! And it's true: they are resilient little creatures... I dropped Bean off a bed, onto her head, when she was 5 months old. Oh the horror. And then when she was about E's age, she took a tumble down an entire flight of stairs at the house - and I went down straight after her on my belly. Kinda like I was hoping I'd get to the bottom before her to cushion the landing? Later on, Chip gave me a thorough (and hilarious) lecture about how I need to have better Emergency Logic because if I had been injured along with Bean, I wouldn't have been able to care for her. Yes, and so.

She was fine both times. Scared, but fine.

And I'm sure that E is going to be fine.

Hang in there.

Dr. Maureen said...

I let a big heavy book fall on Nora's head when she was about two months old. Is fine. My friend's baby fell down the stairs when she was 6ish months. Is fine. My older sister fell down an ENTIRE FILGHT of WOODEN, TWISTY stairs when she was a baby - rolled head over heels the whole way down, just out of reach of my mom - and she practically is a Rhodes scholar. Phi Beta Kappa, honor society, and an honest-to-goodness Jeopardy! champion. (She really and truly won $10K on Jeopardy!)

You are not a bad mom. Things happen. You are a good mom.

Barb said...

I fell down a flight of stairs and cracked my head open...and I (assume that!) I am fine :) Still was able to get a PhD ;) You are a wonderful mother. We all make mistakes in our lives - and you thought that the gate was closed. It was an honest mistake. And we ALL think that you are still an amazing mother!

Erica said...

When I was a wee babe, my mom took me to the bank with her. She set my carrier on the counter/table thing in the lobby where you can fill out deposit slips and whatnot. As she was filling out whatever she needed, a lady accidentally knocked my carrier right off the counter. I landed head-first on the marble floor.

I'm totally fine. Smart, even! Although, my family used that story for YEARS to explain my weirdness. As in "Oh, don't mind Erica. She was dropped on her head as a baby."

Good Enough Mom said...

I fell out of a moving car when I was about 4 years old...and years later I met you in college! :) I am sure she'll be fine. You'll have more gray hair by tomorrow, but she will be fine. Ugh. Parenting just gets you right at the core, doesn't it???

miyoko said...

i have a scar on my chin, from when i was two and i fell down a one story flight of wood stairs OUTSIDE (thus un-carpeted) and at the bottom managed to, according to my mom, seemingly magically tilt my head away from the stone wall, striking my chin instead of my skull on the wall. my first stitches.

When something happens to one of the kids, I completely know the panic, the guilt, my own shallow breathing, the crying, more guilt, the despair, the horror, the shame, the fear, feeling really unsettled down to a really scary core inside me.

E is fine. that's the most important part. and soon you will be too. when P split her lip at the playground the doc said (somewhat jokingly), she'll be fine, you on the other hand, i'm not so sure.

Sarah said...

One of my best friends growing up was dropped down a flight of stairs at SIX WEEKS OLD. And guess what? She had crossed eyes at birth and all that happened was her eyes uncrossed. True story.

Eleanor Q. said...

My friend's dad was tossing him up in the air and catching him and that game was going well until the phone rang and the dad turned towards the sound and forgot to catch my friend who then crashed onto the fireplace. Friend was fine, I'm guessing dad was shook up. E will be ok. I know its scary.

bat7mess said...

I'm so sorry- I'm glad E is okay! Sophie crawled head first off of my bed when she was about 1. Scared the bejeebes out of me, but she was fine. I, myself, have fallen down stairs and other things many times. While I'm no jeopardy champion per se(like Dr' Maureen's sister), I do kick ass at it when I watch. Also, while I feel terrible for everyone and their babies that have fallen, I did have a good laugh after picturing Whimsy dive belly first down the stairs!

Sarah said...

When Little Man was only a couple months old, The Smartest Man Alive held him up to sniff his diaper and did not realize how low the ceiling fan was. Whack! Luckily the fan was on low, but we were totally freaked. Now, he brags about how he stuck our kid's head in a fan.

Michelle said...

Oh my. So glad she is OK. Peanut rolled off the couch when she was just a few months old. The husband was watching her and he was sick for days. They are resilient little boogers.

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

Oh honey! I am so sorry! How stressful. I was helping Mira walk up a hill at the park when she was about 11 months. She was holding both my hands and my flip-flops slipped and down went my hands and then down went Mira hitting her head on a big flat rock. HARD. I will never forget that sound. I picked her up, ran to the car (I forgot my cell phone!), ran home and called the doctor. They were more worried about me than Mira I think. Big hugs. Repeat after me - Everything will be OK.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Thank you.

I cannot tell you how much these stories (and the emails) have helped me today. I really, really needed to hear that I am not alone.

She woke up this morning fine. FINE. Hungry. Gate-rattle-y. FINE.

I did sleep but I will not be fine for a while.

Thank you. Thank you.

Marie Green said...

Due to 100% my fault, I was goofing around and launched Marin out of her stroller, where she flew up and out and landed head first on concrete. She was STANDING in the stroller when I did that, so she was... 4 feet off the ground? I can still hear her head hit and see it bounce. But she's fine.

I wrote about it here- third section down: http://lifeinatinytown.blogspot.com/2008/08/snippets.html

Anonymous said...

One of my brother's fell on a hot humidifier when he was a baby and burned his entire back, then later fell off a roof, then later got in a motorcycle accident, another brother got buried alive playing in the foundation of a house that was being built, then got in a horrific bike accident when the grocery bag he was carrying went between two spokes of a wheel. My sister got shot with darts, I put my baby hands on a hot burner and had palm sized blisters, and I'm sure all of us fell down the stairs many many times. It just happens. And we're all fine, successful, happy, and parents of our own.

KG said...

Oh Honey! So sorry my vaca' made me miss this post!

My younger brother, F, fell down the stairs (and probably broke his nose) when he was a little older than E. Had bloody noses as a kid that we theorize came from that incident. Also graduated from Harvard, directed a state-wide non-profit before he was thirty, and now creates and implements energy legislation for the MA gov't (can you tell I am a proud older sis?). I also remember one of the only times I saw my mom cry was that night. E is OK, you will be OK. Just watch out for those ballet teachers for Z! They can really mess you up... ; )

Sara said...

I was one of the mom's who did break her baby. I fell down the stairs carrying Noah when he was 6 months old and I landed on his left leg. His leg broke and he was in a cast for 6 weeks. A wee babe in a wee cast was more than I could take. I blogged about it recently (we hit the one year anniversary of the fall) and it stirred up a lot of sad emotions in me. Thankfully, like you, I had some wonderful responses. It helps to know that you're not the only one this stuff happens to.

So happy E's a-ok :)

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