Saturday, June 12, 2010

I know three-year-olds get hurt, but I'm not sure I can take it

There are some things about being a mother that I pride myself on. Keeping a book of Will's drawings, complete with the story she has told me about each picture. Finding interesting destinations and workshops and activities to explore with my daughter. Remaining calm and flexible in most situations, from a spilled bowl of cereal to a potty accident to a really badly scraped up elbow.

When it comes to the medical stuff, though, I am only able to be calm and reassuring for one reason: my husband is a family doctor. Anyone would be impressed with my savvy ability to comfort a screaming three year old, unconcerned with the blood smearing across my shirt. What they don't see is me frantically mouthing silent questions at my partner over her shoulder: "Did you SEE her elbow? Is she okay? Stitches? Do you think she needs STITCHES?"

In the middle of the night it might be more of a panicked whisper: "Does she feel too hot to you? What about her breathing? Can we give her that? Are you sure?"

(Although I find his medical opinions invaluable, that doesn't mean I don't question every one. And yes, he does find that endearing.)

These past couple of weeks have been particularly trying in terms of accidents. I had heard that a person gets all her best scars as a three-year-old, but my heart can't take much more of this.

Last weekend, everything was completely normal. Bath was over and Will was putting on her pajamas. All of a sudden she started screaming, "My eye! My eye! It hurts!"

I lifted her onto the bathroom counter and called my husband over to look. We both thought we saw an eyelash in the corner of her eye, and I'm pretty sure I saw it wiped on to her cheek. But the crying didn't stop.

Will just kept holding her eye and telling us that it hurt. She begged to know, "When will it stop hurting?" I was terrified.

My husband looked again. And again. He was sure there was nothing in there. I knew she wasn't making it up. But she'd been rubbing her eye and it was swollen from crying; it was too hard to know what was causing her discomfort. I was as close as I've ever been to taking her into the hospital, but I also didn't want her traumatized by someone digging around in her eye socket if it wasn't absolutely necessary.

When my husband went to the pharmacy for eye drops, she calmed down a little, let me read her some stories. After the drops, which went better than expected, Will just crashed. I was convinced that whatever had been in her eye was gone, but announced that if she woke up saying her eye hurt we were going to the ER.

She did wake up rubbing her eye, asking why it still hurt. I could not believe I had let her sleep all night with something in there. Then my husband gave her another shot of the drops and within a few minutes she was herself, perfectly fine.

Fast forward to Monday evening. We were out on our almost finished new deck, having dinner with my husband's cousin, who Will had taken to calling "Zimbabwe" (what she heard from his name and the "Baba" title for uncle). She had finished her dinner, so I asked her if she wanted to draw while the grown ups were talking.

I brought out her purple lap desk, filled it with markers and told her to sit on the step behind the picnic table, on the part of the deck leading to the side door. She sat down and then scooted herself backward, and again.

I yelled her name three times and then saw her fall backwards over the side of the deck, through the space where the iron pickets will go. As she fell I gasped and turned away, covering my eyes. I couldn't get to her, but I still cannot believe I looked away. Then I heard my husband say oh my god, the family doctor who is never phased by any accident, and he had Will in his arms before I could even reach her. And I saw him examining her as he comforted her, as I looked for the inevitable bump on the back of her head and saw only dirt on her legs. She had somehow turned in the air. Somehow landed on her hands and knees in a way that did not even break anything, barely even scraped her up. And my husband said quietly, there's cement down here. Did you know there was cement? I knew there was cement. And I almost threw up, right there, and again later when I imagined it over and over again.

Will is fine. She told us she fell "first on my hands, and then on my knees, and then on my feet, and then on my head." There's a scrape on her hair line and one on her knuckle, and that is all.

And I can't even think about it, can't stop thinking about it. How things can happen in an instant. How I should have been more careful. Knowing that I am careful, and even if I become more fearful, more cautious, things can still happen. And she is my heart.

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