Because I am a writer by trade and by brain, I have chosen Monday as the day that I will take a short break from reviewing subscription boxes and talking parties and stuff to write a bit about life as a mom, toddlerhood, family stuff, life stuff, basically anything I feel like doing a little babbling about. If you just want box reviews, feel free to keep scrolling, they are down there!
Mike hadn’t walked out the door to head to the airport but three minutes prior when D fell forehead first into the corner of the side table. He was doing what normal toddlers do, just toddling around. And I was sitting right there staring at him as he toddled. He tripped over nothing I could see and then he was down and screaming and hurt. So much blood. So. Much. Blood.
I scooped him up, ran to the the linen closet for a soft cloth, and began applying pressure. He was screaming and fighting the towel, but I pressed it to his little forehead and said every soothing word I knew, trying to summons a mix of Norah Jones and Yanni. I felt calm, but my heart was racing. I pulled the cloth away, and his head spurted and blood poured down his face over his tiny nose and lips, so again, I pressed, firm and gentle at the same time, scared to let go.
Firm and gentle. Do not be aghast at the blood on your sweet, little boy. Be firm. And be gentle. And then let go and look beneath.
I watched the clock to time for two minutes, as I simultaneously scanned the room for my shoes and purse and the diaper bag, wondering how I would drive and maintain pressure on his head at the same time. Ready to go to the ER, calm, cool, collected. Two minutes was up. I pulled back the cloth, and the bleeding had stopped. It was a gash, but it wasn’t serious. It was a Band-Aid gash, not an emergency-room gash. I exhaled for what seemed like the first time. Band-Aid, Neosporin, Tylenol, the brand names moms trust. And then he asked for a pretzel, which I gave to him and let him munch on my lap instead of, as the rules mandate, in his booster chair at the table. He ate three pretzels in quick succession, had a few sippie-sips of water, and then promptly fell asleep in my arms. Which is, of course, when I stopped worrying about the gash and started worrying about a concussion. I consulted my intuition, decided he was probably ok, and laid him in his crib to sleep off his shitty morning, knowing I would be checking on him every ten minutes.
I walked out of the nursery and sat on the couch. I sunk back into the cushion, breathing and thinking and getting my heart rate back to normal, and then I made the mistake of looking down. My shirt was covered in blood. From my shoulder, where I had instinctively snuggled him in, down to my waist, the blood had soaked in in red pools and droplets and brown splatters and smears. And that is when I started to cry. That is when my brain let the fear out.
I am the mother of, as the pediatrician put it, a “very busy” boy who will be two in April. This will not be even remotely close to the last time that he bleeds and injures himself. This will not be the last time that he gives me a scare or needs some love and Band-Aids and pretzels. It will probably not be the last time I ponder, and then possibly have to go through with, a trip to the ER. It will not be the last time I shed secret tears over the vision of blood on his pale skin. I know he will be a cyclist and a skier and an adventurer like his dad. (The first two words he strung together were “daddy’s bike”, although that may just be because my husband insists on leaving his bike in the living room about half the time.) With those things will come cuts and bruises and surely worse, but hopefully never the worst. And I have to be on board with all of that activity, because, though I have occasional urges to deny this, I do want a child who takes risks and tries new things and has a lifetime full of adventures. He’s going to get broken and bleed and cry, and I know that accepting that, my secret fantasy of putting him in a bubble notwithstanding, is just part of being a parent.
Even though that first bloody gash is probably an inconsequential blip on the radar of parenting, it was enough to jolt me a little bit, to remind me of the risk that is involved in parenting, where your ultimate goal is to send your most precious thing out into a world full of table corners, and let them hack it out for themselves. I was reminded that while it is fine to serve and protect, that backing off is healthy, and that a gash here and there is good for him. And that parenting, for the rest of our lives, will follow the cadence: firm and gentle and then let go.