Thursday, June 16, 2011


Today is Willow's eighteen-month birthday.   I was all excited about it, and wanted to do something special for her, but in the end all I could think of was our usual routine--which, of course, she loves.

At 9:20 am this morning, per our routine, we got ready to go out for a walk.  I took off the stair gate, and we set off down the stairs.  I realized I'd forgotten something upstairs, and we headed back up.  Since we were going to go right back down, I left the gate off.  We went to kitchen, I fetched the thing I'd forgotten, but Willow demanded a handful of popcorn.  I gave her a few kernels, and turned around to close the bag.  When I turned back around, she was gone.

At first I just shrugged.  She's always gone the moment I turn my back.  But a beat later I remembered and raced after her yelling stop stop stop.  She normally stops when I tell her to, and she has always balked at stairs, knowing that they are something she needs assistance with.  The stair gate is there just in case.  But not today.  I got there just in time to see her take a step off the edge.

She fell face first, turned over part of the way down and slid to the landing on her back.  I screamed until I remembered, stupidly, that screaming just makes kids afraid of falling--as if this particular kind of fall weren't something to be scared of.  I picked her up--again, stupidly--and felt her head for blood or bumps and her arms and legs for breaks and just whispered shhh shhh shhh.

I took her outside to sit on the porch, hoping that would calm her down.  And it did, almost instantly.  She sniffled a bit more and then started playing with the shells we have piled on the windowsill.  I held her and tried to figure out what to do next. 

My first instinct was, I'm ashamed to admit, to do nothing.  I thought, she's fine.  She's not even crying anymore.  I just won't tell Dave, I won't tell anyone.  It'll be like it never happened.  My second instinct was to call her doctor, and I did so.  I left a hysterical message on Dave's cell phone, and I packed Willow a snack and water and heaved her into the backpack carrier and set off for the doctor's office.  I did not drive, because a) I still don't have my license, and b) I probably would have gotten into a car accident, I was shaking so badly.  I should have called a cab, but I didn't think of that.  Walking so much helped me to stop crying, anyway, which I'm sure Willow appreciated.

She's fine.  She really is fine.  There aren't even any lumps on her head, though a bruise is forming above her temple.  She's walking normally, she's chatting, she's laughing, she's eating, and she's sleeping (I am assured that that last one is a good thing). 

I am not fine.  I was also assured that this happens to just about everybody, etc., but I have one job.  To look after my baby, and I didn't do that.  I wasn't watching her.  I didn't move fast enough.  I didn't put the stair gate back up.  It feels, oddly, like I didn't love her enough to protect her better.

Part of me wants to plead with the internet, with my husband, with Willow, to tell me that it's okay, that I didn't do anything wrong, that there's nothing I could have done.  But it's not okay.  It isn't even remotely okay. 


Anonymous said...

Oh poor Willow! I'm glad she is doing well. I'm not going to tell you that its ok, because I know that's not what you want to hear, but think about it this way, having the times that you screw up will only make you a stronger, better parent. BTW, I think she is quite possibly the cutest little button of a girl. I have wanted to send you that for a while, but it needs to be said!

Be well, Lilly from Orlando

Laura said...

Parker broke her leg when she was 18 months old. On the stairs. Jay was with her. She was on the second to last step and thought she was on the last step, so she turned to run across the living room floor and.... oops. She twisted and tumbled. Jay caught her from smacking her head, but the twist broke her leg. A toddler fracture, they called it. The cast was pink.

That didn't scar me. But the time she rolled off the bed, the one time I left to answer the phone, (who knew she could roll! she never had!) that one messed me up. I called the doc, who assured me she was probably fine. And she was. But still... Guilt like you wouldn't believe.

Yeah, it does happen to everybody. There is absolutely no way to avoid it. You either watch them too much and they never learn to survive on their own, or you don't watch them enough and they injure themselves. There is no perfect balance. No child gets to adulthood without a few bumps and bruises and no mother makes it without a few (or more) moments of near heart stopping terror and bottomless guilt.

Luckily, there are doctors. And wine. And we all get through it somehow.


Nubia said...

Once, my baby bear fell off the couch while my hubby was "watching her." I stepped outside our apt. to answer a call and as I was turning around to close the door, BAM! the little one had rolled over. My hubby was playing a video game and thought the baby was asleep.
She'd never rolled over before, I almost killed him and told him that it'd never happen to me b/c I actually watched the baby while watching her.
A few evenings later, I get up from the couch to get her her bottle before she'd wake up and again, she rolled over. I wish the pillows we'd laying around were near the sofa, but nope. I can still remember blurring through the tiny kitchen, through our tiny living room and seeing her little face all red and tears the size of soccer balls. OMG, shame on me! I always think of that moment any time I'm about to walk away from her. It usually makes me go back and rescan the room, recheck the gate and usually just pick her back up.
It happens, we're not perfect. We're moms not superhumans. *sigh* We should be able to be at two places at once but sadly we can't :|
...I can also remember the exact outfit she was wearing. That memory WILL NEVER leave my mind.

Anonymous said...

It's okay. You just taught Willow that everyone make mistakes even with the best of intentions, you tell the truth about it and ask for help, and you pick up the pieces and move forward. That makes you a pretty awesome mom.

Anonymous said...

OK, READ these comments because they are all spot on! Your grandmother kept all five of us close and watched us like a hawk and despite all that over-protectiveness, we had rumble-tumbles and injuries, one and all. And with you, despite all my efforts and watching and worrying, you had bumps, scrapes, bruises and worse. But here you are, all grown up and a wonderful mother yourself and I am so proud of you! Love, Mom

Vicki Suan said...

Nikki, I am so sorry Willow got hurt and I know exactly how you feel because I've been there, lots of times. As parents, we don't want our kids to get hurt and we watch them with eagle eyes 100% of the time but still, accidents happen. My son, when he was a toddler, rolled off the bed while hubby and I were both there. I can mention a lot more. One thing I know is that you're a wonderful mom and all of us blog followers know you do your very best. Just keep at it and keep on loving her. Here's a big hug for you and Willow...Vicki and Emily

Trish said...

The best advice I ever got was from a friend and a Mom of four. She said "babies bounce" and you know what, they really do. My first fell off the bed 4 times, once I tripped while carrying her down the stairs and once she launched herself out of her car seat (head first) onto the ground as I was trying to take her out.

She is fine. Totally fine. She gets good grades, she sings, she does sports. She was just a crazy, projectile baby.

These things happen and we can't protect our kids from everything. You are a GOOD MOM. Don't let anyone (including you) tell yourself otherwise.

Sooner or later, they are going to get hurt. It's all part of growing up.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say, please don't beat yourself up! I doubt there are many 18 month olds out there who haven't had a fall of that nature. My son fell down our entire flight of uncarpeted stairs when he was that age. It was a simple miscommunication in which I had shut the baby gate when I came upstairs to give the kids a bath and my husband opened it and didn't tell me. After his bath, I let my son roam the hallway as was our usual tradition, having no idea the gate was open! Needless to say, he went ALL THE WAY DOWN. And guess what, he was totally fine. Not even a bruise. I was in much worse shape than he was!!!! You simply cannot judge yourself on one lapse, when you do so, so much for that sweet girl every single day. You don't even approach the level of negligence that is out there, believe me. I don't know you except from your blog, but I can tell you are a wonderful mother.

Kitty said...

I've had the same experience. Last year, when we had a baby gate at the very top of our stairs (where it's not really supposed to be because they can pull it down, but I had just moved it the other day and blah blah lazy mom, etc.), I left my son upstairs while I ran out to my husband getting in the car to get to work. I handed him something and was back within 30 seconds, but by that time my son had pushed down the gate and surfed it down the stairs. He was hysterical, I was was awful. Fortunately, he was fine. And it reminded me of that time when he was four months old and I left him on the bed while I drew the bath, and BOOM my baby who couldn't scoot or crawl had scooted off the bed. We've all been there. I'm so glad Willow is ok!! Try not to be too hard on yourself.

Anonymous said...

I've never read your blog before today but I could not let this go uncommented. This won't be Willow's last fall. She's going to get hurt. A lot. It happens and it's just a part of her growing up. You can't keep her in a bubble, so stuff is going to happen. Please don't beat yourself up over it! It really, really does happen to everyone.

My baby fell off the bed...twice. And then last week the little bugger (who is now 2) locked me out of the house after I'd stepped outside for literally 3 seconds to grab my phone off the patio table. Kids move fast!