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Fall down go boom

October 1, 2012
logo by Christine Hepner

I used to think of myself as being athletically inclined and coordinated, but there is nothing graceful about motherhood, at least not the way I do it. I had no idea before he was born just how ridiculously hard it is to get out of bed holding a sleeping baby in your arms. I bet even Grace Kelly had to throw her legs backwards towards her head and then try to rock herself forward and over the edge while holding Princess Caroline or Stephanie as still as possible in her arms. Or maybe she had one of the legion of nannies just pick the baby up for her. I also have trouble trying to put him in his crib without waking him. I’m short, cribs have tall sides and the railings aren’t allowed to slide up and down anymore, so that means the last inch or two is a free-fall for the baby. I’ve gotten better at it, but I woke him up a lot by letting him almost slip out of my hands into his crib.

I don’t know how many times in the last 15 months I’ve stubbed my toes on the little wheels on the bottom of his playpen, even after I’ve said to myself, “Remember, that little fucker has wheels, don’t stub your toe…arrrgghghgh.” How many times have I bumped my head leaning into the back seat of the car to put him in or take him out of his car seat? Infinity plus one?

In my defense, I don’t think anyone could look graceful trying to carry a 26-pound toddler in a stroller up four flights of stairs with a diaper bag, pocketbook, a bag or two of groceries, and let’s not kid ourselves here, at least one bottle of wine. By the time I get to the front door, I’m usually sweating and red-faced and gasping for air. But even my very fit friends think those stairs are a bitch. My friend Lisa ran her first triathlon this year and placed third, and she hates my stairs, so I’m not too ashamed of the sweat and tears. It was a great day when, at 10 months old, F decided he wanted to try to crawl up the stairs on his own. It took at least 15 minutes, but he did it! It opened up all sorts of new possibilities for us to get out of the apartment more often.

Along with not being graceful, I used to like to think of myself as being pretty calm in a crisis. My future mother-in-law took an awful fall when we were in Italy in 2006 (And regardless of the mother-in-law jokes and what you might have heard, I had nothing to do with it. There are witnesses. I was nowhere near her when she fell.) and I was pretty calm and able to help her a little. I had come prepared with a pocketbookful of supplies. I had over the counter antiseptics and band aids and all sorts of pain relievers. If you’ve ever been in an Italian drug store, you’ll know that while they carry about 100 different cellulite treatments, you won’t find a single actual pharmaceutical. I guess the reasoning is if you have cellulite, you probably would prefer to bleed to death anyway, so why carry band aids.

Anyway, I guess most people are good in a crisis until the victim is their own child. My mother says that as a nurse, she never saw anyone as calm, cool, and collected in a crisis as her sister-in-law, my Aunt Theresa. She said that a patient could walk in the emergency room with his heart outside his chest and his arm hanging off and Theresa wouldn’t even break a sweat. Until it came to her own kids. One day my cousin Trisha got her finger pinched in a stroller and my mother said Theresa almost fainted. There was no blood, no bruises, and two minutes later Trisha was back to playing, but Theresa’s reaction was so extreme and over the top my mother at first thought she was kidding.

My friend Colleen had her son Stevan in his high chair, turned her back for a moment to put laundry in the wash not a foot away, but Stevan still managed to reach out and get the cap to the laundry detergent. When Colleen turned back around, he had the cap to his mouth. He was too young to tell her whether he swallowed any, so she called poison control. They called 911, and 3 minutes later the paramedics were there. Colleen had opened the doors so that they could get in immediately and after they walked in, she lost it. But to me, that’s keeping it together until you are allowed to lose it. If she hadn’t been able to call poison control, now that’s losing it. Stevan is fine, by the way.

Saturday afternoon I fell down the stairs in mother’s house. I wasn’t hurt, but I was holding F at the time. I pitched forward on the second stair and he flew out of my arms, hit his face on the corner, and face-planted five stairs down. I don’t know who screamed louder. I grabbed him and turned him over, no blood. He was screaming, so no loss of consciousness. He could move his arms and neck, so no broken bones. He landed on thick wall-to-wall carpeting, thank goodness. I picked him up and ran to the couch and hugged him until D and my mother got to us. My mother checked him over quickly and kept saying, “He’s OK, he’s OK.” D finally managed to pry him out of my arms and rocked him until he stopped crying a minute later. It took me longer. In fact, 10 minutes later, I still couldn’t stop shaking and crying, and even after I calmed down, I kept bursting into tears every hour or so for the rest of the night.

We were in Savannah last week visiting friends. D’s pal from HS, Nancee, is the mom of a 28-year-old daughter. She told us parenthood with a partner is all about taking turns not killing your child accidentally. First it’s your turn to not kill him for 8 hours, then it’s his turn to not kill him for 8 hours, then if you’re lucky, you sleep and start all over again the next day. Repeat that for about 18 years, and you’ve raised a child. I feel like I dodged a bullet this week, sixteen and three quarters years to go….

One Comment
  1. babyfeat permalink

    I’m so glad you are both okay. How frightening! I love your friend’s advice.


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