Monday, November 17, 2008

Letting Go Is The Hardest Part

Our moment came this weekend. The one every parent tells you that you will have – and the one you summarily dismiss and think you never will. Our little Coco fell down a full flight of stairs Sunday morning. Thank the Lord she is fine – no major injuries and in fact not even any bumps and bruises – the baby gate we had gently pushed to one side at the bottom of the staircase acted like a net and caught her before she hit the tile floor waiting below as if God himself had reached out his hand to break her fall. But even with the blessing of her not getting hurt, her mother’s pain wasn’t that much lessened.

Cora is currently learning to go down the stairs forward (she used to have to turn around and climb down them backwards). I had her hand at the top of the stairs and she was just beginning to take a step down whilst reaching for the railing when our 85lbs Lab decided he wanted to be part of the group and pushed past her to race down the stairs.

Once he pushed past her she lost her grip on my hand, slipped and spun around tummy-first onto the stairs. Just like a little one hanging on the edge of a cliff she grabbed briefly for the top step but couldn’t hold on – her hands slipped off and she started falling. In horror I watched her tumble and slide down the stairs. Luckily she never went end-over end – she just slid and rolled sideways (like a child rolling down a hill). Her head never hit either wall or banister and she came to rest with her back against the waiting baby-gate.

Its amazing that while your body feels like things are going in slow motion your mind is whirring at a million miles an hour. I knew I would never reach her before she landed – wherever that was going to be. So many things were going through my head. I was looking for any sign of blood or serious injury; I was watching each millisecond where her body went and how she fell; I somehow knew I had to be careful because if I got myself into a hurry I would slip and fall on top of her, exponentially worsening things. All of this was going through my head however the only thing that came out of my mouth was a scream for my husband that sounded horrible and scary even in my own ears. I didn’t even know my voice could make those noises.

Ryan came running from the master bath but by the time he got to us, she was already done with her fall wailing at the bottom of the stairs and I was just scooping her up into my arms. At first I held her, softly swayed and tried to calm her. Ryan met me at the base of the stairs but there was no way I was giving her over to him – I clung to her. But then the tears came, and the shaking took over, and I realized I wouldn’t be able to hold her for much longer so I kissed her and handed her over to her waiting daddy (who thankfully stayed unbelievably calm).

Daddy had the presence of mind to take Coco into the next room to her toys so she wouldn’t see Mommy upset. Once they got settled the crying stopped and she began to play with her Dad. I sank down onto our couch and, unseen by little eyes, sobbed my heart out. I had a million feelings. On one hand I knew she appeared to be physically alright, and so I questioned my reaction – scolding myself for being a drama queen. On the other hand I felt immense guilt, shame, relief, fear, love, and the remnants of sheer terror. When I was through, and able to get up, my husband was waiting with a deep hug and words of comfort – assuring me it was not my fault and that “these things are bound to happen”. The same things I would have told him – and meant them – if he had been the one who watched the fall happen. But for some reason I had a tough time forgiving myself. I am supposed to be the mom who protects her child from all harm, and here I had let go of her hand and let her fall down an entire flight of stairs.

To make matters worse, falling down stairs is a bit of a touchy subject at my house. My sister fell down an entire flight of wooden, unfinished basement stairs onto a cement floor as a child. She suffered a serious concussion (including unconsciousness) and a terrible black eye. My mother has talked about that day since I have been old enough to understand. When Cora was born my mother was the first to prompt me to get baby gates and to remind me to always keep an eye on Cora because “things can happen so quickly”. In addition, my beloved uncle fell down a flight of stairs some years back. Unfortunately it caused irreparable damage and while he stayed with us (albeit in a coma) for a couple of years, we lost him after that. To have to call my mother and tell her what had happened was almost as bad as the event itself. I just knew how disappointed she would be. (But of course she was a mother first – and calmed her own upset and hurting child when we spoke.)

About 30 minutes after everything had settled and we were sure Coco was ok, my body just gave out. I could not function. I would have willingly gone and taken a nap at that point, but I felt like I didn’t deserve one, and therefore wouldn’t allow myself that luxury. So I tried to do things around the house in an exhausted fog. I had to pay my penance for what had happened.

As of this morning I am happy to report Coco seems none the worse for wear. She has no scrapes or bruises. She is happy as a little clam and in fact within about 20 minutes after the accident yesterday she was back to her normal self. She also appears to have no residual fear of the stairs – she was back at the gate, wanting to go up and down, yesterday afternoon.

So while it appears Cora has no lasting effects from the ordeal, I’m sure Mommy will have. I’ll probably hold little hands tighter, give a little less leeway, curtail a little more freedom and generally be a wet blanket for a few days – a few weeks – who knows. I realize at some point I’ll have to relax the mental grip I have on her a little, but just don’t ask that of me anytime soon.

1 comment:

Our Family said...

Oh man Kristi!!! How scary! I know Elle's day is coming soon - she is doing the same as Cora and trying to go down forwards like a "big girl"!!! I think I would've been really shook up too! Hope all is well!