Monday, October 13, 2008

baby, bathwater

These days I find myself turning to Chip after Alice has done something new and remarking about the activity's status as a milestone. Picking up small piece of cracker with forefinger and thumb? Milestone. Objecting to a toy being taken away? Milestone. Working to retrieve a dropped toy? Milestone. Where was the knowing mothervoice on Saturday when I passed a milestone? It was going YIKES YIKES YIKES and then STUPID STUPID STUPID because my milestone was decidedly less joyous: I dropped my baby.

Okay, okay, maybe I didn't actually DROP her. But she fell. On my watch. And I feel just awful about it.

Here's what happened: I was getting ready to put her down for her afternoon nap. She takes a paci during her naps but I didn't have one in my hand. So I put her down on the extra bed that lives in her room. And then I turned away. For TWO SECONDS. To grab a paci on the small table by the closet. In the TWO SECONDS it took me to grab the paci, Alice managed to wiggle herself over to her belly, turn a full 180 degrees, and then make the 3-foot trek to the edge just so she could take a nice header off the bed. I turned just in time to witness a tiny Alice body sliding sickeningly head-first toward the floor. I sort of caught her. I can say sort of caught her because she still hit the floor. With her head. My hands helplessly clutching her ankles.

In the 20 minutes it took for me to comfort Alice into a hiccuping sleep, I went through all the emotions, including feeling so horrible about myself that I didn't even want to tell Chip what happened. I ran through every mistake I've made so far with Alice, all the things I could have done better, all the little things I wish I knew just a few short months ago, all the while rocking and whispering and comforting a screaming baby. It's okay, it's okay, it's okay - momma loves you, you're going to be fine - and then this one: momma is so sorry, so sorry, so very sorry.

Which leads me to this: why is it that we run through EVERY BAD THING that we've ever done, ever thought about, ever condoned, ever taught, ever skipped over, ever even contemplated in these moments? It's like the moment itself isn't heart-stoppingly awful enough, we need to slather on just a little bit more guilt - you know, to make that Mistake Sandwich that much better? It's the whole baby and bathwater conundrum: I don't think I need to tell you how hard it is to remember ALL the good when you're faced with some bad. Those little bad bits just want to taint everything, don't they?

After Alice slipped into sleep I watched her face for a while, wondering what other things I'm going to do (or not do), what other mistakes will come our way. Her sleep that afternoon was peaceful, even if my mind was not. When she woke up, she was all smiles, all forgiveness, all forgotten.

I hope I can be that strong.

17 comments:

Kathy said...

It's amazing how well you put the feelings all mothers surely must have into word!

artemisia said...

This is so well written and heartfelt - I feel like I understand (and I am just an auntie! not the same!).

I have no doubt that you are, indeed, strong enough for this motherhood gig. INDEED.

The Wife said...

The Boy fell today too. On my watch. I had laid him on his tummy on his dad's back and turned for 2 seconds and THUNK his head hit the floor and he HOWLED.

I did the same thing...picked him up and chanted, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

He eventually quieted down. And I remembered something a dear friend told me before she moved away.

She said that we're born to parents to learn forgiveness and we have children to learn repentance.

I think she might be on to something.

Shelly Overlook said...

We've all been there and you are absolutely correct in that the bad times stand out more often than the spectacular things we do. I suppose it's the permanent trauma to the mother's psyche or something.

Kristi said...

I never really thought about it like this before.

It's true that I can remember every single bad choice I have made with Kaeli. Every fall, every time I should have been paying better attention. I can make an instant list in my head, but I can't list the good stuff.

Maybe it's because it's implanted in my head that I'm supposed to feel guilty all of the time. To admit that I'm good at this mom thing could possibly lead to complete anarchy!!

tearese said...

oh yes, that happened to both of ours. Both times, Joseph thought we needed to rush to the Emergency room. Seriously, JOseph, calm the heck down.
Is pretty much what I said. Even though I felt bad.

Megan said...

That happened to me just a few weeks ago...on my watch too. We were camping...a deer came right into our camp...we all had to look out the window. My hand was right there to keep her from rolling off the couch, but somehow she managed to get around my hand and thud and seconds. I did the same as you...so sorry...mommy is sooo sorry. I am thankful they are so easy to forgive!

emily said...

i love to read your posts about alice ... and one day she will appreciate it as well ... and don't even worry ... all babies bounce :)

Amy said...

The huz always says that's why babies are made out of rubber. I know how traumatic it is as a mother. Nate fell off my bed when I turned around to pick up a shoe. It's a sickening sound to hear. I just kept thinking "stupid, stupid, stupid."

Susie Q said...

I happens to all of us and yes I agree, at that moment everything you have screwed up as a parent crashes down on you and you wonder will the next mistake I make be worse. What kind of parent lets that happen to their child??? I felt that way when in the span of a couple of days I shut the tip of Alex's finger in a window and left carpet cleaner out and Cooper shot himself in the eye with it....OHHHH the guilt I felt, but they survive and are really pretty tough. And most important of all you are a GREAT mom and Alice is lucky to have you.

Chip said...

Bean loves you, and I do too. You are the best mom for the Bean,.. and her smiles prove it

wandering nana said...

Because we think we have to be perfect to raise children...WRONG. As I told you, your first child is your experiment child. They teach you for the future ones that come along... WRONG. Every child will fall, slip, and bump along and the wonderful thing... YOU. You will be there to tell them it's okay and you love them and you will hold them while they cry, even when they are grown and have children of their own.(by the way, I saw her the day after and she was smiling and looked fine.)

Stacey said...

I just love how they are so forgiving. Sometimes Austin will look at me like 'how could you?' then two seconds later it's forgotten and he's my best friend again. We could learn a lot from these little ones!

Alice said...

oh man. it kills me every time a mom writes about this. not looking forward to feeling it myself one day :-P

Vicky said...

I never forget any mistakes I make either. I think we both need to forgive ourselves for being human. We'll do better next time right.

Amanda said...

I'm SO sorry for BOTH of you.

He he he as a mother of a 5 and 7 year old I just have to say that this won't be the last boo boo. The first one hurts you the most of course, but you eventually learn that in their desire to discover the world, these little people will get hurt and we are there to pick them up and make them feel better.

Worst thing on my watch - I closed Zack's finger in a door when he was two. We spent the whole day in the ER and he had to have surgery. He has since basically forgotten, can't even really tell which finger it is anymore, but I can tell. I always kiss it while he's sleeping.

Eleanor Q. said...

How I feel you! Today Fussbot thwacked his head on the corner of the table (AS I WAS REACHING FOR HIM!) and he shrieked and cried and I felt hand wringing-ly awful (especially when I saw the red bump on his forehead). I know it happens but still, Mistake Sandwich piled high with guilt.