His hands and feet have always been filthy.
When he was just a few days old, I would look at his tiny nails and wonder at how it was they were always in need of cleaning and cutting. I’d use my teeth to carefully trim them and then gently soak them in water to release the dirt.
As he lay in the hospital bed, I keep looking at his feet. When was the last time I cut those toenails? I need to teach him to take better care of himself.
Guilt courses through me like ice and I lean forward to touch his shoulder. He shudders and frowns at me.
“Stop trying to help me mom. You can’t do anything!”
I hate those words and I frown back.
That can’t be true. I refuse to accept that. I am his mother and I am responsible for everything that happens to him. This is my fault and now I have to fix it. I NEED to make it better.
“Let me rub your head.”
“Your lips look dry, let me put some chap stick on.”
“How about I sing you a song or tell you a story?”
“I love you.”
He screams out in pain again and his body starts to shake.
“Just stop mom! STOP IT! You can’t do anything!!!”
I swallow hard and force myself to keep it together. He needs me to be tough.
All I can do is sit here with him and listen to him cry.
I hate it.
This whole situation is complete bullshit.
Anger bubbles up at the hospital staff and the impossibly slow way they are moving. I hear the nurses discussing another patient and I want to slap them across the face. How can they endure his cries of pain? Why are they not running around helping us? Why are they so calm?
Hours go by and we move through the motions.
IV in the arm.
Painkillers that barely touch the pain.
Confirmation that his wrist is indeed broke in two places.
Crying, shaking and begging for water.
Waiting to be put under.
Nurses come and go.
Papers to sign.
Drugs given that I don’t fully understand.
Bones reset by what the doctor calls “barbaric procedure.”
Waking up and wanting all the “tubes out.”
Waiting to be released.
When we finally get into the car, it feels as if we’d been gone for days. We are hungry, tired and emotionally drained. As we cue up in the drive-through for some well-earned milkshakes, I look at my boy in the mirror.
“You know I really wish I could have done something to help you,” I tell him. “I hated seeing you in so much pain.”
“You couldn’t mom,” he says. “There was nothing you could do.”
There it is again.
It has been a week and he is on the mend. He will get his regular cast on Friday and the pain is under control now.
But I’m stuck. I’ve written and erased this blog post a dozen times. The truth is, I am struggling to understand all the emotions that this event has evoked.
Guilt: I keep replaying his fall off the play structure in my head and I can’t stop blaming myself. After all, it happened after school on my watch. I have told him to not stand on top of the monkey bars about 30,000 times, and I was about to yell at him again when he fell. If only I had.
Fear: My body keeps flooding with the memory of how completely and utterly incompetent I felt as I saw his clearly broken arm. I didn’t know what to do and I am fearful of all the ways it could have been so much worse.
Weakness: Not being able to fix my sons pain or even comfort him made me feel like a very inadequate mother. I don’t recognize this pathetic, uncertain and full of worry mom I am turning into.
Embarrassment: The school is looking at playground safety closer and sent out a note about how parents need to watch their kids after school. Clearly, if I had been a better parent none of this would have happened. Right?
Despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to shake all this crap away and turn it into something positive.
“He learned his lesson,” falls flat and I’m not even sure it’s true.
“I learned my lesson,” puts too much blame on me and it feels icky and wrong.
Really, it was an accident. Kids get hurt all the time and it just happened. There is no lesson or getting over it.
I guess sometimes bullshit is just that.
But at least he is cute.
Reminds me of the time we were visiting friends. One family, after spending the morning of the 4th of July in the ER, and returning home with middle son in a soft cast on one arm, I heard the mother yell out “Tyler, got off the roof. You only get ONE ER trip a holiday”. My brothers had several broken bones. It happens. Kids get hurt, but they mend.
Ah…the infamous “mommy guilt”. It sucks, doesn’t it? Those tiny human beings they place in our arms come with a lot of love, fun, messes, crying, laughter, pain, bumps, weird quirks, illnesses, fevers, hugs, poop, vomit, but we wouldn’t trade them for the world. Those bumps and bruises are incredibly hard on us as mothers and fathers because we love them with our whole hearts and would take their pain and hurt away from them in a heartbeat. I felt helpless when my daughter recently had pneumonia with super-high temps. Your mind races with the “what its” and you feel like maybe you could have done something to prevent it, but sometimes like you said….certain things are just bs. You are a great mommy because you let your kiddos experience life!
You are amazing and you handled everything wonderfully! And you absolutely are not to blame. It happens sometimes. Kids get hurt. Love you and hugs!
I’m so sorry about your son. Those situations where you see your children fall, and you know there is nothing you can do, are just awful. I remember my daughter running, pretending to be a donkey, right into a door frame, and blood spurting out from the top of her forehead. She needed stitches, someone to stop the blood flow, and pain relief. Even now, the memory of knowing something was going to happen, and the helplessness in those few fractures of seconds remains.
Sometimes it’s all just bullshit! We can’t do anything, and we hate it. We hate it and there is no meaning. Watching your child suffer is horrible. It’s bullshit. I’m sorry you went through it.
Dear Super Mom,
Yes it’s BS and most of us have been there and have felt exactly the way you did.
Mine have grown and call me when they need me to hold their hand still. For that I am greatful. I’m 47 and recently called my Mom when I was sick and she came and held mine as I held hers recently. Full circle. Thank you for sharing. And yes he is cute.
My son fell off the monkey bars in 2nd grade during school hours. He broke his wrist in two places. He never once cried. He was acting tough for my sake, even though it was clearly broke. After the cast came off, it was to the surgeon we went for carpal tunnel surgery. It didn’t heal as well as it should of. He’s now 22 and has the wrist of a 50 year old man. Guilt strikes me every time it gets cold out and his hand doesn’t work as it should. Every time he’s out deer hunting and his wrist hurts so he has to come in. I know it’s not my fault, but the Mommy guilt is still strong. Your doing great, keep up the Pitbull Protective Mommyness.
He is cute and very mature when dealing with his pain. You should be proud that he realized really there was nothing you could do. I’m sure he’s a smart boy and probably mad at himself for proving you right that he shouldn’t have been standing on the monkey bars A blow to his pride….and the ever testing of his independence and proving he can take care of himself. BTW…I love your use of curse words….so real….keep goin’ girl!!!
You experience these feelings because 1. you are a loving and caring mother and 2. you are not one to sit by and just watch things happen – you are an active force in life. Would you like yourself if you were one of those who can see their child in pain and feel nothing? Life is far richer for those of us who feel and love. Embrace it all – even the bullshit. (That all sounds good, I know, but it sure is hard to feel that way when it’s your baby who is hurting.)
My daughter has cerebal palsy and a seizure disorder. I have spent many restless days and nights in the hospital feeling helpless and hopeless. The relief comes when your kid looks at you and smiles. Being there is all you can do.
Aww, love those glasses. Hope your boy has a speedy recovery.
Mommy guilt is bullshit. All of us have a broken something or other. Bones are easily mended. Thank God for that. Sometimes no matter what we do as parents there is something that comes along to break our babies… a swing, a slide, a cruel remark by a schoolmate, a sexual predator, or even a parent’s off-handed remark. My mom reminded me often when I would tell her about one of my childhood dramas (or traumas) that she did the best she could at the time. We have to forgive ourselves in this way for not measuring up to the perfection we aspire to be.
You were there when he fell. You got him the help he needed. You are a fantastic mother.
Best wishes for a fast recovery for your kiddo! (And he is a cutie!)
There is no guilt like a mother’s guilt. You were there for him when he needed you. He might have been saying that you couldn’t do anything, but I’ll bet he would have been much more stressed if you hadn’t been beside him. I’m guessing that telling you that you aren’t at fault is going to help your guilt … but you aren’t at fault. Stuff happens.
Oh Bridgette, I think you are such a kick-ass mama. My daughter broke her arm in our backyard. I remember feeling many of the same emotions you described. Accidents sadly do happen. We love you & Cooper:)
You are entirely right, sometimes bullshit takes over our life and we can’t do anything to stop it. You are an amazing mother and a great storyteller! Kids are kids as you know, and we can’t always protect them from themselves.
It just really is bullshit. But damn, you’re awesome. Shit just happens. To all of us/them/everyone. xoxoxoxo
How funny that while reading this, my fav part was the pic…..and as you said ‘cute’! Hope he is feeling better, the rest is total and utter bullshit!