Wednesday, May 22, 2013

First Fall

I never take Terza to the toddler playground. Its part of the price she pays for being the third child: she doesn't get baby-centered activities. But now that she's really running around, and its such beautiful weather, I am trying to make it more of a priority. Mommy Guilt has kicked in.

Last week, on the way home from dropping the kids off at school, I took her to the Tot Lot. It was a resplendent sunshiney day and Terza was over the moon to be amongst her fellow toddlers, squawking and yelping and sucking on pacis. I felt delighted with my ability to manage it all. Super Mommy, that's me.

As she toddler around the playground equipment, I trailed a few steps behind, relaxed and confident  letting her clamber onto the steps of the little toddler playhouse. I did not do this for Primo -- with him, I never let go of his hand, never let him experiment with anything that could result in a fall or a tumble, always swooped him up to avoid any potential accidents. I was the hover-iest of helicopter moms. I might have been the same way with Sec but as I was so exhausted, all my memory from those years has been lost forever.

But now, with number three, I am able to relax a bit, give her room to grow.

I was, that is, for about five minutes. Until, while on the toddler playhouse, she raced too fast towards the door and missed a step, falling face first onto the plastic playhouse floor.

I was right there, right next to her. I may even have been holding her hand. But she lost her balance and toppled so quickly, there was nothing I could do to stop it. I wasn't all that alarmed initially, because I say her fall, and it wasn't a bad fall, was the kind of wipe-out she has often, since she is still learning how to keep her equilibirum while standing, the kind that never results in more than a startled whimper. But this time, she started screaming, not the annoyed or angry scream but the blood curling pain scream that makes a mother start to have heart palpitations.

I scooped her up and carried her over to the bench, where I sat and lay her face against my chest. I pulled a paci out of my pocket and pipped it in her mouth, sure that would console her. It did not. So a minute or two later, when she was still shrieking, I pulled her away from me so I could take a look at her and I noticed a bit of red near her mouth. I remained calm. There were no open wounds on her face or anything.

But when I pulled the paci from her lips and blood just kind of oozed out in a vague blob around the perimeter of her mouth, I ceased to remain calm.

"Oh my God, you're bleeding!" I gasped.

She shrieked inconsoloably.

"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!" I'm not great with the sight of blood, particularly when it belongs inside of my children.

At this, two or three moms walked over and started handing me things -- tissues, wet wipes -- and talking in soothing voices: "Ok, here, let me help. She's OK. She's fine."

"Oh my God, Oh my God, why is there so much blood? Where is it coming from?"

It wasn't pouring out or anything, but there was a lot of it, viscous salvia-blood just kind of oozing from all sides. It was awful and bright and causing me to feel light headed.

"She probably just hit her lip," one mom said, handing me a wet wipe, "Or her tongue."

"Let's see," said another, peering at her face, "Yep, I think that's it, I think its her tongue."

I pressed in the general vicinity of her mouth and in a few seconds, the bleeding had stopped, though the baby continued to shriek in pain.

"Maybe she wants some water, to get rid of the blood taste," suggested one mom.

"Yeah, that's a good idea," I agreed, "I'll go to the bagel shop and get some."

It took me a minute to collect myself, though, so shaken was I from the sight of the blood.

Then I stood, slung the diaper bag over my shoulder and thanked the women, all first-time moms of toddlers from the look of it, though they probably assumed the same about me.

"The crazy part is," I told them, "This is my third child."

They laughed then, but not in a mean way. They understood that no matter how many kids you have, you never become immune to the shock and terror of having them bleed from the mouth.

As it turned out, it wasn't so much her tongue as her upper gums, which she hurt -- I found that out when I too her to the doctor later that day, to make sure she hadn't sustained a concussion or anything too damaging.

"Just a hematoma," he concluded cheerily, "And she'll have a bruise for a few days. Comes with the territory of learning to walk."

Terza's lip was mondo swollen for a day, looking like she's taken a hit from Muhammed Ali. Then it developed into a purple bruise which felt indicting when moms at drop off stopped to ask what had happened to my pretty baby.

After a week, the bruise has almost fully faded. As has my relaxed and confident approach to playground parenting. Yes, after a brief hiatus, I've been restored to my natural state of Helicopter Mom, and here I will remain for roughly three years, until the kid is in pre-school, and on someone els'e watch.