ER Visits, Fear and Mommy Guilt


So.... it has been an interesting past 4 days.

No parent ever looks forward to the day that they make a visit to the emergency room. A traumatizing experience for all, the combination of small faces and big tears pulls even the coldest heart strings. Unfortunately, we had an opportunity to make our debut to the emergency room after Watson took a fall from his second-story bedroom window.

As we were working in the yard, Watson had disappeared inside - nothing new. After finishing his bathroom break, he climbed up onto his window sill to see his football in the yard. Unfortunately, in his search for his football, he pushed too hard on the screen - launching both himself and the screen out the window.  For Better or Worse, I saw it all happen from the corner of the yard. My heart sank, my stomach flipped, and some of my worst fears and visions came to light. We had locked the windows, put on screens, and even structurally blocked access to his window with a cat tree while talking about how the screens were not strong... But these measures, were inherently insufficient. In classic Watson fashion, we needed to test this mom & dad theory out for our-self. 

As I watched him writhe on the ground in pain, wind knocked out of him and aches all over, the reality and guilt started to set in. With Adam out of town, I was on duty. There was no time for self-pitty, reflection or grief - Watson needed my full attention and support NOW. Just time to muscle up, put emotions aside and manage this crisis. Tasking Maddy with a variety of things to get from inside to keep her busy and less-focused on Watson's pain, we started cleaning him up and trying to isolate ailments. A painful shoulder, sore legs, shortness of breath and full dost of adrenaline paired with a bleeding lip and inability to stand was all extremely disconcerting. We quickly made our way to the car, buckling up, and heading in to the dreaded emergency room. With every car bump, Watson winced and I suspected a broken bone was part of the mix. Which bone, where, and whether there were other internal implications to it, I didn't know. All of this I can describe, but what I can't convey, is the overwhelming guilt I felt personally as we drove in. 

I know kids get banged up, learn hard lessons, and need to realize the recourse of their actions. Similarly, I know that parents have a tendency to over-protect kids from learning hard lessons they ultimately need to understand for themselves. But that awareness seemed unhelpful now. Instead I found my head battling itself - guilt vs. awareness. One second I'd come to terms with the reality of hard lessons, and the next second being revisited by doubt, guilt and grief. All of my efforts to be a "good mom" up to this time seemed pointless. If I can't keep him healthy, how am I not failing entirely in this role of motherhood?

Then we got to the emergency room. Checking in, they escalated our case to top priority, and nurses, doctors and equipment appeared from the woodwork to help diagnose the issues at bay. Crowded out of the room, Maddy and I watched from the hall as they scanned Watson looking for punctured organs, neck and head injuries, and broken bones. Cutting off his clothes, putting neck braces around him and checking for serious ailments my guilt soared.  I scrutinized every tone, inflection and facial reaction from nurses and doctors - further compounding the guilt I already felt seeing him - clothes cut off - in the hospital bed.

Over the next couple of hours, they closely monitored and tested to find only a broken collarbone. With deep bruises, they turned him home with just an arm brace and remaining symptoms to keep monitoring. We were lucky - things could have been MUCH worse. But I couldn't help immediately thinking how things could have been MUCH better. If only I hadn't tried to do yard work, if only we had put in heavy-duty screens when we bought the house, if only I hadn't let Watson out of my sight...

It's all ultimately pointless. As babies, you seem to have a more imminent role in keeping them away from these big hard lessons. Survival, right? Keeping them alive is your ultimate job. But as they grow, they NEED to start operating more autonomously - understanding the limitations and implications of the world around them, understanding not just first-order effects but second and third. Without having these crisis situations, their perspective for safety and appreciating boundaries and risks never truly happens. 

Now, I wouldn't recommend or wish this scenario on anyone, obviously. And I'm still not beyond the frustration, guilt and horror. It's horrendous... not to mention embarrassing, frustrating, emotional, sensitive, complicated and socially/ethically polarizing. But it does highlight a couple of really big things I think helpful for y'all. 

1. Parents have underlying fear of these high-risk (high consequence) lessons. Duh. But, in 2018 it's very easy to get carried away with this without it being recognized as a problem. Not letting Watson go inside unattended, putting bars on the windows, or not trusting him to operate autonomously could all have been easily executed prior to this incident to mitigate the effect of the lesson. But then.... chances are... he wouldn't have learned this hard lesson to the same degree. For parents, the key is knowing you have fear of these situations, and similarly knowing it can (and frequently does) change your parenting style. There are a million gadgets, solutions and products to help you diminish this fear - but the core issue you're really trying to solve is your own fear. Once you can label it as such, it's more easy to assess the probability, think through things and better assess a longer-term course of action - not just reactionary.

2. Feeling guilt as a result of your kid learning life lessons is a very real thing. Even in situations where you're not imminently engaged, witnessing and being a part of these lessons is terrible... its incredibly hard NOT to blame yourself. To a degree I still do, but as I watch Watson heal, the guilt dissipates. These lessons are HARD - not just for kids, but possibly harder for parents to watch. But sometimes that's just how they'll learn.

3. Engaging with friends & family following this incident has been... interesting. Although some people took this in stride, others have been quick to judge, morally shun, gossip, or exemplify this incident as cognitive reinforcement for why the world needs to be more "safe". In truth - it's been a roller coaster. Pair this with your own wavering between guilt and strength (while trying to act positive to keep morale up in your kid) and you've got quite the emotional ride. We're forever thankful for our everyone who have been so quick to help out, boost Watson's morale, and help encourage the healing process. These words of encouragement, acts of healing and consolation have really made all the difference. Bringing cookies, coming to visit, making cards, cooking dinner, sending videos, boosting spirits and sharing your time and empathy has meant the world. Thank you all. I forget how important all of this is (and how quickly the judgement can crumble your confidence), but I can definitely say we wouldn't be this far along in the healing process without you.