06 October 2007

Land of 10,000 Nightmares

A week ago, I closed the bathroom door, and my 2 year old daughter’s tiny hand was by the hinge. At first I thought she was crying because I wouldn’t let her play in the toilet, but then I saw her, pinned by just one finger. I threw the door open, but it was too late.

Blood poured, so much blood from one small girl. I called her father, screaming at him to answer the goddamn phone. By the second ring, he did. You have to come home, I said. I’ve hurt the baby. I’ll meet you at the ER, he said. He was not angry.

The two miles to the hospital felt like thirty though I hit every single light green. “Oh, honey, it’s gonna be okay, I’m so sorry” I kept saying over and over, begging her to stop screaming.

It is not as bad as I’m making it sound, I suppose. She lost the fingernail (it was mostly off when we got to the hospital)and it might or might not grow back. It took five stitches to reattach her fingertip, pull it tight against the rest of her finger with that angry black thread. She has several more stitches inside, knots
of dissolving sutures that will last until her body knits itself back together.

When I was in fifth grade, I broke my arm, badly, and both my parents told me that if they could, they would trade places with me, take the pain themselves. I thought little of it, wondered why on earth they would rather have a broken arm than me. I know now that they desperately wanted to; to take away my daughter’s hurt, I would’ve slammed my hand in that door ten times, given all my fingertips.

For me, this is primal. That I caused her this hurt is almost unspeakable even though it was in the truest sense an accident.

She will bear these scars all her life.

In many ways, I feel that I will, too.

I wrote most of that the night it happened; sorry if it's overly dramatic, but damn, it broke my heart in 8 places. Flustered and queasy, I ran in circles in the kitchen, looking for my car keys, hoping she could make it two miles without hurting herself further. She did: she's been amazing through this whole process, crying only when we change the bandage, and even then only a little. She is one strong, brave, little sprout.

For the first three nights after, I hardly slept. I'm pretty sure it was the adreneline working its way out of my system, but I was obsessed with Andrea Yates and Susan Smith, women who both drowned their own children (Yates in the bathtub, Smith in a lake). I fixated on these women not because I felt kinship with them. On the contrary, though when their crimes were committed I knew they were heinous, it wasn't until I actually afflicted significant injury on my own child that I knew just how disturbed these women must have been. Smith, in particular, is beyond my ken. Yates, I believe, was mad enough, truly believed her children weren't safe in this world, to make her actions almost maternally protective. But suddenly, having hurt V and feeling the guilt and shame and heartache associated with it, I was really pissed off at mothers who could choose to hurt their babies.

Mostly I'm sleeping better now, as she has resumed her usual silliness, but I am trying to be more careful and alert in all ways. Last Friday, at the ER, I told Shaun through my tears that we'd have to take all the interior doors off the hinges, but he patiently said "Honey, I don't think that's practical." In so many ways, Shaun's been what held this house together while I was enjoying OCD insomnia. If he had done this, I know that there would be a part of me really angry with him, even if I knew that it was a true accident. In that way, if V had to have a fingertip crushed, I guess it's better that it was me than anyone else.

She'll heal up quite well, the hand specialist tells us. Actually, his PA told us that: the doctor himself said "It'll never be normal. The chip of bone will be reconnected through scar tissue. It will be thicker. We don't know what the nail will look like. Many people have fingers that have been injured and are therefore different."

I blinked at him. "It'll never be normal."

Then, in the bandage/splint department, the kind woman was apologizing it was taking so long, but, as she said, "We hardly ever get anyone this small in here."

Right. Sorry I'm a bad mother. (I really don't think she meant this at all. But that's how I took it. I suppose she could be saying V is small for a 2 year old, but I don't think that was it). It broke my heart for the ninth time.

She will finish her antibiotic today, and on Wednesday we go back to see the friendly Hand Doctor. I know that in the grand scheme of terrible things in this world, this is pretty minor, but it shook me up right well. I so wish this hadn't happened. Ack.

Here's the walking wounded, relaxing in her Little Mermaid chair, near her Wiggles guitar, watching Dora the Explorer. It's amazing how silly principles like "Less TV" go out the window when a mother feels guilty.

1 comment:

Minke said...

When Kathy told me what happened, the first thing I thought was, "oh no - poor Jennifer". Because I know what you are saying - I know that it hurt you far more than V because you love her so very, very much. She won't remember, scar or no scar, but I know you'll never forget. I'll never forget my boys in the NICU, or O in the ED getting a spinal tap, even though those things weren't my fault. Even then, I felt this horrible sense of mother guilt that was something along the lines of "I'm the mother, and I'm supposed to be able to protect them". Irrational perhaps, but very real nonetheless, and very "primal". I would have gladly had a spinal tap or dealt with any of it for them if I could have, but the second best thing to that isn't beating myself up, even if it seems that way. Jennifer- what happened to V could have happened to anyone. Be kind to yourself - it will do V a lot more good than your sleeplessness will. I know V will be just fine, but I hope you feel better soon too.