I keep score in my house; a weird sort of medical-injuries-and-emergencies score.
First one to break a bone: Eldest daughter, collarbone vs. cubbies at Pre-k, June 2005 (I told her not to run inside!).
First (and only so far) to ride in ambulance: Eldest daughter (see above).
First one to get stitches: Youngest son, forehead vs. corner of wall, 5 stitches, September 2010.
First one to need crutches: Middle daughter, severely bruised hip from fall in gym, November 2013.
First one to get a concussion: Middle daughter, back of head vs. errant golf ball, April 2017.
Most X-rays: Eldest daughter, because she has scoliosis, not because she’s accident-prone.
Most ER visits: Middle daughter gets this honor too. (This isn’t even counting the Urgent-Care clinic visits.) She actually held this title before the golf ball incident.
Middle daughter is the reason I carry band-aids in my purse.
Child most likely to Break Out in Hives for No Reason: Actually, this one might be a tie; both middle daughter and youngest son. Son broke out in a complete face rash three days before we were going on vacation to Washington, DC for a week. Of course. Urgent Care dispensed ten days of gross-tasting (his words) steroids for the entire duration of our vacation. The only reason he was excited for school to start at the end of summer was because that meant he was done taking the meds.
Middle daughter was being treated for a staph infection on her leg, ironically right after this vacation. At the end of that course of antibiotics, she broke out in the worst full-body rash I’d ever seen. Face, ears, neck, back, fingers, even on her toes. This is how we found out she’s allergic to sulpha drugs.
Both of these kids have developed small patches of Hives For No Reason over the years, that we have tried to – with no success- attribute to any one of the following things: fresh apple cider, chemicals used to treat the hot tub, chlorine, red dye, red or black dyed fondant, store-brand crescent rolls, weird batch of sunscreen that we all use all the time and it’s never given any one a rash except this one kid this one time.
Most Visits to the Doctor this year? Middle daughter wins this one too: pneumonia, exercise-induced asthma, concussion, in addition to the staph and the rash, and all the follow-ups that go along with each of those. And this is only since September. My insurance company loves me.
Most comical response to an injury? It happened when middle daughter fell off the monkey bars in first grade, and broke her arm. The phone call from the school nurse came in the middle of nap time for then-18-month-old brother, and during sleep-hours for husband who was in mid-week of working nights. If you’ve ever had a spouse who works nights, or a toddler who cannot be without his naptime, you might be able to appreciate what was going on in my head after that phone call. Who do I wake up? Waking up the baby to drag him to the ER with me was no more desirable than waking up hubby to either take daughter, or be on baby-duty after nap time. I stood there holding the phone in my hand, truly conflicted. Then I realized I had to call my daughter’s piano teacher (an older lady, very strict and old fashioned) to explain that she wouldn’t be able to make her Piano Guild Audition that day. There was audible confusion in the woman’s voice- it was only 12:30 and auditions were at 4:00… surely we’d be done by then? And… but… she could still play piano, right?
Her. Arm. Is. Broken. That’s a No.
The injury that freaked Mom out the most? Probably head vs. golf ball. I wasn’t even there to see it. Middle daughter was at her cousin’s house, on one of the golf cart paths. Think about the odds for a moment here: how many people are on a golf course DAILY, walk or ride those paths DAILY, and who gets clocked in the head a week before dance competition?
I’m eternally grateful to my sister-in-law and her family for being there for her right after it happened, and being a calming presence and influence. Because nothing quite prepares you for the sight of your kid sitting in front of the toilet, crying hysterically because she’s nauseous, scared, and in pain. The back of her t-shirt was soaked from her neck to her waist in a wide swath of blood, and her long brown hair was matted and also soaked in patches with blood. I know that head and scalp wounds bleed a lot, but Oh. My. God. Suffice it to say that the t-shirt was ruined, and the looks we got walking into the ER that afternoon were a complete mixture of sympathy and horror.
I may be only speaking for myself here, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that motherhood brings with it a certain de-sensitivity to bodily fluids. I think it’s completely reasonable to say that the act of childbirth itself is enough to strip away your last shred of pride, and reduce you to your most primitive level of humility, thus beginning that process of desensitizing.
I’ve never fainted at the sight of blood, so that right there is a good prerequisite qualification for teaching and for motherhood. I realize that some people have a “fight or flight” response when it comes to injuries and blood, a completely instinctual, unexplainable, and sometimes irrational response. I don’t know why, but I immediately go into “fight” mode, detaching myself from how I might feel about the 1-inch gash in the back of my daughter’s head. I assess her (she’s conscious, crying hysterically, but able to carry on a conversation -about dance, no less- and able to walk); I assess the wound (gross- suppressing a little shudder and gag here, still bleeding but we have towels to hold on it); I assess the logistics (Is it worth it to wait for the on-call doctor to call back orwe should probably just go to the ER anyway, both parents are present, one to drive and one to sit with her, other two kids are taken care of… do I need to bring food- for me really- in case we’re at the ER through dinner time? Because, let’s face it, I’m no good to anyone if I’m hangry. My husband can attest to that.) And then we take care of her.
I’m still in fight mode when we get back home, still assessing: How does she look? How is she acting? Asking her, how do you feel? Does it hurt? Where? On a scale of 0-10… I don’t come down from this “fight” response, this adrenaline rush until she’s tucked safely in bed and sleeping, her head wrapped in gauze pads and blue Co-flex tape so she looks like a Richard Simmons back-up.
Then I allow myself to relax a little. I sit on the couch, drink wine, and ponder the “what-ifs.” I breathe. Then I am just grateful.
I don’t keep score to see who wins in the end. “Life is about the journey,” right? It’s my job as their Mom to get these kids safely through this journey, or as safely as I can. Honestly I can’t follow them around every minute or encase them in bubble wrap, as much as I’d like to think that would protect them. I keep score for the stories. And the stories bring us together. After all, who doesn’t love a good head-wound story around the dinner table?