Last Wednesday morning, I was in total Heaven.
I was laying in the hospital, 2 days after giving birth to our second son. My recovery was going amazing, and I was feeling great! So much so, I’d given my husband permission to take off for a few hours to go entertain our toddler (who was with Grandma) and make him feel loved.
Around noon, I’d finished up my lunch and decided to have a little skin-to-skin time with my sweet baby boy resting peacefully on my chest. He was so warm, and his scent was intoxicating. It was hard not to just be in love with this little bundle from the moment I’d met him.
But somewhere between his smell and his warmth and my full tummy, I’d began to nod off myself. It wasn’t until about an hour later that I started to rouse. During the split second it took me to remember where I was and wonder when my husband might return, I instantly felt a weight being lifted from my chest.
And before I knew what was happening, I heard a quiet thud and a small cry.
In a sudden, inescapable panic, I remembered that my son had been on my chest before I drifted off, and he was no longer there. I looked down from my hospital bed, and saw my newborn laying on the floor right beside me.
By Wednesday evening, my worst nightmares were coming true.
Nurses rushed my son off to take x-rays where it took almost an hour to confirm a probable skull fracture. Then they rushed him off to CT where it seemed like an eternity before hearing the results.
In those two hours, I’d experienced emotions no mom should ever have to feel; from disbelief and sadness to unforgivable anger and grief. More than once my husband (who literally walked through the door 30 seconds after I’d scooped him up off the floor) had to bring me back from some dark places. As 9 months of pregnancy, love, and the delivery flashed through my head, I had begun to convince myself that I had killed our son.
And it was all my fault.
How could I have fallen asleep??
What type of mother would fall asleep and drop her son??
I would never be able to forgive myself.
All of our family arrived as quickly as possible to help us cope with whatever results the CT showed. And when the nurse finally wheeled his crib back in the room, she gave us the news…
What looked like a skull fracture on the x-rays was actually just a growth plate. There was no bruising or bleeding, and no broken bones. He was perfectly fine.
Almost 8 days later, I still find myself replaying the events of that day in my mind. Although our obstetrician and pediatrician both have reassured me that the CT would have shown any damage, and there was none, I still can’t help but feel guilt and blame. There’s not a moment that passes as I watch him sleep peacefully that I don’t wonder if I’ve done permanent damage that the doctors may not have found.
But what I’ve come to realize from this could-be tragedy is that I have to learn to forgive myself.
As parents, we’ll always make mistakes whether it’s through parenting learning curves or failed techniques. There will always be moments in our children’s lives we’ll look back and wonder what we were thinking or why didn’t we do this differently, but living in past moments doesn’t stop life from continuing to go on.
As I watch my son and think about what happened, I’m missing out on the moments that are happening now. A faint smile while he sleeps. An awareness and recognition of the world around him. I have to learn to forgive myself in order to live in the present and learn from my failures.
What I’ve learned from this experience (besides to always put the bedrails up, no matter what the nurse says!) is that even the most perfect of parents are human, and no matter how much I love my children I won’t always be capable of protecting them at every moment.
Besides, our children really are more resilient than we give them credit for. Nearly all the mistakes that we struggle forgetting, in the grand scheme of things, are not “world-ending” like we make them out to be, and the only thing stopping us from being forgiven is ourselves.
I don’t mean to suggest I have this all figured out, though. I imagine this will be a daily struggle for me for some time, but hey I’m trying!
Feel free to leave your own story in the comments below,
or just rest in the knowledge that you’re not alone in the world of parental mistakes.