Well, it happened. At only 15 months old, my sweet baby girl had her first trip to the hospital. It was just a quiet, ordinary morning last Saturday, and my husband and I were in the kitchen getting breakfast ready. From the kitchen, we could see Luci Belle sitting on the couch in the livingroom peacefully watching Elmo's World. Seconds later, we heard a thump and a scream and saw blood. Steven ran to her and scooped her up. We figured she had somehow fallen forward off the couch onto the edge of the coffee table, busting a 3/4-inch slit of skin right open. The sheer impact must have cut the skin, since the rounded edges aren't even sharp, and the corners are covered in foam bumpers. It was an even cut, but it was spread widely apart and the flesh was totally exposed, pouring blood all over her new zebra print pajamas.
We knew we had to take her to the hospital for stitches, so we jumped in the car and headed for Dallas Children's Hospital which is about 10 minutes away. Sure, we could have taken her somewhere closer, but I'm a neurotic first-time mom who wanted an expert who was well-versed in working with children to stitch up her baby girl's head.
While she howled all the way there, I tried to stay calm but couldn't help but vainly exclaim, "I really hope it doesn't scar! I don't want my baby to have a scar!"
Over the next four hours, I'm not sure who was more traumatized - me or Luci Belle. She's already in a developmental stage where she doesn't want any strangers near her, and that's when there isn't a head wound involved. So despite the amazing care and incredible staff at Children's Hospital, she was completely hysterical the entire time.
The first doctor who came in wasn't sure whether she needed stitches or if she could get away with the sticky stuff that holds the skin together, so she had the attending physician come in for a second opinion. No sooner was he inside the sliding door of our little E.R. cubicle when he said, "Oh yes, STITCHES. Definitely."
Steven and I looked at each other desperately and sighed wearily, having no earthly idea how our strong-willed child was going to stay still while a thread with a hook sewed up her forehead, even with the drugs that were required. From there, we fought agonizingly through every step of the process: trying to hold her still so the doctor could even attempt to look at the wound, keeping the the numbing gel on her head in preparation for examining and cleaning it, coaxing her not once, but twice, to swallow the medicine without throwing it up, and worst of all, having to endure her constantly waving her hands with the "all done" sign, begging us to take her outta there.
Take knife and insert it through mother's heart.
In order to do the stitches, they had to give her drugs to make her "loopy." I was concerned about this, but what choice did I have? Eerily, what the medicine did was transform my lively toddler into practically a newborn. Within minutes, she laid in my arms as I'd held her then, staring and cooing and giggling at random unseen objects. Technicolor butterflies? Fields of wildflowers? We were just thankful she had finally calmed down.
The medicine began to wear off quickly though, and they still hadn't done the stitches. We called in the nurse and told her it was now or never. They then pulled out the "papoose board" (translation: baby straitjacket) to hold her still, and a nurse and doctor held her down while another did the stitches. Kudos to the doctor who was able to carefully and calmly sew 4 stitches into my baby's head while she was screaming, "MA-MA-MA-MA-MAAAAA!" at the top of her lungs and both parents were hovering inches away, nervous wrecks. At one point, Steven had tears in his eyes and had to sit down. The nurse said, "You're not gonna pass out, are you?" "No," he answered, "I'm praying."
It was heart-wrenching to see my child suffer, and we were only there for stitches. What about the parents who practically live on the Pediatric Oncology floor? What about the parents of the children who were just admitted from two different car accidents while we waited for help with our minor incident?
Lord, have mercy.
During the stitches, Luci Belle finally "gave up" and fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. It solidified in my mind why I practice attachment parenting and why I will never, ever leave my baby to "cry it out."
She slept all the way home and for about an hour afterwards, and then returned to her usual curious, boisterous self, soaking up all the world as if nothing had happened. Her mother and father, however, were seriously on edge, watching her every move.
And so goes the rest of our child's life, as we learn to surrender and give up control. As I rocked her to sleep last night, one of my very favorite moments of the day, she cuddled into my chest and closed her eyes with complete contentment. I prayed...
Lord, thank you for this gift, for choosing me to be mother of this precious girl.
Lord, help me to know how to mother her without smothering her.
Lord, help me to give up control of her life and know that You love her so much more than I ever could, even though that's unfathomable.
Lord, help me to give up my fear and trust my baby to You.
It's truly one of the hardest things a parent ever has to do - admit that your child is not really your own. Might as well just get the drugs ready now - for Mommy this time - for the day she leaves for college.