September 10, 2016 was almost the worst day of my life.
It started off innocently enough. Molly’s first dance class, a baby shower, some laundry, and some light cleaning. It was a lazy, warm, and sunny day.
At around 4 pm, Liam started getting fussy and I knew he was ready for his afternoon nap. Molly was also napping, and I was impatiently waiting for her to wake up so we could go to my in-law’s pool and swim (leaving a sleeping Liam at home with Eric). I made Liam a bottle, laid him in the boppy on the living room floor, and sat down right next to him. Then I got out my phone and started doing whatever one does on their phone. Instagram, Pinterest, email? Something like that.
I’m not sure how much time passed. It felt like 30 seconds but maybe it was more like 3 minutes. I had kind of gotten lost in iPhone land, idly reading articles or pinning recipes perhaps. After an unspecified amount of time, I suddenly heard a very strange sound.
THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!
“What the hell are the dogs doing?” was my immediate thought. But then I looked next to me at the empty boppy and a sinking realization slowly set in. Liam. The basement. THE STEPS.
I’ve never run so fast in my life. I jumped up, chucked my stupid phone across the room and basically flew to the basement doorway. There, at the bottom of the steps, was my baby. My 9 and half month old baby boy, lying flat on his back on the concrete floor, wailing.
I did the thing you’re not supposed to do and thundered down the steps and picked him up without checking for a neck injury. How could I not pick him up, though? At some point Eric, who had also heard the noise and quickly figured out what it was, materialized next to me.
So, it turns out I’m not the person you’d want on hand in an emergency. I was panicked and close to hyperventilating, yelling nonsense, while Eric managed to keep a cool head and assess the damage, so to speak. Long story short… we got lucky. So, so, so, so lucky. In what could have been a fatal or incredibly damaging accident, Liam escaped with some nasty looking black and blue marks and a little bit of brush burn on his cheek. It’s only been two days and the bruises are practically gone.
Our basement steps are wood, not concrete, though the floor at the bottom is concrete and I’m sure that didn’t feel great. Also, the more I walk up and down the steps, the more I consider the very real possibility that he could have rolled either right or left rather than straight down, thus dropping from a good distance down to the floor. It makes me cringe every time I think of it.
I’ve told this story quite a few times now, and every single time I do I’m rewarded with a similar story. Kids falling down stairs, falling off tables, falling out of strollers. Hearing stories like that does make me feel better… and makes me feel less like a crappy mom…but still. This was my fault, and I’m taking responsibility.
I’m the one who left the door open.
I’m the one who was supposed to watching him.
I’m the one who was looking at my phone.
And of course I have a million excuses – I usually don’t leave the door open. I was sitting right next to him! I was distracted for a matter of minutes.
But despite all that… it’s still my fault.
Here’s the worst part of all. That morning, I had judged another mom. I sat there with my judgy, judgy self and judged, and then something like karma came and bit me in the ass. (I don’t actually believe in karma, but if I did this would be a really good example of it).
I took Molly to her first dance class Saturday morning (which was freaking adorable, but that’s another story for another time). As I’m sitting there, one of the other moms was giving her newborn baby a bottle. But rather than holding him lovingly and gazing into his eyes, she was kind of letting him dangle off her lap as she shoved the bottle in his mouth and scrolled through her phone.
I’m not usually one to judge (OK, yes I am, but I’m really trying not to). But this really got to me. Mostly because I had just read a pro-breastfeeding article discussing how covering up to breastfeed robbed mothers of eye contact with their babies while feeding, which is part of the whole bonding experience, which is why breasts are positioned where they are because newborns don’t have sharp eyesight yet, etc, etc. So with this in mind, I was thinking, what the hell is she looking at on her phone that’s more impressive or amazing than her 3 week old baby? Why is she skipping this beautiful moment to look at Facebook?
So you can see the foreshadowing here. Mere hours later, rather than bonding with or watching my own son eat, I looked at my phone and ultimately let my child fall down the stairs. Turns out I’m not one who should be passing judgement. Like, at all. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Everyone who shared their own accident stories assured me that the guilt and anxiety will pass, and I’m sure they will, but at this moment I’m feeling very guilty + anxious about it. I just keep thinking what could have happened.
The night after the incident, I barely slept. I woke up every couple of hours to go make sure he was still breathing (and I think Eric was shaken too, because he was getting up and checking just as often). At work today, all I kept thinking was, “My son is alive. Thank God he’s alive,” which is a strange thought to have.
There’s not much point to this post other than to share my story and hopefully inspire someone somewhere to double check their baby gate, possibly preventing an accident from happening. Because despite the fact that I’m a loving, caring, protective, and vigilant mother, I let my guard down, and something truly terrible almost happened.
But it didn’t.