It’s a bit of a daft title for a blog post, I’ll confess. Obviously the hardest part of parenting is subjective – it’ll be different for every parent. For some it will be the sleepless nights. Others will struggle with guilt or stress. This post is about our experience, which has to be the hardest part of parenting we’ve encountered so far.
Let me set the scene – I’d just started my blogging break (otherwise you’d have been hearing about this much sooner, trust me!). We were a week away from the wedding, and we went into town to do some last-minute shopping. The shopping centre has a fairly new park, which SB loves – you’ve probably seen some of the pictures of her playing on the park on my Instagram feed.
I’m talking to a couple of friends we’ve met up with in town. SB has just run out to give the friends a cuddle, and is heading back into the park. She’s on her reins, Daf is right beside her. Just as I start chatting to our friend –
Thwack. It felt like the worst sound I’d ever heard in my life.
Then there’s the scream. Okay, that’s the worst sound I’ve ever heard in my life.
It’s a weird fact of life that when something bad happens, everything around you seems to move in slow motion. I turn around and I can just see Daf picking SB up. He looks horrified, and there’s blood covering her face. Every instinct is telling me to break down and scream, but it’s like something snaps in my head and I go into Mum-mode straight away.
Parenting autopilot is strange. Forget the superhuman physical strength that some people have when they go into fight-or-flight; the emotional strength of Parent Autopilot is something else entirely. I was talking calmly; reassuring Daf, trying to calm SB down – the fact that she was screaming at the top of her voice was a good sign, but the blood was not so good -, ushering them into Starbucks as I call 999.
Was calling 999 the right thing to do, or was it an overreaction? I have no idea, but at that point, look at it from my perspective. My daughter is screaming blue murder, there’s blood all over her face and – this is the worst part – a hole in her forehead. I remember those being the exact words I used, “there’s a hole in her forehead” – she’d torn her forehead open on a piece of metal that hadn’t been sanded down fully. I was agitated and terrified, and I heard the 999 operator go into “difficult caller” mode. That was the catalyst for calming me down; I apologised for panicking. She was lovely, and I still feel bad for shouting when she didn’t know where the shopping centre was.
The rest of what happened is a bit of a blur, and I’ve pieced it together from what our friends – two or three of them witnessed all of this happening, and were amazing in keeping us calm – have told us. Daf remembers every second; I can barely remember a thing. The staff in Starbucks were amazing; helping us to keep SB calm. She was beyond calming; she was hysterical.
Eventually we had a call from the ambulance service; they were struggling to free up an ambulance, and asked if we could get to the hospital. Thankfully it’s nice and close, but I’ve never had a more terrifying drive. Daf was shaking, absolutely traumatised by what he’d witnessed. SB was still sobbing in the back seat, and all I could do was sit in the front and take silly pictures to try and cheer her up. Little by little, we started to see a couple of smiles.
Of course, once we got into the waiting room at A&E, she did that age-old toddler trick of being absolutely fine. Seriously, you’d have thought we were just taking her for an exciting trip to an overcrowded, underfunded emergency department for the hell of it. I’ve no doubt some of the other patients in the main waiting room did think that – until we lifted her fringe to dab away some of the blood, and the hole in her forehead became apparent. We were moved to the Paediatric waiting area, where SB sat and played with the noisiest toys she could find (how do they manage that every time without fail?!), I tried to stop her from making too much noise, and Daf tried to calm himself down, as he was beside himself.
Before long, her head had been stuck back together with steri-strips (I am in awe of the nurse who got SB to sit still to have it stuck back together, by telling her they were stickers for being brave), and we were on our way home. After holding it together for so long, once we got home I cracked and fell apart. All of the emotions bubbled over at once, and it took me a while to calm down. I knew the sort of comments everyone would make – “Oh, what a shame about the wedding photos” and “you should sue the park” and so on – but I couldn’t have given less of a shit about that. I was shocked at what we’d seen, and so relieved that she was ok.
It was the absolute worst thing we’ve been through as parents. I was just grateful for Parent Autopilot kicking in, so I wasn’t reduced to a quivering puddle of hysterics at the very sight of SB. She’s not been badly hurt before – whether that’s because she’s been lucky or because we’ve wrapped her in cotton wool, I don’t know – so it came as a shock. She’s made up for lost time since; falling and scraping her nose when we were at Butlins, and running, tripping and flying head-first into a chair when we visited my parents after Christmas, resulting in an impressive egg-shaped lump on her head. When they say the toddler years are trying, they don’t just mean behaviour-wise. My nerves are shot to pieces.
An interesting thing happened at the hospital, however. There was a couple in the Paediatric waiting area with their daughter, who was quite clearly poorly (unlike my “gaping head wound but determined to activate every noisy toy in the room” feral child). When we left the hospital, Daf and I both said that we hoped the little girl was okay, she’d been in so much pain. Later that evening, I had a message on Twitter from a blogger I follow, asking if we were at the hospital that afternoon. It turns out that she reads my blog and thought she recognised us! You can read Twin Mum Traumas’ blog post about her experience – I’m really glad her little one is feeling better and they got home in time for Christmas, and I can’t believe the coincidence that two mummy bloggers should end up in the same waiting area at the same time!
Thankfully, SB is all healed up now. She’s going to have a freaking awesome scar and we’ve got one hell of a story to tell at her wedding one day. I can just imagine Daf standing up for his father of the bride speech, opening with the line –
“Remember that time when you tried to destroy your face, just in time for our wedding photos?”.