Welcome to Bad Mama moment #716 . . . ok maybe I am dramatizing, but within a twenty-four hour span this weekend little L managed to suffer from now one, but three “bad mama” moments inflicted by little ole me. I’ve heard of it. Friends have talked about it. But not until you experience a “bad mama” moment do you fully appreciate the utter terror that comes before you in feeling that you are not taking good enough care of your child. As a pediatrician I see scary things all the time – burns, accidents, people neglecting their children and going on vacation without them (WHAAA? How is THAT one possible? I have no idea) and I used to be wholly unsympathetic to the heartless parents who were not paying close enough attention to what their children were doing.
Then it happened. I had my own son. And suddenly, consistently averting disaster seemed not simply a responsibility, but an unattainable goal. We had a saying when I worked in the NICU as a resident. “Never trust a preemie.” Truly, unexpected events can happen suddenly and precipitously in treating these fragile ones, and it takes constant care to prevent what you can. I would extend this saying a bit further, however. Never trust a baby, either, because they, too, will surprise you and bring you to a state of sleepless worry. This is especially true with one’s own baby. I can honestly say that I have not had a full night’s sleep since the birth of my little one. And I don’t expect a full night’s sleep, well, ever again actually. Not as long as I’m responsible for the life of my own child.
So back to the story. This weekend we went on another trip to visit family, this time visiting the beautiful region of New England on a particularly crisp and lovely fall time period. I was picking up little L from daycare and he playfully grabbed onto his daycare sheet, on which his caregivers document his events and achievements on a daily basis. Not thinking, I said to myself, I’ll let him play with this in the car, no problem, he will just tear at it, right? Well, we enjoyed a car ride home where I sang songs and I simply heard the crinkling of paper and my giggling happy boy making tons of sounds in the back. I took him out of the car, placed his carrier in the carseat base, and we went merrily to the building and we headed up to the condo. I noticed that his binky was out of his mouth. No major issue, it was in his carseat. He was making a subtle chewing motion. No major issue, he does that all the time, it must just be his teething. We entered and I started to take him out of the carseat. But then I saw a sly look on his face and noticed that the chewing motion was progressing to his I’m-about-to-puke face that he gets when I try to give him a cheerio or some mashed item which he deems inadequately pureed. Then I saw him shove the paper into his mouth. Of course, the part that I saw placed in his mouth emerged slobbery but intact. As I glanced further at the paper, another jagged slobbery area appeared before me and I realized it had a 1-cm-sized hole. My hands went straight to his mouth and opened it. I kept my hands on the sides of that little face! And I saw it on his tongue, a pea-sized crumpled up piece of slobbery paper. I put my finger in and took it out. Then put him over my knee and gave him some back blows, though nothing seemed to emerge, he simply was a bit more drooly than usual. Crisis averted.
Catharsis. I was in total terror that entire time. Imagine me, a pediatrician who always tells people to avoid giving items that will pose a choking hazard to children, now unwittingly giving an item that is a choking hazard to my own child. Will I ever live this down? My heart was beating faster for the next half hour. You just don’t get over these things. I remember that event and I will probably remember it forever. Then another bad mama moment – when we were on the train and I was holding him, adjusting his bib, he learned over and bumped forward onto his baby carriage that was in front of us. Oh the tears. And then during his diaper changed I managed to place both of his legs in the same pant leg, which I didn’t realize till I lifted up my squirmy wormy boy and noticed that one leg seemed awfully thick. Oh the whimpering.
Surprisingly scary events have happened before this and undoubtedly will happen again. As for these particular events, with great hope I declare: Never again will they happen! And I will continue to try to be vigilant in the things that haven’t yet happen and that I can’t possibly predict. The problem is that we moms do not see the hits and the home runs all the time; often we only see the strikes and the near-misses. Here’s hoping that my batting average improves as this adventure continues!