We had just returned from the baptism and I gave the baby to someone who was not Steve or my parents so that she could change his diaper while I rushed to get the table set for the party. I was giving directions to a few people at once and some people were coming up the driveway when I heard Henry crying in the way that means he’s hurt — wailing, unceasing.
I rushed back to him and picked him up and asked what happened and she said she didn’t know. I looked in our bedroom and the chandelier was rocking. What happened? She said she didn’t know. I sat him down and tried to nurse him but he wouldn’t stop crying. I checked his head and his body and he seemed okay, but hurting. He wouldn’t nurse. I ran out of the room and got the baby carrier and he settled inside of it and quickly nursed himself to sleep. I was shaken. Something had happened. A wave of fear had washed over me and I could not recover for the party.
A half-hour later, she confessed to Steve that she had hit his head on the chandelier. She said it wasn’t that hard. She was sorry, she later told me, for not telling me.
An hour later when he woke I saw the open cut and bump on his head. She had lifted him up in the air and whacked his head against the chandelier with its curlicues and glass prisms and metal leaves. I swore. She cried. I got Steve and we locked ourselves in Henry’s bedroom and inspected the cut and the bump. He was cranky, but he seemed okay. I was shaken. This second wave of fear washed over me. I wanted everyone to leave.
I had given my boy to someone who was not me, just for a few minutes, and then there was a wound on his head. The most important and vulnerable piece of us. My baby, completely dependent on me and I wasn’t there. And when he was hurt, I didn’t know how and I couldn’t help him, I couldn’t ice a wound I didn’t know existed. I couldn’t check for signs of concussion or internal bleeding or any other worst-case injury.
I’m pretty sure he’s fine. He probably had a headache yesterday after the accident and maybe a little one today. He’s cranky today, but also I am being the anxious mother who thinks everything is suddenly a bad sign. I am perhaps after all the mother of the child conceived through IVF, those mothers who statisically take their children to the emergency room more than mothers of children conceived naturally. My beautiful boy hurt and there was nothing I could do.
When he was a month old a soda bottle fell out of the fridge when I was holding him and bumped him on the head and then hit my shin — it hurt my shin. He pouted and there was silence and then he cried and there was a red mark on his head for a few minutes.
When he was six weeks old, I had to pee and I was holding him, so I knew I had to put him down on the bathroom rug. A dog tried to follow me into the bathroom, so I was trying to keep the door barely open to slide into the bathroom just as a cat jumped onto the bathroom counter. A zoo! I tried to stop the cat with my shoulder but the door frame and the baby’s head met. He pouted and there was silence and then he wailed.
I was at a restaurant in a tight booth with my parents and Steve this weekend, trying to nurse Henry in a confined space while wearing a nursing cover that Henry was trying to pull off, and he was over-tired and cranky and ready to lose it. I tried to shift him around and it was dark and the wall beside me was dark: I bumped his head against the wall beside the booth. He cried.
Once when our white cat was tiny, after a month of owning him and of trying to protect him from a clumsy 9-year-old and a rambunctious 4-year-old, I had to give him Benedryl and mis-read the instructions: not seeing the decimal point, I ended up giving him ten times too much medicine. Enough that, once I realized my mistake, I had to call the veterinarian emergency facility and they walked me through the steps to make him throw it up. It was too late. The kitten slept a whole lot the next day, but he was fine. And I was crushed. After all that work protecting him, after some snooty attitude that made me believe I was the perfect mother for him, I was the one who had almost killed him.
So I’m not saying I wouldn’t have hit the baby’s head on the chandelier. There are chandeliers everywhere, sharp objects everywhere. And babies are heavy and vulnerable and, mostly — thank goodness, and please, I pray — resilient.