Eli fell down a flight of stairs yesterday. I just. I don’t even know how to discuss this because what kind of mother lets her kid fall off a bed and get a brain injury and then somehow, also lets him fall down a flight of stairs? This kind, apparently. Eli is fine, like completely and totally great, has no lingering marks at all and tried to climb down the stairs again 4 hours later. He could not be better. I continue to be broken into many screwed up pieces and this was just about the last thing I needed.
It happened at a family member’s three story house. The living area on the second floor and is gated from the rest of the stairs. Eli had been hanging out near their gate most of the time since there are toys there and was playing happily. At one point, the gate was left open and in literally the 10 seconds I zoned out and assumed he was playing with toys quietly, I heard thump thump thump thump cry. I was less than 5 feet from the gate, there was just a chair in the way, so I couldn’t see him directly. 5 feet and 10 seconds away.
I can’t begin describe how awful it was. Knowing what was going on and racing to get there, fearing with every fiber of my being about what condition he was going to be in when I got there. It was probably 2 seconds from when I heard it and when I got to him, but it could’ve been 20 minutes for as long as it felt and as far as my mind was able to race.
I flew down the stairs (10? 12? of them) and found him on the tile landing and scooped him up, trying as hard as I could to stay calm for everyone involved, but inside I was crumbling into a million tiny pieces. How did this happen to us again?
I got him upstairs and checked him over. Everything was moving fine and painlessly. He had one small red mark on the side of his head and small goose egg on the other. He stopped crying in under a minute and demanded to be put down to play a few seconds later. I watched him like a hawk all afternoon and he’s fine. He’s totally fine. I can’t understand why I am not.
It’s funny, because I harbor absolutely no grudge or anger against the person who left the gate open. It was an accident, Eli is fine. And yet, I am so angry at myself for not keeping my eyes on him. I am his mother, my job is to protect him and I failed. Again.
I just keep picturing over and over again what it must have been like. His favorite thing is to step off his bed and I keep imagining him taking that first step down all happy and proud and then falling ass over tea kettle down all those stairs. I cannot imagine how scary that must’ve been for him and how close he came to injuring himself significantly. Again.
I feel like the first time was an accident, a mistake and whatever, it can be forgiven. But again? Really? I don’t know. I struggled to forgive myself the first time and I just don’t see how I’ll be able to this time. At one point, many months ago, I felt like I was the safer parent. I didn’t do risky things, I never tossed Eli up in the air, never dangled him upside down, watched him closely all day long. And now, twice, my son has been in serious danger while in my care. I just don’t know how it keeps happening. How I can be so vigilant, so hyperaware and intensely worried and yet, he fell down a flight of stairs while with me. Just. I don’t know.
My weariness is growing daily. My therapist wants me to try medication to treat the PTSD and I’m just not there yet. I have a hard time with that type of medication and side effects and I just don’t want to deal with titrating up and tapering down. And maybe I also feel like I deserve to feel kind of shitty about this. I’m sure that sounds crazy and it probably is, but my kid got a brain injury, came out of it okay and then I let him fall down a flight of stairs. There is a lot of crazy here.
I have never felt less competent than I do now and it’s probably the hardest thing. I love this little boy so deeply, but I keep feeling like I’m the biggest risk in his life and that is impossibly difficult to handle.