Today you are eleven months old. And oh what a month it has been.
I’ve been telling people for the past month that this is my favorite age, and that’s still very true. You are the most fun you have ever been. You laugh, you babble, you crawl, you play and you are just a joy to be around. You squeal and bounce when we walk into a room and interact in a way that is much more boy than it is baby. Last week you started dancing every time you hear music and it’s so cute that I pretty much want to have music playing all day long. If I could bottle this age up forever, I would.
But this month will also always be the month where you ended up in the hospital for several days, and I will bear the scars of that on my heart forever. A few weeks ago you fell head first off our hotel bed onto the very hard floor and got a bleed on your brain. You were completely miserable and ended up staying in the hospital for 3 nights so we could control your pain and persistent vomiting. It was awful for all of us, most of all you. Thankfully and to our amazement, you came out of the whole thing virtually unchanged and picked up right where you left off- a joyous, playful baby.
Just after I finished telling your Nana that I didn’t think you were close to talking, you suddenly started doing just that. You now use Mama and Dada mostly appropriately, though Mama tends to be my name and your way of saying you want something. You can repeat the word duck, though you don’t say it in reference to ducks, which is odd (also probably a good sign that we need to start watching our mouths). When asked to say kitty, you still say gaga, and it’s also what you call Glen your monkey blanket and basically any other stuffed animal. I am not counting any of these as an official first word yet (if you’d say duck in the presence of a duck, I totally would, but alas…), but I’m so excited for you to talk more because I think your tiny voice is the greatest sound ever. (Turn on your speakers and try to ignore my very obnoxious voice…)
You’ve been pulling up to stand every chance you’ve gotten this month and started cruising some as well. You’re not really big on cruising, mostly I think because the couch is a little tall for you, but this past weekend Dad grabbed your little car, put you behind it and you just took off walking like you’d been doing it your whole life. Now you’ve decided that every toy is a push toy and push toys all around the living room while walking, even if they don’t have wheels, or sometimes even if the wheels are supposed to face a completely different direction.
You now eat a variety of real food and all without choking or gagging, which sounds like not such a big deal, but someday when you’re a parent you’ll realize it is. You love blueberry toast and cheese, but everything else is hit or miss. Last week there was one night where you chowed down on strawberries like they were going out of style. The next night I gave you one, you took one bite, spit it out and looked at me like I had just given you arsenic. I’m learning to roll with your finickiness, but to my great frustration, some days you exist primarily on air and puffs.
Your likes this month include: Dad, Aunt Claire, Mom, all the assorted grandparents, the kitties (their tails especially), laundry, balls of every shape and size, Little Crunchies, Sesame Street, your pacifier, stuffed animals, music, baths, pulling the stickers off the wipes containers, rocking on your rocking horse and walking with assistance.
Your dislikes this month include: diaper changes, head injuries, ear infections, teething (you now have 4 teeth!), Augmentin, being dropped off at daycare, getting dressed/not being naked, having your teeth brushed.
This month was by far the toughest we’ve had as a family. I have never in my life felt so helpless and I know your dad felt similarly along the way. The whole thing was just heartbreaking. We wanted so badly to fix you and let us all go home, but there was nothing we could do, and so we snuggled you and cried while you cried.
The accident at the hotel was truly an accident, but it was also the result of a lapse in judgment on my part. I knew better than to not have my hands on you on a high surface and I’m sorry, Eli. It’s a mistake that I won’t make again. If I could go back in time and undo it, I would, and I have wished for that a thousand times this month. But all I can do is learn from it and be more careful in the future.
I’m trying very hard to keep my worries quiet around you lately. I saw another little boy who is 2 weeks younger than you yesterday and he was tearing around the room with reckless abandon. I know all kids are different, but watching him made me realize how cautious you are. You lower yourself to the ground slowly and carefully every time and you almost never do anything until you’re sure you can do it just perfectly. I hope that this is just your personality and not my worries influencing you. I want you to be free to explore, to try new things, to be whoever and whatever you want to be, even if it scares me. I want you to be confident and comfortable, and do whatever makes you happy.
The other thing this month did was give me a fresh dose of perspective. I have spent so many of the last few weeks lamenting how big you are getting, that my baby is gone and all sorts of other silly sounding things, because you are growing up so fast and my heart is having trouble keeping up. But as everything unfolded with your accident and as I waited for an ambulance I thought to myself how all I wanted was for you to be okay so you could grow up and do all the things you were meant to do. It made me realize that I was wasting so much of your life being wistful about stages that we had passed that I wasn’t embracing the ones we were in. I miss the tiny baby you once were, but I am so incredibly in love with the emerging toddler before me right now. I can’t waste anymore time being sad about you growing up when I have so much to enjoy now and look forward to in the future.
This month, more than anything else, reaffirmed how very much we love you and how lost we would be not just without you, but if something happened and changed who you are. You are the most amazing little person I’ve ever known and I cannot imagine a life without you, despite having lived 28 years of one. You’re like air to me now, vital for my survival, and the very thought of losing you has forever changed me. Someday when you’re a teenager or an adult and you read this, I hope you understand how deep my love runs for you, has always run and will always run, no matter what happens. There is a bond here, made of something you cannot see or understand, but it courses through my veins every second of the day, into my heart and through my very soul. You hold a piece of my heart and I will be forever tied to you. And that makes me the luckiest person in this world.
Eli, we love you so very much and truly cannot wait to see what next month brings.
You may recall from this post or my 800000 tweets about Eli’s sleep, that we were having some issues. Namely that my 10 month old would still only sleep in a Rock n Play, which was definitely not an ideal sleeping place for a kid his age. I’m not going to come right out and say it was unsafe, but it was definitely getting rapidly to that point and the pressure to do something different was mounting.
Prior to Eli’s injury, we had a firm plan in place, thanks to a sleep consultation. Yes, we paid money for a stranger to tell us how to sleep train our kid. Sorry I’m not sorry. She gave us a plan with several phases and after just the first phase, we went from 4 nighttime wake ups to 1, and eventually will be using this technique to get to none. The next phase was getting him in the crib full time at night. Prior to our trip to San Diego and Eli’s injury, he was sleeping in the crib for the first segment of sleep- usually 2-3 hours each night, before waking up screaming and basically refusing to go back in it. Once in San Diego, he got an ear infection which meant that even laying him down flat to change his diaper elicited tears and then with his injury, the pressure on his brain was worse laying flat, so we had to go back to the Rock n Play exclusively once again.
I was to the point of contracting someone to build a toddler sized Rock n Play (not really. Mostly.) when we found out a key piece of information. Our babysitter tried to transition Eli to napping in the pack n play like the other toddlers and he lost his mind. Screamed and screamed, just like he does with the crib. But when she let him nap on a blanket on the floor like all the preschool aged kids, he conked out and slept for 2 hours. Um. What?
All this time we had been assuming that flatness was the big issue for Eli and had tried to mitigate that with a crib wedge and varying other compromises, but it turns out that the flatness was not the issue. I am pretty sure that containment was the problem.
So we decided to try a floor bed.
Basically, it’s his crib mattress on the floor. We babyproofed the crap out of his room (more on this another time), moved his crib out and put him down on the mattress. The first night, he sort of sat there for 10 minutes and then just went to sleep. And slept until 2, I fed him and (though he was awake for longer than usual) he put himself back to sleep. And slept until 6:45. That morning, he took a 2 hour nap in it without a fuss. That afternoon, he took a 1.5 hour nap, with a little fussing. We were shocked.
We’re on day 3 of no Rock n Play and I’m just…I’m dumbfounded by how easy this was. He sleeps. Flat. Not in a device that is unsafe. He has whined a few times, but honestly, nothing more than normal nap/sleep fighting.
I realize there are some immediate questions about the floor bed and so even though we’re in the very early stages, I thought I’d answer them for anyone considering this route, as I’m told via twitter that several are.
What if he gets out of bed?
So the floor bed is based on Montessori principles that I won’t pretend to fully understand, but basically the idea is that it lets him explore his environment safely. And so the best answer is: meh, so what? His room currently only contains his dresser (which is anchored to the wall and all the drawers are locked), his bookcase (which is anchored to the wall and has only books he can play with or destroy, except for on the top shelf, which he cannot get to yet), the glider, and his mattress. I have a small basket of stuffed animals, 2 board books and a few extra pacifiers by his bed so that if he wants to play without leaving bed, he can. Because here’s the thing- I’m not going to force him to sleep. Sometimes I get in bed before I’m truly tired and it’s frustrating to toss and turn and have nothing to do. The floor bed allows him to play until he’s ready to sleep and learn his own sleep cues. I think it’s fairly awesome, though I know that there will be more difficult phases and there will definitely be days that he sleeps on the floor.
What if he falls out of bed?
Been there, done that already. It’s not fun. The first night I’m not entirely sure it wasn’t intentional, but he was in the middle of his floor like, wait, what do I do now? So I put him back in bed. The next day we practiced crawling into bed so I know he knows how. The next night he fell out twice: once from sitting before going to bed (sat down at the edge and it caused him to tip), which scared him for sure and once he sort of slithered out head first and didn’t even wake up (I put him back in bed). Since then I’ve added a small pool noodle under the sheets at the edge to act as a sort of ledge to prevent him from falling out and a body pillow next to the side to cushion the falls. The body pillow makes me a little nervous as a suffocation hazard, so it might disappear once he gets a little more familiar with his boundaries.
What if he gets hurt?
As I understand it, the idea is that the room should be so well babyproofed that if he got locked inside, awake, for several hours, he’d be fine. The only hazard I’m currently concerned about (aside from the body pillow) is the glider, for it’s finger pinching issues. I’m wavering a bit on what to do because we still use it every night and I’m not quite ready to give it up, so I think perhaps we’ll keep it until Eli starts getting out of bed and then decide if it’s still worth the risk.
What if he plays all night?
This was my husband’s concern and it’s a valid one. We want him to sleep, that’s our goal and there may be some nights where he does play. We’re controlling what’s in his room, so there won’t be any interactive toys, but ultimately, if he wants to play then as long as he’s quiet, that’s fine. He’ll just be really tired the next day.
Will you transition him to a crib eventually?
Nope. Not unless there’s a sudden concern of some sort.
What about when you travel?
This is my big concern. I don’t know if once he’s accustomed to sleeping flat that he’ll tolerate a pack n play while out of town, so I can’t really say. The other options we’ve discussed are using the pack n play mattress on the floor, using a toddler air mattress or a toddler sleeping bag. We know he’s not safe to sleep on a bed (let’s not go there) and we don’t bedshare, so this will be our big trial and error experiment. My biggest concern is that no where we go out of town is babyproofed, so keeping him safe (if he wakes up before us), is a big problematic.
We are just starting out on this adventure, but I am already so very relieved at how well it has gone. In 3 days we’ve had no more than 1 minute of crying if you add all the crying together, which is kind of unbelievable. We went from struggling every night with the crib to sleeping 6+ hours at a time at night in the floor bed without tears. I could not be more pleased.
I’m not sure I’ll convince my husband that we should completely forgo the crib with the next baby, but I will say that I am a floor bed convert for sure. I feel like ultimately it is what’s best for Eli and the fact that we found a way to listen to his needs and merge them with our own, has made us all much, much happier. And much, much more well rested.
There’s a children’s song I used to sing when I worked at a summer camp about a bear hunt. At several points in the hunt you reach an obstacle and when you get to it, you chant, “Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Gotta go through it.” and then you tread through whatever imaginary peril lies ahead. It’s always great fun for the kids to chant along as a little echo and to victoriously traverse the pretend obstacle. The song is in my head lately and the bear I’m hunting is every bit as imaginary as the one my campers hunted all those summers.
Things have gotten easier in the past week. Life has returned to a beautiful version of normal. Eli hasn’t vomited in almost a week. He has been off all pain medicine for several days and is doing really, really well. And much of the time, I have been doing well also. But it’s been fake.
I’ve been trying to squirm away from the anxiety that’s regrowing. I’ve been trying to go over and under it. Finding ways to pretend like it’s not an issue, shoving it aside constantly. Never going through it. Going through means facing it, means saying words out loud that seem to flow easily from my fingers, a story that I can tell here with little trouble, but which can only be told aloud with tears. And a racing heart. And nausea. And I think I’ve assumed that if I can just tuck away this anxiety, if I can just go around it, that eventually it will go away.
Last night, shortly after going to bed, Eli fell backwards off the floor bed (another post coming soon). He was literally 6 inches from the floor, which was a nice padded carpet. But I saw it on the monitor and heard the thunk from downstairs. He cried immediately and I ran, climbing stairs 2 at a time, to get him. He was fine within seconds of me cuddling him, but I was not.
I felt sick. And shaky and horrible. That sound, the one from the hotel room, I heard it all over again. I saw the whole thing happen again. The images I had managed to put out of my head all came rushing back. I thought I would be sick as the fear I had been going over and under suddenly overtook me.
The anxiety is coming out in other ways too. Eli has decided that he would like to exclusively sleep on his stomach, which I know is fine at this age, but the first night in the new bed, I was awake for 2.5 hours, watching him breathe. I went in his room and checked on him 7 times when I thought I couldn’t see his back rise and fall anymore. It’s a miracle that he didn’t wake up. And then this morning when I woke up and it was 7:30 and Eli was still asleep, on his tummy in the same position he was in when I woke up at 4:30, I ran, literally ran, into his room, assuming I’d find my child lifeless. Instead I found him pretty confused and groggy with some fairly excellent bed head.
I feel so frustrated and sad, all at once. I worked through so much of this in therapy. I was happy again. I was relaxed and easygoing and confident. I was enjoying the hell out of motherhood. And now I feel it’s falling apart. Whenever I get too happy or start to feel normal again, I hear this screaming chorus of what ifs crescendo in the background. My blood pressure rises, my pulse quickens, my stomach clenches.
I think that Eli’s accident reminded me that though the risk of something happening to my child is low, it’s not nothing. He got injured in a way that a tiny percentage of kids get injured. We defied odds in the worst way, and I think I’m newly afraid and newly aware that we could do that again, at any moment. Newly aware that bad things don’t just happen to other people.
As much as I’ve tried to shove the fear aside and wait for it to subside, I’m realizing more and more each day that it’s not working. That if anything, it’s growing and accelerating. It’s infiltrating the happy moments like weeds in a garden, and I can’t let that happen again. I have to do something because I don’t want to feel this way again.
All this is to say I have a therapy appointment on Wednesday that I am both looking forward to in a huge way and am also dreading more than almost anything.
Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Gotta go through it.
I had not planned to write anything more about Dawn, who passed away yesterday. I do not want to eulogize someone I met in person only once, but the heaviness in my heart has led me here, and so I’m writing.
I read Dawn’s husband’s words this evening and this particular part stuck out to me:
Dawn lived to soothe everyone around her. If you needed to be picked up, she’d find a way to pick you up. If you needed someone to sit in the dumps with you, she’d climb down by your side until you were ready to come back up. Her joy came in the joy of others, and if she had to manufacture that joy, well, that was just fine by her.
This is exactly how I will remember Dawn. She left over 80 comments on this blog, to me, lifting me up, sitting in the dumps with me. Being what I needed, when I needed it. She was a friend, a lovely human being who seemed to derive joy from being a friend. How many people can you say that about? Not many, not enough.
Dawn leaves behind 2 sons and a husband, and a hole in our hearts where our friend was. So many people have expressed heartache over Dawn’s passing, and I think that is a tremendous testament to who she was, what she meant to all of us. In a way, I think we feel like a little bit of Dawn belonged to us too, because of how she cared for us in our times of need. And now that she’s gone we feel an almost tangible loss, a silence where one of our cheerleaders once was.
I can only speak for myself, but I wish I had realized sooner that her time was winding down. I wish I could’ve written something to her, been a better cheerleader for her, and let her know how very much I appreciated her in my life. How much I appreciated having her in my corner all the time. And how sorry I am that this had to happen to her.
Instead, I’ve made 2 vows to myself:
First, I will check my skin. I will wear sunscreen whenever I’m outdoors, I will reschedule that dermatology follow up I cancelled and I will make an appointment for my fair-skinned husband as well. I will be diligent and outspoken about sun safety because of Dawn, so that her death isn’t for nothing, so that it may save other lives.
Second, I will be a better friend. Dawn was there for everyone, cared about everyone. I don’t know that I’ll ever live up to the example she set, but I can do better, I can love more, care more and tell my friends more often how important they are to me. I can lift up others when they need it. It’s what Dawn would do, and since she’s no longer with us there is a void to be filled, and perhaps we can fill it with love, in memory of Dawn.
(I realize that this is a very aptly named post considering that it’s April Fool’s Day, but none of this is foolish.)
I’m finding the anxiety has been waxing and waning a lot this past week. There will be hours, almost whole days even, where I’m humming along just fine and then I get completely demolished by fear. There isn’t a rhyme or reason most of the time, as far as I can tell. It just hits me sometimes. Feelings, images, sounds, all a mess in my mind.
I remember other mothers saying that their kids fell off the changing table and off the bed and I smugly thought to myself that I would never let that happen to my child. Don’t these mothers know how to be careful? And now here I am, the judger became the judged. I’m in a state of disbelief. I can’t believe I let this happen. I can’t believe that it ended up as seriously as it did. I can’t believe that it took one second for everything to change like this. It’s terrifying.
Disbelief is an feeling filling other parts of my life lately as well.
My friend Dawn, who I’ve followed on twitter for as long as I can recall, who has been one of the greatest cheerleaders to everyone she knows, is nearing the end of her fight with Melanoma. I find myself completely gobsmacked by it. It’s not my tragedy and I do not want to monopolize her family’s grief in any way, I just keep being surprised that it’s happening. It makes my breath catch at the unfairness of it all. I think I had convinced myself that dying from cancer was something that old, sick people do. Not young mothers with young kids. Not healthy people. And I think Dawn did such a good job of putting on the strongest, bravest front that we didn’t even know how bad things were until they were too bad to tell her we loved her and how sorry we were.
I’m in disbelief at the fragility of life.
My uncle, who I wrote about a few weeks ago, lost his mother in early March. And Friday he lost his father. It’s just, it all happens so quickly. We are here and then we’re not.
It just seems like the certainty I had been comforted by is being pulled away. And maybe that’s for the best. Maybe I shouldn’t be as assured and comfortable. Maybe I need to live in a world where I can see that one tiny thread can unravel everything. That nothing is permanent.
I’m in disbelief because it seems that the things I’ve known, that I’ve held onto and been comforted by, are shifting so quickly. They are revealing new truths I didn’t see before, didn’t want to see. And it’s hard to be in this place of change. I’m scared because everything feels different now. Everything feels bigger and faster and less predictable.
I’m just hanging on for dear life.
Mike, Dawn’s incredible husband, has asked that those interested and able make donations to the Melanoma Research Foundation.
We’ve been home for 3 days now and Eli is mostly doing well. He was so great on Wednesday that for a few moments I forgot the horror of the previous days, and then he struggled a bit on Thursday morning with what we think was 2 seizures. It’s ups and downs and as much as I want to snap my fingers and have him be fine, healing isn’t a linear process this time, much to my great frustration.
As Eli gradually heals, I’m finding that my much less obvious wounds are gaping.
I understand that this wasn’t really my fault. I understand that it was an accident and that this is why we don’t call them “on purposes.” I’ve told this to people plenty of times myself, but that hasn’t made it easier to forgive myself. To believe those words.
I’m finding that for now, for me, being busy is the only thing that makes me feel okay. I can’t lay down in bed until I am so exhausted that I’ll immediately fall asleep because if I have even an ounce of energy left, my mind starts playing a reel of images that I want to never see again. My baby falling off the bed. My baby moaning with his eyes closed while I waited for the ambulance. My baby crying for hours in an ER. If I have a moment to myself, I can’t keep myself together. And right now, I need to be strong for my son.
I feel like this incident has made me question my ability to do simple parenting tasks. I am afraid to be home alone with Eli, despite the fact that I’ve been home alone with him hundreds of times. It makes me question all my parenting decisions- is this really safe? can this go wrong somehow? I find myself constantly quizzing the things we’re doing for safety hazards.
It’s like all the work I did in therapy has been undone. I’m seeing all the dangers all around me and feel like my son and I will be swallowed by them.
All I want, all I have ever wanted, is for my child to be safe and happy and healthy. This week he has been none of those things and it has been hard on all of us. I have apologized to my husband and to Eli more times than I can count. Enough times that my husband gets angry at me for it now. But I can’t fix it, I can’t undo what I’ve done, so the only thing I have left is my words. To say that I’m sorry, that I made a bad decision, that if I could undo it I would, in an instant. That I would trade places with him and take every ounce of pain and fear and unhappiness just to make him feel better.
I know that these kind of accidents happen to parents/babies all the time. I know that it doesn’t make me a bad mother and that I need to forgive myself. But I truly cannot figure out how. I can’t figure out how I can face myself and not feel guilt, not feel deep regret, not feel in some way, unfit. My child’s wellbeing was endangered this week. This baby that I love more than anything in the world, suffered on my watch. Nothing I do or say can undo that, and it’s a reality I get to live with forever. And I’m finding that it may not be that I can’t forgive myself, as much as I don’t want to.
I don’t want to ever lose the vigilance I have found this week. The all consuming desire to protect my son. I let my resolve slip once, let myself make a poor decision, and the consequences were great. I fear that if I forgive myself, if I accept that accidents happen and it’s not my fault, then I can’t prevent something like this from happening a second time. That if it’s no one’s fault, then it’s not preventable. And I can’t live with that at all.
So I choose to hold onto the guilt, the fear, the remorse. I hold onto it all so that I can face the world and pretend to have a tiny bit of control over my child’s safety and welfare. Because it’s easier to choose guilt than accept that my child’s wellbeing may not be within my control.
This past week, Eli and I joined my husband in San Diego for a conference. The hotel room was covered by my husband’s work and we decided we’d rather be hanging out all day alone by the ocean than all day alone in our apartment. We did briefly return home so I could work Wednesday and Thursday and took a pitstop at the pediatrician Friday morning for another ear infection, but we were back Friday afternoon and enjoyed a few quiet hours at the zoo. It turns out Eli loves him some porcupines.
On Saturday morning, after a rough night (presumably from the ear infection), I fed Eli breakfast while my husband was at the last lecture of his conference. We had plans for when he got home around 10, so I was trying to keep Eli up until then so he could crash in the car or stroller for his morning nap. I laid him on the bed to change his clothes, sat him back up and heard a bang. I realized it was the toy Eli had been playing with during the diaper change, but the sound of it was enough to make me nauseous. I felt compelled to get Eli off the bed and back to playing on the floor. Just as I was making this decision, he tossed his pacifier over the edge.
I bent down to get the pacifier, leaving Eli on the bed, about a foot from the edge, thinking he’d be fine for that one second while I grabbed the pacifier. But before I could do anything, it happened.
He fell, head first, off the bed.
I cannot even describe the noise it made and even typing it out now makes me feel sick. It was the worst thing I have ever heard. The worst sight I have ever seen. I wish I hadn’t seen it, for my own heart, because the scene that replays in my head whenever things are quiet is relentlessly awful. The hotel bed was between 3 and 3.5 feet tall, and the floor was thin carpet tiles over concrete.
He screamed immediately, which everyone insisted was a good sign. I scooped him up off the floor, not even thinking about his neck, just hoping I could calm him down and that we’d be fine and that we’d walk away with a goose egg. But it became clear, very quickly, that he was not okay and wouldn’t be able to just be snuggled out of this. He couldn’t hold himself up in my arms and was flopping around uncontrollably. I laid him on the bed to check where he had hit his head and when I went to pick him back up, he couldn’t even tuck his chin, his head just flopped back.
I have never in my life been so scared. He just laid on the bed, my tiny baby, eyes closed, moaning. It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced and I was not the one physically injured. I can’t even put into words how terrible this felt. I really can’t. Within a few minutes, Eli was having trouble staying conscious and I called 911.
Once we got to the hospital, Eli began vomiting. They got him cleaned up, off the backboard and in a collar to stabilize his neck and we waited on x-rays to rule out any cervical spine damage. We attempted some Motrin for pain, but he threw that right back up too. We didn’t think much of the vomiting at this point because the first one was immediately preceded by coughing, the second by Motrin, both of which are normal puke occasions for Eli.
The x-rays came back clear and his collar was removed and we were told that Eli was fine, just some sore muscles. The ER doctor told us that because the bed wasn’t that high and Eli’s neuro screen was normal, that there couldn’t have been any serious brain trauma and that he’d just be sore. I think we were both pretty unconvinced, and were made even more concerned when Eli vomited again a few minutes later. Once again, the ER doctor told us he was fine and pushed forward with the discharge. We decided to stay in San Diego a few more hours so we could keep a close eye on him before driving home. I think we both knew in our guts that he wasn’t okay, we just couldn’t convince anyone else of it.
The next several hours, including the eventual ride home, Eli mostly slept. He kept down a few ounces of milk, which made us both feel better, but just wasn’t interested in anything and wanted to sleep. When we pulled into our parking lot, he cried a bit, so I gave him a few ounces of milk while I unloaded the car. 5 minutes later he threw it up and continued vomiting for several minutes. This time there was no reason for the vomiting and we immediately got back in the car and headed to our hospital.
The very short version of what happened next was that they did a CT scan and it showed that Eli had a subdural hematoma, which is basically bleeding on the brain, and a possible skull fracture that was ruled out the next day. It’s exceedingly rare from an injury like this, but apparently his large head size predisposes him to it.
We were admitted Saturday night for overnight observation and pain/vomiting management, and Eli was worlds better by 11 that night after some fluids and Zofran. He perked up a lot on Sunday morning and was zipping right along until we were about to leave. Our nurse gave him a final dose of Motrin as we were getting our stuff packed and suddenly Eli was vomiting again. We once again assumed it was from the Motrin and decided we’d be fine at home. We were wrong, yet again.
After a nap, Eli woke up and began profusely vomiting. He couldn’t hold anything down, to the point that a few hours later (in the ER) he was still vomiting and it was just stomach acid. I’ve felt helpless a number of times since becoming a parent, but nothing like this. He was lethargic but listless. He’d lay his head down only to lift it back up, cry, thrash and repeat, over and over for hours. The second trip to the ER was considerably longer and considerably worse for all of us. My husband confessed afterwards that he was much more scared Sunday than Saturday.
After several hours and another CT scan (which was nearly identical to the one the night before) we were readmitted to the hospital and had a better plan for managing Eli’s symptoms.
The next two days are a bit of a blur. Eli vomited a lot the first night, even with medication. He rallied a bit during the day and then vomited again the next night. By Tuesday morning, he was nearly his normal self. The steroids and pain medication made a huge difference and our baby gradually began to look and sound more and more like himself. Neurosurgery cleared us to go home and after a rough night sharing a room with 4 other babies, several of whom were in considerable pain and (rightfully) cried for several hours, we were thrilled.
We got home at around 2, Eli went down for a nap and when he woke up, he was a new baby. He played on the floor for almost 3 hours, with a few breaks for food and cuddles. I cannot say enough how happy I am to be home, how happy we are to have our sweet boy back. This whole experience was eye opening for me in a myriad of ways.
I’ve tried very hard to not blame myself for what happened. I understand that this happens to parents every day. That almost everyone’s child has taken a fall similar to Eli’s and that we just got very unlucky with how it ended up. But at the same time, I knew better than to leave Eli on a bed for even a second. I’ve treated children with brain injuries, I am intimately familiar with how little it takes to damage a tiny brain and how severe the consequences are. And the whole time I was waiting for the ambulance and waiting for the CT results and at many points throughout these past several days, I’ve feared the worst. Feared that my child would be neurologically devastated. That my typically developing 10 month old would never be the same again. Terror is the only word I can use to describe how it felt.
I know some people will question why I wrote this and that’s fine, that comes with the territory. There are 2 reasons. First, if sharing our story can prevent this from happening to someone else, then it was more than worth the time to write it all out. Eli fell off the bed while I was inches away from him. It can happen that quickly. Don’t assume that sitting next to your child is safe enough. It’s not.
The second reason is because if we had listened to our original doctor and assumed Eli was fine, the outcome may have been different. He was pretty significantly dehydrated twice in this adventure and was given drugs that helped slow the swelling in his brain down, which made a huge difference in his symptoms. If we had followed the medical advice instead of our guts, I’m not sure how our boy would be right now.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from this is the most cliched. Life is precious. I knew this beforehand, but as I watched my child struggling to stay conscious and in so much pain, I realized for the first time how true that was. It took one second for this to happen. In an instant our lives could’ve changed in such a huge way, and though I think I understood that abstractly beforehand, I understand it in the very core of my soul now.
My son, the brightest light in my life, suffered the consequences of a poor choice on my part. It’s something that I’ll never forget and a mistake I will never make again. I will never take him for granted again, will never pass up and opportunity to be with him again. His life, our relationship, our family, is the most precious and important thing to me. I’ve played a little fast and loose with technology around my son and those days are done. When he’s awake, I’m 100% focused on him.
We were so blessed through this adventure to have the tremendous support of our family and friends. Our son is lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful people who care about him so deeply and we have all felt your love through this. We want to thank all of you sincerely for the love, thoughts and prayers you offered us. We hope to get back to real life, with a new dose of sincere perspective on what is truly important in this life, very soon.
Lately, things here have felt off. I come to write (when I have the time) and I feel…confused, I guess. This blog began as a way to document the struggles I was having with my health, to share my experiences as I prepared for and recovered from my decompression surgery. To reach out to others with chronic health conditions and find connections in that community.
That was 5 years ago.
Since getting pregnant with Eli, my headaches are now all but gone. The dizziness is no longer an issue. The nausea is now just anxiety related and is typically well managed. My left hand is 95% as dexterous as my right, which is probably better than it was before I started to struggle with it. Frankly, my health is great. This is all good news and I am thrilled to write these words. I have never in my life felt better.
And now I come here and I feel like I don’t know what or how to write. I don’t have health stuff to discuss. I don’t have anything in common with the community I once identified with. This used to be a health blog, but it’s becoming clearer each day that that’s no longer the case. And it’s time for a reinvention.
The name will stay the same, and for now the design will stay the same, but there are some changes. First, the scar is gone. It’s gone from here, it’s gone from twitter, it’s gone from Facebook, it’s gone. That point in my life is past and it no longer needs to be a defining feature of now. I think I held onto it for as long as I did because I wasn’t sure what else to put there and because I thought no one would recognize the site without it. And then I realized that I don’t care.
A few years ago, I checked my blog stats regularly. I cared about my Klout. I cared about my twitter followers. I still care about this site and the words I put on it, but the rest of it has lost it’s importance. I don’t even know how the newest version of Google Analytics works. I don’t care.
What I care about is writing things that matter. Mostly to me, but sometimes to other people as well. To document these years as a new mother, as a still relatively new wife, as a new professional in my career. To document this period so that someday I can look back and remember these events with greater clarity than my memory alone will allow.
This blog has been a way for me to cope with a lot of things. It was my therapy substitute for eons, it has been my soundboard and support system. I still need those things from time to time, but I do not wish to be writing as a victim of my life any longer, as someone oppressed by things. I want to write as someone who experiences things, who lives, not someone whose life is passing them by, who is uncomfortable in their life and skin.
If I could start this blog over again, I would do some things differently. Keep some things more private, share more of others. But I cannot. And I won’t waste time regretting or deleting. It’s there, a reminder of what has happened, of who I was at the time, just as subsequent posts will be reminders of who I am now, in this moment. No matter what or how I write, I won’t please everyone and that’s also fine and it’s not something I’ll waste time trying to do.
This blog has been undergoing a change for quite some time, it’s just only now that I’m acknowledging it. Call it a mom blog, a mommy blog, a family blog, whatever label it needs. But it’s just mine. The name will continue to be what it has always been, the themes will vary, the same way life does. And hopefully these changes, this new page that has been turned, will help bring me back here. Because I have missed it and I am looking forward to more.
Today you are ten months old. TEN MONTHS OLD. I’m sure that by the time you’re able to read this, it won’t seem like such a big deal, but to your mother, right now, it is a huge deal. You are painfully close to a year old and I am searching all around to figure out where the time could have gone. My tiny little baby is growing up (that is a phrase I imagine you will hear many, many more times in your life).
This month was a roller coaster of highs and lows, though I can say confidently that there were more highs, thankfully. You are now a totally adept stander and insist upon standing all day long on any surface you can find. You personal favorite is the swing (which we really need to move into the garage as you no longer sit in it…sniff), mostly because it is the least stable surface you can find and the most likely to cause head trauma of some sort. No matter how much I try to redirect you, two seconds later, you’re back to it, laughing maniacally as you teeter dangerously.
You can crawl pretty darn quickly when you want to, particularly if there’s a cat to catch. Jacques-Imo has taken to just pre-emptively bopping you on the head whenever you come near and Karma just runs away as soon as she sees you. This doesn’t discourage you at all and you are as convinced as ever that they are your very best friends in the world. Your dad likes to trap you all in the gate in the living room and announce it as the start of the Hunger Games.
This month you had your first Valentine’s Day and saw snow for the first time, both of which you were largely ambivalent about. But we loved it for you, so don’t worry about it.
You’re sort of close to talking, but also kind of not really (my talking is awesome, obviously). Whenever you see a cat or a dog you get so excited, wave your arms and yell “ga ga!” It’s a sound that is almost exclusively devoted to animals, and yet, sounds nothing like what you see. So we can’t tell if this is your Eli version of a word or just your excited noise. Either way, it is terribly cute. You have also learned to play echo this month, but only with yelling, never with babbling. And you’ve all but given up saying mama, because you are kind of a turkey.
The low for this month was another cold followed by another ear infection. Unlike the last ear infection which made you kind of sad at night but was otherwise not a big deal, this one walloped you pretty hard. You had a high fever for 4 days in a row and were entirely pathetic for much of that time. You are not a fan of getting Tylenol and Motrin, so forcing those into you every 3 hours for 4 days was miserable for all of us. Especially the time your dad insisted he could give you the medication in one push and then you threw up all over me. Someday you’ll learn about how much I really love you when you get a better understanding of just how much I hate puke.
You rallied from the ear infection and as soon as you were well we resumed crib training for the 3rd? 4th? time. I cannot tell you enough how sorry I am to have waited this long, to put you through this now that you’re so aware. It’s a combination of loving you too hard and not wanting you to be unhappy and being so tired I am completely without a backbone. We did cry it out the other night and while I still feel like there might be an extra heaviness to my heart now, you have come through just fine and in the two subsequent nights you have not fussed at all at bedtime. It’s a start.
One of the coolest things this month is how much your playing has changed. You still love to grab a stuffed animal and bury your face in it and play with your little leap pad table, but you’ve also learned how to play with bigger toys the way they were meant. Your dad taught you how to put a ball into one of your toys and after a few minutes you became a master at it. And if we give you the ball and the toy, you’ll happily sit and play with it for 10 minutes at a time. You’ve also learned how to spin things and can make all your musical toys sing at once, much to everyone’s delight.
Your likes this month include: the cats, dad, mom (to a lesser extent than the cats and dad), your pup (pacifier), apple cinnamon oats and quinoa “mish mash” baby food, little crunchies (which are essentially chips for babies), blueberry bread toast, your bunny bed, your aunt Claire, musical toys, and of course, Glen (your monkey blanket).
Your dislikes this month include: your stupid crib, sleeping in your stupid crib, drinking enough milk to gain any weight, the car seat, riding in the car, Tylenol and Motrin (when not given on your terms) and having your nose or face or hands wiped.
It strikes me sometimes how you seem so big, and others so little. The other night your dad pushed you around on your toy car and you just looked so grown up. You could sit up in it by yourself, you weren’t gripping the car for safety, you were holding your monkey and pushing the buttons, happy as you could be. The very next day we put you on a patch of grass for the first time (which you hilariously hated) and you looked practically miniature. And I think that’s where you are right now in life. You’ve grown so much and I can see how little baby is left, but at the same time, you’re still so small, with so much growing and learning left to do.
When you were sick this time, it became very apparent the roles your dad and I fill for you. He is the entertainer, and I mean this in the most wonderful of ways. He can get you to smile even on your worst days, a skill I do not possess. I am the comforter. I dote, fawn and fuss. Instead of going for a smile, I get snuggles and comfort. The two of us together are a good team and oh son, we just love you to the ends of the earth.
Despite being sick, this has really been a month where you’ve emerged as your own unique person. You have a personality firmly in place. You have an easy smile, just one look from us (when you’re healthy) and your whole face lights up. You break out in belly laughs for no apparent reason and find joy in things that we’ve long lost our excitement over. I can’t speak for your dad, but for me, you’ve helped me find joy in small things that I might have overlooked. You remind me of how very fortunate I am, we are, each day. Even on the worst days, I still get to come home to you, to this joyous child, and that makes me the luckiest person in the world.
Happy 10 months, Eli. We love you and can’t wait to see what next month brings.