After keeping me and my husband awake for several hours overnight, our 2-year-old decided to somersault down a flight of stairs into our friend’s basement the other morning.
I had a premonition that something bad was going to happen. But then again, I’m always having dire premonitions. At any rate, I was concerned enough to stand above as Jane descended the staircase, but not concerned enough to offer effective assistance, such as grasping her hand. So when Jane’s stocking feet slipped on the carpet near the top, I had an aerial view of her nosedive. All I could do as I watched her flip and flop and finally hit the wall at the bottom was cry, “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!”—before stumbling down to gather up the weeping Jane.
I am grateful to report that our daughter is fine. Even directly following the accident, I had a visceral sense that this would be so. Jane cried immediately. She did not throw up. My friends and I agreed that she seemed more scared than anything.
But even minor head bumps make me think about Natasha Richardson and the epidural hematoma that killed her. So after sweeping Jane out of my friend’s house and snapping her into her car seat, I quickly called my husband before heading to the emergency room.
“She rolled down the entire flight of stairs,” I told him.
“Like a ball!” Jane cried in the background.
“She’s fine,” Jeff said.
But he hadn’t witnessed the plunge.
“We’re just going to the doctor so he can look at your head,” I told Jane as I steered toward The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“Awwwww!” she cried. “How long will it take?”
“Just a little while,” I lied.
Two-and-a-half hours later, we were still sitting in the waiting room full of sick kids in face masks. I was vigilant about germs for the first hour, keeping Jane occupied on my lap with books. I Purelled our hands every seven minutes. Jane loudly sang out nursery rhymes she recognized from “The Real Mother Goose” volume I’d luckily found in the car and thrown in our pack. ‘You could at least act a little injured,’ I thought. A boy, who’d been there when we arrived, actually had caked blood on his forehead. ‘We’re going to be here forever,’ I sighed.
“Forever” may have been an overstatement. But by the second hour, as Jane lolled on the hospital floor and darted around, strumming the communal toys and then her mouth, I worried that I was causing her more damage than good by bringing her to this emergency room full of infections. By the time a doctor finally inspected her after three-and-a-half hours, I was certain that Jane was not concussed but that she had contracted either pertussis or meningitis.
Furthermore, I was embarrassed about wasting this ER doctor’s time, when he had a waiting room full of seriously ill children. I was also afraid, when he pulled up our records, that he would notice I’d already recently visited that same hospital with each of our 6-year-old twins for (thankfully) false alarm head injuries: Georgia after a plummet off of our jungle gym and Griffin for delayed vomiting after he cracked skulls with a fellow .... I was sure that this time they’d report me to Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services or at least investigate me for Munchausen by proxy syndrome.
I haven’t heard anything yet, and thankfully, the doctor released us, cautioning to watch Jane closely over the next 48 hours and to keep her quiet for the rest of the day. But after a quick snooze on the car ride home, we couldn’t resist a backyard romp in the 60-degree weather. Jane clambered up the climbing wall of our play structure, barking at me to, “Go away! Stop standing so close!”
“Were you like a bowling ball?” Jane’s sister asked her that night at dinner.
“I was like a rolling pin, Georgia!” Jane exclaimed.
She can characterize her stunt however she wants, as long as she doesn’t repeat it. But with the benefit of a few days’ perspective, Jane’s tumble has reminded me that although parenting sometimes feels like a death watch, our children are usually more resilient than we think.