I come from a family of worriers so naturally once my twins Allie and Nick were born, I signed up for a ”Pediatric Emergency” class so I’d be ready for anything. It was an excellent class led by an experienced ER doctor. He told us all the things you should do if your kid gets hurt, like expect a lot of blood from facial injuries and don’t panic because the large quantity of blood makes it look worse than it seems. He told us that kids take their cues from us, so definitely try not to look panicked when they get hurt or your kid will freak.
Sadly enough when my twins were two years old, I forgot everything from that class in an instant.
There was a whole litany of great advice in this parenting class, such as when to call the pediatrician and when to go to the ER, how to babyproof your home, and why you should never let your kid play on a trampoline (ER visit-magnet). I was so worried that I wouldn’t remember all this stuff in an emergency, so I actually took notes.
Years later, I was in the kitchen and my twins were playing in the next room when I heard a hard ”thump” sound, and then I heard my daughter start screaming. I knew something really bad had happened because my daughter usually didn’t cry if she took a tumble. I was immediately in the room and saw that Allie had hit her mouth on the coffee table, probably from jumping off the couch, where Nick was now standing, ready for takeoff.
One second Allie was screaming with her hands covering her mouth and the next second, blood was everywhere””covering her hands, her chin, all over her shirt and the floor. I grabbed her up and held her to me trying to soothe her a little before I took a look at what was bleeding.
I held Allie on my hip while I checked her chin, lips and teeth. When I looked in her mouth, I could see spaces where her front tooth and the one next to it had been. ”She knocked her teeth out,” I thought with a sinking heart.
My little girl had only recently started looking like a little girl because her blond hair had grown down to her chin. She was so beautiful, so different from me as a kid with my ratty brown hair and brown eyes, that I was proud of her beauty. Now she was going to look like a jack-o-lantern for the next four or so years. It was shallow and vain of me to think this, but I admit that after ”this must hurt like a mothereffer,” the gap-toothed smile was my second thought.
I calmed Allie down with Children’s Tylenol and an ice pop, but I couldn’t calm myself down. The blood wouldn’t stop, and the sight of my daughter’s bloody mouth and bruising chin made me cry every time I looked at her. I called my husband and he offered to come home early.
Having toddler twins often means that you’re never really able to focus on just one child. Nick gave me a firsthand look at the typical toddler’s level of compassion (none at all). He didn’t seem to know what the blood was, so he wasn’t scared of it and just wanted Allie to pipe down so I could get him a popsicle too. He started whining and clinging to my leg, which just made me cry more because of all the things I needed right then, a toddler with no grasp of the situation was not one of them.
At that moment I didn’t feel like their mother, who was intelligent and strong and who would do her best to keep them safe no matter what. I felt like a teenage babysitter, who didn’t even have the sense in her head to stop crying.
I knew I needed another adult to shame me into getting my shit together, so I called my neighbor Mie, who is the definition of laid-back, and asked her to come over. As soon as she walked through the door, I started to calm down. I reverted back to my ”Mom” persona and explained the accident to her. The first thing she asked was, ”What did the pediatrician say?”
”The pediatrician! Oh my God, I haven’t even called her!” I said, feeling more ashamed by the second.
The pediatrician asked me if I’d found the teeth that were knocked out, and I replied, ”No, I haven’t even looked for them.” (Unfit mom!) She said I should go find them and bring them in. If I couldn’t find them, that might mean that Allie had swallowed them, and then she’d need x-rays because if she had any breathing problems, there was a chance a tooth could have lodged in her esophagus or lung. (WTF?!) Alternatively, if the teeth were knocked up into her gums (I didn’t even know this was possible), she’d need dental x-rays and a pediatric dentist to determine whether there had been damage to her adult teeth.
Here I was worried about Allie’s pain, my guilt and bad pictures for years to come, and suddenly there was a real medical problem to worry about.
I searched the entire area around the coffee table and couldn’t find either tooth. As we found out from the dental x-rays later that afternoon, Allie’s teeth had actually been pushed back up into her gums. (My poor baby!)
By that point, my husband had met me at the pediatric dentist’s office and I had turned back into myself more or less. As the dentist began to tell me the new course of action to help the teeth come back down (no sippy cups, no straws, no pacifiers, no hard food), I knew I’d easily forget this important information, and I began to take notes.
I’d get this part right, at the very least.