It was stupid.
I instantly regretted my lapse of good judgement and no one could beat me up more than I had already beaten myself up. Or at least that’s what I thought.
But the baby was fussy. Teeth were cutting through and he just wanted to be held. All the time.
So to keep the peace, I strapped him into my baby carrier and wore him most of the day.
I was preparing for a guest and pulled cookies out of the oven. The baby was facing my chest and I was holding the pan high in the air, but in the moment I hesitated to find a place to put that 350 degree pan down, he reached his tiny, unsuspecting hand up to grab that pan with me. He grabbed, I gasped, he let go, he cried. He cried and he cried. And I knew it was all my fault.
I ran his hand under cool water for a while and I gave him a cold toy to hold. I rocked and soothed him. It was a burn and I knew that not much can help a burn aside from time for healing. I knew this, and while I felt like the worst mom alive, my instinct said that I could care for him, and it would heal.
My husband came home ten minutes later and saw the blisters forming. His instinct is always to ask Dr. Google what he thinks, and Dr. Google diagnosed a second degree burn and a call to the pediatrician. So I did that, I made the call.
And the nurse I talked to asked a series of questions, gave no advice and finally told us to take him to the emergency room. The ER? What, realistically, can they do there, I thought? She asked me which hospital we would go to, and I answered trying to hold back tears. So it solidified for me that I’d better take him. Because now the burn is documented and if I don’t heed medical advice, then who knows what kind of repercussions there might be.
But then she had to say one more thing: “What were you going to do if I hadn’t told you to go to the ER?” She said it in the most belittling tone, like I was stupid. Like what was I even thinking calling her in the first place?
My husband drove to the hospital as I cried in the backseat, questioning the entire time whether I should even be a mom if my instincts were so off. I felt small and stupid and so very sorry.
We waited and waited while the baby cried and cried. My husband and I took turns doing bouncy baby laps around the ER waiting room with our little guy.
I explained the story to the receptionist, the triage nurse, until we got to the nurse practitioner and my voice got stuck in my throat as I tried to hold back tears. “Don’t beat yourself up,” he told me. “It was an accident.”
The doctor looked at my baby’s bubbled up hand. He told us how we’d need to keep it washed and apply triple antibiotic ointment to it. And then, in a moment of kind humanity said to me, “Hey, I have kids too and this same thing has happened to us.”
I shouldn’t have needed to hear those words to go on with motherhood, but I did. I needed to know that even the smartest parents in the world sometimes make bad calls, too. I needed to be reminded that an accident is an accident. We’d all do just about anything to go back to the moment before an accident happened to prevent it, especially one involving our kids. But we can’t, and that’s life. We learn from it and we don’t let the guilt get the best of us.
Nothing happened at the hospital. No actual treatment or medicine was given–not even a gauze wrap. We were reassured of my first instincts, that this would be something that would heal with time and a little Neosporin. I know, I know, better safe than sorry, but still.
I learned a lesson about accidents involving children and the snap judgements we make of the parents who allowed it. Accidents happen. I bet 99% of parents know exactly what they did wrong and would give anything to go back and do it right. We’d take the pain on ourselves tenfold if it kept our little ones from hurting. We don’t need belittling. We do need to be reminded that we’re human. And we are still good parents despite our tendency to make stupid mistakes once in a while.