Winter is in that late stage now where the snow melts, then freezes, and everywhere you turn there’s an unexpected patch of ice. On the day in question, I was on my own for daycare drop off, and headed to an early-morning meeting.
I was running ahead of schedule, so I wasn’t rushing out of the car with Olimpia. She was pulled tightly to my chest, because she is 30 pounds now and loves to wriggle. I looked down at the driveway and noticed there was some ice, but it seemed fine.
However, I stepped forward and one foot just went. It was a full-on, no time to blink, ankles-in-the-air complete wipe-out, like a cartoon character stepping on a banana peel. I landed on top of her with a thud, and heard the hollow sound of her head hitting the pavement.
It was silent for a moment, then she howled. I rolled over onto my back and sat up, also in quite a bit of pain. Two teenage boys walked past me on the sidewalk, not commenting, not pointing to laugh, not asking if I was ok. Nothing. Teenagers these days, I tell ya.
I felt the back of her head, hoping that I wouldn’t find blood or a quickly developing goose egg. I’ve never heard her cry so hard. I stood and held her sobbing face in my shoulder as I brought her into the daycare. She cried in a deep, frightened way. It was a long drop-off, but I had to go back out to the car. For one, because it was still running in the driveway, and for two, my other kid needed to come inside too. She’d been blissfully unaware, waiting in the car the whole time. When I returned with baby #2, Oli was wrapped in a blanket on the couch, calmed by cartoons. I was assured I’d be alerted if anything was off with her behavior. I left, heading to work.
I won’t lie, I was pretty shaken up. But I was determined to hold it together. When I got to my meeting, I quickly googled “baby concussion” in the parking lot before going inside, mostly to reassure myself that it would be ok. Within ten minutes, I was in a large boardroom giving a presentation. I looked down at my hand mid-way through and there was blood on my palm. If you’re ever wondering if it’s a good idea to hire mothers, this is the evidence you need. You’ll get workers that can endure physical pain, worry about a helpless child, stay calm through it all, and get the job done.
I felt kind of ‘off’ the whole day. My elbow hurt. My hands hurt. My back hurt. And I kept imagining the sound of her head on the pavement over and over. At five I picked the girls up. To my relief she was in a stellar mood–very happy–likely from having extra-special attention all day. She was bright and chipper and without a bump or bruise to show for the whole ordeal. Once we were in our own house, I sat down on the stairs and cried, finally allowing myself to process the situation, to express my relief, and to shake off the tension of worry.
The next morning, I was repeating the same drop-off. I was a little nervous, and still sore. The shock had fully worn off and I’d discovered some new scraped skin. For the most part though, we’d managed to come away unscathed.
As I pulled Olimpia from the car to go inside the daycare, I trepidatiously looked over her shoulder to the driveway to check for black ice. “Careful,” she said. “Careful mama.”