People have described moments where their entire life flashes in front of their eyes. I’ve never really understood it until now.
SB was having her shower as usual, everything was fine, she wanted to splash about and we were trying to keep her still and teaching her about being safe in the shower. The shower’s finished, I’m sticking the shower back up on the rail, Daf turns to grab her towel and –
And just like that, life flashes before my eyes. Not mine – hers. Instant panic washes over me, and I didn’t see it, I just heard it. A sickening bang that sends a chill down my spine, stops my heart for the longest moment and makes me feel like my stomach has just dropped out of my body.
For a moment, all I can do is shout “Daf!”, but I think he’s just had the exact same moment, wondering how the hell this happened. We’re so careful, we’re never complacent with SB’s safety, she’s never whacked her head on anything before.
The moment lasts half a second, but feels like a lifetime. Then we’re scooping SB out of the bath, wrapping her in her towel as she squeals horrible, heart-wrenching screams of shock and pain, crying so hard that tears don’t even fall. We’re straight into Mummy and Daddy mode, trying to reassure her.
“Oh dear, what a bump, what a noggin!” I chirp, trying to stay cheery as Daf checks the back of SB’s head. There’s no blood, and there’s a nice little egg already forming. That’s a good sign, I remember reading. Daf hands her over to me and I just hold her close, her little arms clasping around my neck, her body pressed close against me as he tries to make her smile and laugh.
Meanwhile, my head races. Do we call NHS Direct? An ambulance? The army? My baby is hurt. The bang, the scream, the gasps as she tries to cope with the shock, it all echoes in my head again and again. My baby is hurt.
For a while she is quiet. Then the smile appears. Then it becomes a grin. Then she’s pointing at the rubber ducks, saying “woof woof” (hastily corrected to “quack quack”) and giggling like nothing has happened. We go into the living room and dry her off, dressing her, and you’d never imagine she was screaming blue murder moments ago. She’s giggling at the TV, walking around, picking up her toys, chattering away.
Our nerves are shot to pieces. We keep her up for an extra hour, as she proves to us that she’s absolutely fine. Tuck her into bed, and she falls asleep. We’ve been popping in to check on her every half an hour. She’s absolutely fine, and doesn’t even seem sore – she let Daf brush her hair after she got dried off without a care in the world.
We won’t sleep tonight, but I don’t mind that. I’ll stay up all night, every night, if it means protecting my baby.
For all the jokes I make about parenting, for every time I call her a plank or laugh at something silly she does, I am still very aware that parenting isn’t always fun and games. Sometimes we have to pretend it is. We have to make silly faces and play with rubber ducks when our hearts are heavy with fear, and all we can hear in our head is a constant loop of a scream that has already ended. That’s part of being a parent, every bit as much as changing nappies and weaning and potty training is.
There’s a quote about parenting that goes something like “To be a parent is to always have a piece of your heart walking around outside your body”. It’s more intense than that, though. She’s not a piece of my heart; everything in my life is so intrinsically linked to her. There isn’t a minute of my day where I don’t think of her; not a decision I make where her wellbeing isn’t at the forefront of my mind. When I look back on memories, I think of the fun we’ll have making new ones with her. When I look to the future, she is weaved into every hope and dream.
To have a child is to have your past, present and future outside of your mind, wrapped up in an adorable, pooping, sleeping, walking package that thinks ducks say “woof” and can accurately name all of the Frozen characters, but knows her own uncle as “Boy”. That package is vulnerable and fragile but wants independence, and you have to tread that fine line between encouraging independence and protecting that package with every ounce of strength in your body.
It’s exhausting. It’s terrifying.
But my god, as I go in and check on her for the next of many times tonight, I know that I wouldn’t have it any other way.