I walked my baby into her Kindergarten class last week, and it was hard.
I realize you veteran moms will probably read this, shake your heads and think, “Just wait.”
Maybe you sympathize, remembering the hot mess you were YOUR first day of school.
Maybe you are more like the commercials portray parents now: dancing and celebrating while sullen children trudge off to the bus, or into the waiting open doors of the schoolhouse.
I fought back the scream that was building inside of me.
Every time they paged us, it was our universe.
Folding laundry on the bed while your child plays with her new kitten shouldn’t lead to a life-altering catastrophe, but for us it did. When the kitty stuck her paw through an overturned clothes basket in a game of “get your hands” and your child squeals with delight, but then in her surprise at having her hand tagged by a kitten falls off of the bed onto the hardwood floor and cracks her skull – things change. There was no immediate indication of a severe injury… she walked, talked and acted fine. I cannot tell you how much I wish I had done more RIGHT THEN. She didn’t want us to touch her head. We gave her the ‘boo boo buddy’ she liked and she went back to playing after some cuddling.
She complained of a headache, which made sense – she’s taken a fall. But the headache persisted, and she got worse and worse, eventually losing consciousness. A fast trip in our car and a call ahead by the EMTs got us in to the Children’s ER, and then tests with terrifying news: she had a subdural hematoma: a brain bleed. Standing next to the doctor as he showed the scans to me was a moment I will never forget as long as I live. We were transported in the middle of the night to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, where we were re-tested and immediately sent for surgery by a pediatric neurosurgeon.
It all seemed to happen so fast, that simply having someone explain exactly what they were going to DO to our baby happened AS they were taking her back. And let me tell you: THAT was a pain that I cannot even begin to express. Watching them take her away, so small on that gurney, where I could not be- I have no words. The slow horror of being shooed off to a waiting room that was filled with people acting like it was a party – laughter and balloons – was just surreal. My shell-shocked husband and I shuffled off to a quieter hallway and cried. We made a couple of phone calls to family. We did what we could to update people.
I fought back the scream that was building inside of me. Every time they paged us, it was our universe.
Recovery was really scary. With traumatic head injury, especially those involving the brain, you never really know what you’re going to get, or how things might proceed initially. Is this a normal four year old thing, or is this part of the injury? I didn’t really allow myself to truly cry until I was in the shower back at home, and I did until the water was freezing. I’ve cried a lot since then. I’ve hugged a lot of friends. I’ve held my child as she slept with a new ferocity I did not know I possessed. I’ve changed.
At home, we took it easy: we read a lot of books, made crafts and enjoyed visits from friends. I eventually went back to work, and she slowly started back to preschool. Her friends were happy to see her, and she was happy to see them, too. When we were discharged from care, we celebrated with our first ever theme park trip, and she dressed as Hermione – one of her heroes. She has been nothing short of amazing – and so tough. She has a scar, and will probably never be able to do some activities, but we are so fortunate. And our bed is permanently lowered. My husband saw to that.
This month, when my baby walked through those doors, I knew this proud hot mess had a lot to be grateful for. And I don’t take a day for granted.
Mandy Pinyan is a passionate book love from an early age, where being busted for bringing Stephen King to school (a book, not the guy) led to much reading by flashlight. She turned out okay. She is the Youth Services Coordinator and Manager of Outreach Services at the Huntsville Madison County Public Library Extension and Outreach Department, where she can be seen driving a Rainbow Van or a Bookmobile in between gigs. Mom to a precocious elementary student, Adelyn and wife to a ruggedly handsome outdoorsman with an obsession with planting bamboo, Mandy finds enjoyment in painting, gardening and geeking out over various pop culture. A small menagerie pf pets- dachshunds Matt Damon and Angel, kitty BB and Boston-Chihuahua-chupacabra mix Bailey just make the chaos complete.