I'm not typically squeamish over the sight of blood. It does not send my stomach into lurches or tumbles. I don't faint. I'm not about to think I could have handled going into a career in medicine, but I can handle motherhood.
At least I thought I could until I faced it.
Don't get me wrong - having a three year-old boy means having a lot of skinned knees to kiss better. It means plenty of chances to dig out the cartoon emblazon band-aids. It means Dr. Mom gets a work-out. Yet even my full-speed ahead, rough-and-tumble, tyke never gave us a real bloody crash and burn before today.
We had picked up our Christmas tree today. Logan helped us decorate while Megan napped. I had started a two-fold tradition when Logan was born. Since he's really into all the holiday 'stuff' and seems to comprehend our explanations, I decided to show him this tradition. Each year I buy my children two ornaments. The first is part of a collection of themed ornaments that I will one day hand-over to them when they have their own homes. Logan gets a Santa; Megan gets an angel. The other ornament is one I'll keep and represents something that each one is really 'into' that year. Last year, for example, Logan's was a Thomas the Tank Engine ornament. Meg's was Raggedy Ann and Andy - she was already smitten with them at a mere 3 months old.
I had picked up Meg's two ornaments already - a Dora and an angel. I didn't have Logan's. I told him I wanted to him to go with me to pick it out. We finished our decorating work and headed to Hallmark.
There's a large stretch of blacktop between the parking spaces and the sidewalk at the strip mall we went to. Logan ran across it holding my hand tight. When we got on the sidewalk he slowed as he tried to get his bearings - he was attempting to walk with sunglasses on. He typically only uses them in the car or on the beach. I'm not quite sure what happened. One minute he was next to me. The next he was screaming.
I spun around to find him lifting himself up off the sidewalk. He had clearly been face down for a moment. The palm of one hand was scraped. The left side of his upper lip was spotted with small cuts. And when he yelled I could see it in his mouth - the blood. I still don't know where it was coming from. I pressed lightly on a few teeth - nothing wiggled. I tried to peak under his lip - everything seemed in tact. The red lines of blood seemed to come from the space where his front teeth met the gum.
I held him close to me and started to feel dizzy. I walked us over near the sidewall of another store. I hugged him tight. I wanted to leave. I wanted to take him home if nothing else, but I didn't trust myself to get us there - at least not the way he was screaming. I put him down again and checked his wrist and legs for any immediate swelling. A quick glance - still blood in his mouth.
He wanted a tissue. I hesitated because I knew wiping his nose would hurt the scrape above his lip. But he insisted, so I did it. And I took the moment to clear some blood from his mouth too. He's very much against the act of bleeding. It freaks him out. I didn't mention the red stuff. He started to calm.
"Does it taste salty in your mouth?" I asked him.
He nodded. He sniffed. He wanted to know why. I lied - maybe it was dirt or something. Don't say the 'b' word. Don't get him started again.
I offered them to take him home. I told him we could come back to the store another time. He cried again. "No!" he said and the red-tinted saliva started to drip out one corner of his mouth. I wanted to cry with him. I hate seeing him in pain like that.
"No. I need my Santa and my special ornament," he insisted.
I checked him over again - no bruises appearing, no swelling, no signs of active bleeding. Ok, we'd go in.
He picked out Santa pulling toys from his bag and the current year's Thomas ornament - he's right too, Thomas is still one of his most favorite things in the world. He forgot about his fall. He went off exploring.
I almost forgot about it too. Sure we told Daddy when we got home. Heck, we even told Uncle when he stopped by this evening. But it didn't pain me as much when we did. It wasn't until he sat across from me from dinner. I noticed it then - the fat lip. The big, puffy, swollen lip.
As he lay his head down on the pillow tonight, Logan said "Today was a great today but it was also a very bad day." Of course I had to have him explain that.
"Well, it was great because we got our tree and we decorated," he explained. "But it was bad because I fell and got real hurt."
I glanced at his fat lip. I nodded and flipped off his light switch so he couldn't see my eye tear a little. As a mother to one boy and one little dare-devil girl, I know this won't be the last hard fall. I know it's not even going to compare to the first heart-break. Or the first real rejection. Or the myriad of other things that can break a mom's heart. But it was a real taste of what lay ahead.
Motherhood is amazing. I'm sure if I were the one taking 'a header' I would have hurt like hell when it happened. I might even still be smarting a bit - but I know it wouldn't have hurt my heart the way this one did. What is it about children that can intensify your emotions so much?