Where Mothers Fear to Tread

Posted by on April 22, 2008

My son fell off a swingset yesterday. He fell not from the swing itself but from the crossbar that holds the frame together. Factoring in his own height, he fell about five feet and hit his head on the concrete so hard I could hear it. Just thinking about that moment makes my eyes burn.

He had climbed up there while I was on the phone. I was right there, trying to stop him but, ironically, I was afraid that by fighting him, I’d make him fall. So I went around the frame to get behind him as I was positive he would end up falling backwards but before I could put a hand on him, and in the blink of an eye, he fell forward and hit the concrete along the outside of swingset. I will never forget that slow motion fall to the ground and the sound of his head hitting the unyielding cement. I screamed.

I inspected his head for the blood I was certain would be pouring out of it but miraculously, he wasn’t bleeding.

I carried him inside while he cried like I’ve never hear him cry before. It was relentless and mournful. I put ice on his head but by then, I couldn’t remember which side hit the ground. I kept asking him to show me where it hurt but he wouldn’t answer. He just kept asking to lay down and kept blinking his eyes like he couldn’t see.

I was terrified.

As I dialed the pediatrician, I replayed in my mind all the stories I’ve ever heard about people hitting their heads a lot less hard than he did and dying from it. I thought about my friend who hit his head when he jumped from the car we were in together. His brain swelled from the impact and he didn’t make it.

The pediatrician suggested I bring him in immediately rather than go to an emergency room as it would definitely take longer to get even a basic head injury assessment.

I hung up the phone and began to sob uncontrollably. I felt like I had failed my son by not being able to prevent his fall.

And for the first time ever, I considered my childrens’ mortality for more than a half a second.

I’ve read many blogs written by parents who have lost a child and I have cried tears for them as I tried to grasp their pain. But I’ve never, ever allowed myself to imagine the horror of losing a child of my own. Even though the ever present spectre of death has been a part of my life since I was a child, I’ve willfully never let my mind go to that dark place until yesterday.

I cried as I put my son’s shoes on, knowing I shouldn’t do so in front of him, but powerless to stop. He’d said almost nothing since the fall maybe 15 minutes prior and he seemed very out of it but as I cried, he climbed off my lap, gently wrapped my face with his two tiny hands and kissed me. My heart ached.

As we drove to the doctor’s office, I forced myself to not cry, opting instead to make silent bargains with God.

After an extensive examination, his doctor concluded that while there was a very small chance he *might* lose consciousness, it was okay for him to go home as long as we agreed to wake him every three hours to make sure he was not unconscious. If he was or if he started vomiting, we were to go to the ER immediately. She also said it was a miracle his head didn’t split open from the impact of hitting such a hard surface from five feet. My sentiments exactly.

P made it through the night okay but he might be feeling some minor effects from the fall as he’s been very fussy today and a wee bit clumsy, hitting his poor little head again on my desk. Cognitively, he seems okay and I’m guardedly optimistic that he’s going to be wonderfully, perfectly fine in a day or two. I hope.

There is nothing on this earth that will make you appreciate your children more than thinking you might lose them. It’s not that I needed to be reminded to appreciate my son but in the chaos that is our everyday life, it’s easy to forget that my children are really the only things in my life that truly matter to me. I don’t want to lecture or preach but please, look at your kids and take in their essence; their goodness; their ability to love you unconditionally. And then imagine if all of that was gone from your life.

I really believe P is going to be okay and aside from knocking a couple years off my life, I’m fine, too. It was a horrible event that’s now over. The one good thing that came from it is a very pointed reminder to not take life for granted — yours or anybody else’s.


I just wanted to say thank you to all you nice people who sent their well wishes and congrats via email, comments and twitter for my little 15 seconds of fame in the Wall Street Journal. Most of you were not friends, as one might have expected but rather total strangers (and maybe new readers?) who found their way here from the Journal. Your kind and very unexpected words made me feel really good. I realize now it was kind of silly of me to feel so oddly self-conscious about the whole thing because I am good enough, I am smart enough and doggone it, people like me! And If I ever channel Stuart Smalley again, pinky swear that you’ll throw me in front of a bus.


  • Suebob says:

    That is SO scary. I can’t imagine how sick that makes you feel. I am glad he is doing well. Poor little man.

  • candid says:

    That just sounded awful…

    I almost had to pause my reading this at the beginning. I was almost afraid to read on.

    I hope you can stop seeing it over and over in your head soon.

    I’m sooo sorry that it happened. I’m sooo glad he’s okay.

  • Oooh…..god the fear and helplessness and anger at oneself for these moments..moments that we are powerless to stop…can see them happening before us.

    What a kick in the pants.

  • kdiddy says:

    jesus, that’s terrifying. I’m so glad that he’s okay. (gently) rub his head for me.

  • oh my goodness, izzy, that is awful. i can’t think of anything more frightening. i’m so sorry that it happened. hugs to you both.

  • I’ve been there, and cried those tears. I KNOW. I SO know. Biggest hugs to you.

  • Erika Jurney says:

    How terrifying — I’m so glad it turned out OK.

  • Amy@UWM says:

    Oh, gosh. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear you and your boy went through that. Every mom’s worst nightmare. Speedy recovery to both of you!

    BTW, love the new blog look!

  • Mommwizdom says:

    OMGosh, I’m sorry you’re going through that, Izzy.
    I’m so glad he’s Ok. Hugs to you and your family! I will keep you in my prayers.

  • My heart is in my throat from reading that. Bless his little heart, and head. I hope he’s back to himself tomorrow.

  • Diana says:

    Oh, Izzy! I am so glad he is ok! I am crying for you both right now.

  • Loralee says:

    My heart just hurts with this post. There is nothing more terrifying and helpless than not being able to protect your kids and knowing that no amount of bargaining can change the outcome sometimes.

    I am so glad that he is ok and that it wasn’t more serious.

  • Cristina says:

    Oh my GOD. How scary. I know how fast things like that can happen. I am SO glad he is OK. Keep me informed as to how he is doing.



  • Aprylsantics says:

    I’m feeling guilty for being on the phone with you when it happened. :( I’m glad he’s okay.

    Last night my daughter asked to dance with me before bed (something she usually does with her daddy when he’s home early enough to put her to bed) and I was feeling anxious to get back to my laundry, work, etc. I reluctantly agreed. But, something hit me in the middle of our dance that these moments will be gone sooner than realized. I hugged her tight and she hugged me back and I let myself enjoy those few moments. They were the ones I imagined when I was pregnant with her. And there they were.

    Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the work of raising children we forget to enjoy them.

    Sorry to be a comment hog.

    Congratulations! I don’t read the WSJ, so I didn’t know (why you not tell me?) Just goes to show you’re humble as well as smart and witty.

  • Jessica says:

    How terrifying. I am so glad he is fine.

  • Vicky says:

    Oh that is so scary! I’m so glad he’s ok. I had a moment like that when TD choked on a quarter. She was still crawling and I saw it in her throat as she lay on the floor mouth open. My instinct wasn’t what I thought it was. I simply dumped her upside down, holding her feet and shook her a bit. Nice huh? The quarter fell out miraculously. Afterwards I realized… I just shook my baby. Great parenting and I could barely catch my breath or stop the tears.

    BTW- Congrats on the WSJ – I saw it that day and was all proud. :)

  • Oh, izzy, that is too scary. The closest we came to that was when Chicky was an infant and fell off of my very high (like, insanely high) bed onto the hard wood floor. The sound of that thump will stay with me forever.

    Hope he’s doing much better now!

  • motherbumper says:

    Oh my Izzy – that is so freakin’ scary, I would have been hysterical. I’m glad he’s recovering well and that he has such a kick-ass mom taking care of him.

    BTW – meant to say it but just thought it lots – DAMN I’m proud of you and that WSJ thang.

  • SciFi Dad says:

    That is terrifying. Just the thought of it happening to a child, let alone my own, makes me sick to my stomach.

    I don’t have any advice, just good thoughts, and hopes that he will be back to himself soon.

  • AMomTwoBoys says:

    My heart stopped while reading this because I can only imagine what that was like for you. Terrifying.

    But, as someone who was prone to head injuries as a child, let me assure you he’ll be just fine! I practically grew up in the emergency room for concussions and stitches and at one point my dad’s co-workers bought me a football helmet because they thought it might help!

  • Ugh. This happened to Noise once when Funk was a wee one. On a big-kids’ playground at a grade school, that we really had no business being on with him being 2. He sat down to scoot forward cautiously onto the slide, and instead of his heine lowering onto the floor of the equipment (some seven feet up in the air,) he fell off the opening behind him and down, down, down. Luckily, he fell flat onto his back. But I can still hear that thud. And the whole sickening run back to the house (we had walked) all I could think about was that if he had fallen onto his head… it could have been a tragedy.

    Hope he is well.

  • Tricia says:

    I’m always amazed at children’s innocent ability to feel empathy. My own son, four-years-old, would have reacted similarly and would comfort & kiss me if he’d seen me crying. I understand your terror and I, too, fear treading on that mental path. A three-foot fall last summer put my little guy in a body cast for seven weeks with a broken leg. I’ll never forget the ride to the hospital. It was obvious his leg was broken, but I didn’t know if he’d also hit his head. He was in so much pain; he wouldn’t talk and couldn’t move. Now, I keep telling him if he breaks another leg or an arm, at least he has two of each, but to please, please be gentle with his head.

    I became a reader after seeing the WSJ article. Congrats!

  • Maria says:

    Oh my. I am crying for you! With you! Ack! I can not even imagine!

  • Heidi says:

    I am so glad your son is okay!!! You must have been petrified. But don’t be afraid to show your feelings to your son, it is important to let him know he doesn’t have to hide his feelings either. My stepson never was around anyone who really showed emotion or talked about feelings – until me (lol). Now he comes to me and has these little confessions about things he feels he can’t tell anyone else and he gets mad, sad, etc in front of me because he knows I am okay with him showing emotion. It is good to let it out.

  • PunditMom says:

    Something similar happened to PunditGirl when she was in pre-school and it is the scariest thing. I’m so sorry, but so happy that he is OK.

  • Wow, that is scary. Glad he’s OK.

    I went through that last year with my daughter, I know that feeling all too well and I never forgot it either.

  • FishyGirl says:

    Oh, Izzy. Oh, no. Been there, done that, more than once, with more than one kid (yes, am slow learner). I am so glad that P is okay. I hope you are okay, too – be kind to yourself.

  • blogversary says:

    Glad he is okay.

    My mom went through a similar thing when I was 8 and felt out of tree and broke my arm.

    I hope life gets back to normal soon and congrats on the WSJ link. You go girl!

  • Nancy says:

    How scary that must have been. Don’t be hard on yourself one bit for crying in front of P — think of how well you held it together to call the doctor and get him through the pain and shock of the fall. I am glad he’s doing OK. Hugs to you both.

  • My son climbed out of the window last week and fell. He is fine but I am not. Having five children, I have seen and experienced all kinds of childhood injury. Luckily they’ve all walk away from it with flying colors. The hardest part for me is the fact that their accidents could’ve been prevented if I was more careful in watching them. Ironically though, my children tell me that I am over protective. Go figure!
    I feel your pain because I have gone through it multiple times and every time it happens, I felt like I died.

  • jennster says:

    i could totally feel everything you were saying and just dying inside while i read this. oh man.. my heart.. it hurts for you- just from the experience. hugs and kisses.

  • Izzy, I’m so glad that he’s doing well. How terrifying for you both.

    Thanks for the important reminder to cherish our babies. Good to keep in mind when they are whining and crying. ;)

  • slackermommy says:

    How frightening. I’m glad it had a good outcome. I call those freebies from God. I’ve had my share and each one is a a reminder of how precious their lives are.

  • kittenpei says:

    Oh, Izzy. How horrifying and scary and oh, just beyond awful. I’m so glad he seems fine and will be thinking about you guys!

    My neighbour actually has a treehouse on top of a shed that is a good seven feet in the air at least, accesible by a ladder. At the bottom of the ladder? Paving stones. Scares the crap out of me when pumpkinpie goes there, especially since their little girl is… not that nice. I worry, I really do. I can see a push or a slip ending terribly because of the stones instead of grass. Freaks me right out.

  • Kritter Krit says:

    Oh my gosh, so scary!

    I hate those moments where you’re so terrified for them, you can’t keep from crying in front of them. My daughter had to be taken from one hospital by ambulance to another hospital one time when she was two. She was one sick little girl, and STILL, as the tears were pouring down my face, she managed to reach her little hand over and rub my back. The little weak “it’s okay, mommy” just made me squall that much harder.

    I’m glad your son is okay. This was a good post for me to read today. I’ve had one of those doozie days where I’m pretty sure the kiddo is going to make me put the ladder up to the roof.

    Good to remember what’s important.

  • Mom101 says:

    Oh man Izzy. I’m here all tense and stressed and quivery for you. So glad it sounds like he’s okay. Even if you’ll need some time to recover.

  • mamatulip says:

    Oh, God, Izzy. My heart was in my throat the entire time I read this. I’m really glad he’s okay.

    I was at a party once, and a young girl dropped her newborn brother on the cement floor. I can still hear that sound now, all these years later. It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

    Those moments we face as parents…the ones where we’re scared, so scared…they’re awful.

  • Belinda says:

    Oh, man, I just saw this! Poor baby, poor you, and I’m SO glad it’s all OK now. Sweet relief.

    I was just yesterday Twittering my frustration at seeing, all of a sudden, several pics of bloggers’ very small children riding very big horses, sans helmets. People just do NOT realize how vulnerable little (and big, for that matter) heads are. One prominent blogger who posts these images repeatedly says that “kids bounce” when they fall from horses. It gives me a sick feeling in my stomach to see that kind of gambling with a child’s life. And a horse, no matter how good a horse (and I happen to own a couple of the BEST ONES IN THE WORLD), is a living creature, and absolutely not predictable. Anything can happen, at any time, and when you add the height of the seated kid to the height of the horse’s back….*shudder*.

    Thanks for the reminder that there doesn’t even have to be anything obviously dangerous involved, and that it only takes a SECOND.

  • Christina says:

    I hate those moments. You can feel your hair turn white from fright as you beg any higher power to let them please be OK.

    Cordy did that once, falling onto her neck at a weird angle, and I thought at first that she broke her neck. She wouldn’t move her legs or sit up. I took her to the pediatrician, who said it was probably just a shock to her system, but that she was fine.

    I’m glad he’s OK and hopefully he’ll be back to normal soon.

  • I just had such a long day with my kids and you just made me feel so grateful for it.

    I’m so sorry you and your son went through such a scary thing. Lots of healing thoughts.

  • jaelithe says:

    Oh, that is horrible! So glad he seems to be doing okay.

  • Mama C-ta says:

    Oh goodness I was holding my breath the entire time reading it. How frightening, I am very happy to hear you both are recovering. Poor babe. I know all to well when you think that if you were to try to stop something that would make it worse. I would have done the same thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up knocking Cricket to the ground harder while trying to stop him from falling.

  • Annie says:

    So frightening! We don’t tend to consciously imagine the loss of our kids – it’s way too painful.

    I dreamed the night before last that my daughter died – and I have not been able to shake those pictures from my mind.

    I understand those tears.

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