I’ll never forget the sound “it” made. It wasn’t a bump or a crash. It wasn’t a slam, slap, or smack. Instead, it was a thud: My newborn baby’s body sounded like a sack of potatoes when she hit the hardened surface. When her fragile bones and soft skin struck the lacquered wood. When the soft spots on her head connected with our not-so-soft living room floor.
At first I didn’t know what to do.
How had she fallen? She was right there — next to me on the love seat. I was right there, and now she is crying. Her little fingers are reaching for my feet. What happened? What the hell happened?
But I didn’t have time to consider my transgressions. I didn’t have time to analyze what I did wrong — to figure out if I had fallen asleep or simply turned away for too long — instead I scooped her up. I cried into the crook of her neck as she dried her tears in mine, and after a few moments I found my phone and pressed a few buttons.
Shaking and crying, I dialed her pediatrician.
I tried to explain to the receptionist what had happened: My little girl had fallen off the sofa. Her little body had rolled right onto the floor, but while she heard me, to this day I’m not sure she really listened. Because her voice was slow and serene. She was calm and collected.
And my doctor? I was told my doctor would call me back.
“OK, I will pass your message along to Dr. M and she will call you back. Have a great day!” the voice on the other end of the line told me.
A great day? A “great day!?” How the hell could I possibly have a great day?
I hung up the phone and collapsed in a heap beside the couch — onto that cold, hard, and unforgiving floor — with my daughter still in my arms.
I was holding on to her with every ounce of strength I had.
What did the nurse mean when she said the doctor would call me back in a few minutes? Didn’t she understand the gravity of the situation? My daughter could be injured or brain damaged. What if “a few minutes” came a few moments too late?
Through tears, I apologized to my daughter. I prayed as I kissed the top of her head and the center of her forehead. As I kissed her cheeks and her neck, her lips and her chin, and as I kissed every inch of her little face, I told her Mommy would never drop her again.
I vowed I would protect her: never again would my daughter fall.
Eventually, her pediatrician called me back. She had me explain what happened — again — and she asked what my daughter was doing, and how she was acting, and the truth is, she seemed fine. She had already stopped crying and had actually begun laughing at my tears. (At this age, she also laughed at her fingers and toes, Daddy’s farts, and anything which made Mommy’s face look funny. Including anger. Including tears.)
Her doctor explained that while I should keep an eye out for odd behavior and lethargy, she was probably just fine.
My daughter would be a-OK.
But I wasn’t fine. I wasn’t OK, and I wouldn’t be for hours. In fact, I spent the remainder of that day hugging her and holding her and watching her every breath. I spent that night snuggling her and feeding her and rocking her to sleep because I worried that when she closed her eyes something would go wrong. I was worried that if I let her go she would fall. And I was worried that if I turned away, I could lose her.
What if she go hurt or died in her sleep?
For weeks, I was on edge. For months, her baby monitor was my best friend, and even today this moment still haunts me. It still terrifies me, and it still upsets me.
It hurts to know I could have seriously hurt my baby girl.
However, aside from her doctor, I never told a soul: not my mother or brother, my best friend, or even her father. Because I was scared. I was certain this incident proved I was an insufficient parent. I was certain this incident proved I was a “bad mom” — hell, I was a TERRIBLE mom — and I was this incident proved I didn’t deserve a child.
I didn’t deserve my daughter.
Of course, today — a full three years later — I know this isn’t true. I know this moment didn’t define me, as a person or a mother. I know accidents happen, and I know I am not “bad” or “terrible” or a complete and total f**k up. But I still struggle to speak about it.
Admitting that I dropped my baby, and telling this story for anyone to read, may just be the hardest thing I have ever done.
And yet that’s exactly why I’m telling it. Because accidents will happen, and as scary as they are, other parents need to know they are not alone.
Other parents need to know these moments do not mean one damn thing. At least not in the grand scheme of things.
These mistakes do not make you a good parent or a bad one.
So please: While I know accidents like this are horrifying and terrifying and so damn scary as the moments unfold, don’t ever question yourself. Don’t ever doubt yourself. Don’t put yourself down, and don’t call yourself a bad mother, because if you were a “bad mom” you wouldn’t care.
If you were a bad mom, you wouldn’t worry or cry, carry guilt, remorse, regret, or fear.
You’re a good mom. You’re doing okay. And remember: You’ve got this.