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My Husband Changed Everything with 5 Little Words: It Was Not Your Fault

It happened in an instant: One second my daughter was laughing, playing, and running, and the next she was screaming. The next she was crying. The next she was wailing, and covered in blood.

I mean, as soon I heard “the noise” — a dull yet intense thud — I knew it was bad. But when I placed my hand on the backside of her skull, when I touched the spot where her head connected with our wooden bed frame, I expected to feel a lump. A welt. A ginormous freakin’ goose egg. Instead, what I felt was warm and wet. What I felt was totally, utterly, and completely terrifying.

You see, in her Shirley Temple curls was blood. Ribbons and ribbons of bright red blood. And I panicked.

This gal — the one who used to draw blood for a living — lost her goddamn mind. Because this time, it was different. It was my daughter. It was my beautiful baby girl.

After processing the initial shock, I soon kicked into “survival mode.” I grabbed a clean towel and held it to her head, applying enough pressure to stop the flow but not hurt her. I grabbed her favorite toy, her coat, a sippy cup, and her sneakers. Within minutes, my husband and I were in the car. A few more, and we were on the road; at the hospital; running her into the ER.

And then, sometime after getting a bed, seeing the triage team, and settling down, reality sunk in. The gravity of her injury sunk in, and the self-loathing took over because this was my fault. The whole damn thing was my fault. How so? Because when she climbed on the bed I was in the bathroom. When she fell, I was on the “potty.”

If I hadn’t peed at that precise moment, we wouldn’t be here. If I had been watching her, she wouldn’t need stitches and a CAT scan. She would be OK. This wouldn’t have even happened in the first place.

The voices in my head — the ones that tell me I’m not good enough, I’m not loving enough, and I’m not capable enough — took over, and I began to shut down.
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The “mom guilt” came on fast and hard. So hard. Because this wouldn’t happen to a “good mom.” This couldn’t happen to a good mom. And not only was I a bad parent, I was incompetent. I was inadequate. I endangered my daughter’s well-being to use the toilet, and that made me more than a “bad mom;” it made me an unfit one.

The voices in my head — the ones that tell me I’m not good enough, I’m not loving enough, and I’m not capable enough — took over, and I began to shut down.

It was then my husband said something I wanted to hear; I needed to hear. It was then my husband uttered the most beautiful words I have ever heard: “This is not your fault.”

I exhaled. I inhaled. I took a breath.

You see, my husband immediately knew what I was thinking. He knew what I was feeling, and he realized this accident could have happened to anyone.

It could have happened to him.

When my husband said those words, I felt relieved. I felt OK. I felt enough.
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Unfortunately, “mom guilt” (or parental guilt) is real. No matter what we as parents do, it is never enough. If I clean the house, I am missing out on moments I could be spending with my daughter. If I play with my daughter, I am ignoring my work — and my home. If I let my daughter watch TV, I am neglectful. I am negligent. And If I tell my daughter she cannot watch her favorite shows, I am a curmudgeon. I am a grouch.

(Oh wait, there’s more.)

If I feed my daughter a freshly roasted chicken and some broccoli and she does not eat it, I am the worst. Because I didn’t give her what she wanted. Because I let her go to bed hungry. And if I give her boxed macaroni and cheese and a spoonful of ketchup, I am a pushover. I am a sucker. I am a chump — a chump giving her processed crap.

And if I go to the bathroom while my daughter is awake, I am a “bad mom” because she could get into trouble. Because in order to pee I have to leave her unattended.

But when my husband said those words, I felt relieved. I felt OK. I felt enough.

And in an instant, my mindset changed. My outlook changed. In an instant, he changed the way I looked at motherhood, at myself, and at my life.

Make no mistake: There are times I go back to the “what-ifs.” What if my daughter had a fractured skull, or bleeding on the brain? What if her injury caused permanent damage? Permanent developmental or physical damage.

What if she died? But the idea that I was a bad mom because I had to use the restroom — you know, something we all have to do — was bullshit.

Complete and utter bullshit.

Because no one is perfect. And no matter how closely I keep her — no matter how closely I watch her — she will fall. She will get hurt. Accidents will happen.

And when they do, I’ll never forget those five little words: It was not your fault.

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