Nine....that would be the number of stitches in my poor baby's beautiful face. It would also be the approximate number of years shaved off my life this past Tuesday.
Ruthie, Helen and the little boy I watch, R, were all out in the front yard. Ruthie went inside to wash her hands. A couple of minutes later I hear her crying as she is coming back out and calling to me "Mommy, I hurt myself." I couldn't immediately see her from where I was standing, so I walked over towards the front door and saw my baby running down the porch steps, crying, with blood pouring down her sweet face in at least four different directions. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that it looked like she was filming a scene for a horror movie. It was hard to tell, but it looked like it was coming from someplace on her forehead. I scooped her up (and admittedly, in a bit of momentary insanity, wondered if I should carry her facing outwards because there was so.much.blood. but I faced her inward toward me so I could see her.) I ran to my neighbors, mostly to deposit the other two children there and decide what I next needed to do. My neighbor took one look at us and all.that. blood. and called 911. I got a towel from her daughter and put pressure on the wound, which I could now tell was definitely on her forehead, and sat on my neighbor's stoop to wait for the emergency responders while I comforted my poor little daughter. We live own the hill from a fire station, so they arrived rather quickly with a truck and their ambulance. Ruthie and I were both calm, so they easily assessed her, applied some gauze and tape to keep the bleeding down, and put us in an ambulance. Ruthie waited in hte ambulance calmmly and patiently while I ran inot hte huse to get my phone and my wallet. Everyone who was there was amazed by how calm she was. Another neighbor later told me me she thought Ruthie and I were both really brave. That made my cry a little. We spent about four hours at the hospital with three other five year olds, all of whom also had head or facial lacerations. Ruthie was a model patient. She never flinched when they irrigated her wound, and she never flinched when they made each of those nine stiches in her pretty little face. I can't say the same for me. I maintained my composure (I'm good in the midst of a crisis, though I always reserve the right to fall apart later) but I felt my heart stop each and every time that needle pierced her skin to take another stitch.
I kept her home from school the next day, and by dinner time, I could feel myself beginning to unreavel. We went to a low-key dinner picnic for Benny's work, and the whole time we were there all I wanted was to leave. It seemed there were so many sharp edges looming there, and every time one of my girls came within a foot of one, I panicked and just wanted to go home. The feeling was exactly the feeling I had after we lost our first baby, and I wanted to be nowhere except the safety of my own home. I guess it was probably a minor anxiety attack. I actually cried on the way home from the picnic, no doubt a release of pent up anxiety. And also the picture. The one that is birned on my brain. The one of sweet little Ruthie running toward me, her face covered in multiple rivers of blood. I thought after two NICU babies, I could handle any medical emergency when it came to my kids. How wrong I was.
Four days later I'm slightly calmer but still nervous about the edges that are everywhere all of a sudden. And we're still finding blood in places. My neighbor kindly cleaned up the puddles by the front door after we left in the ambulance. I found some above the doorknob on Wednesday. The front porch is almost all clean thanks to the rain. Benny found some streaks on the front door today.
I find myself wanting to hold her and hug her even more than usual. And I'm so proud of her for being so brave. She really is a trooper.