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Friday, January 8, 2010

What to do when your baby falls

This was written in September of 2006 on my old blog at Club Mom. Since it still gets traffic, due to the title, I thought I'd move it over here. If you're not interested in this trip down memory lane, scan down for the latest photos of the girls.

Eliza fell off our bed yesterday. In the space of a second that felt like so much longer, I watched her fall from a seated position and slam against the hardwood floor. I was right next to her and still somehow I didn't stop it. The sight of her falling will be replayed in my mind in bright technicolor for years to come.

My bed is the one furniture item I brought with me when I moved in with C at six months pregnant. The bed was my special splurge after landing my first television series. On the day I bought the bed, I couldn't get two salespeople to wait on me, perhaps because I was dressed in overalls and looked about 12 years old. I bought luxurious sheets and basked in the comfort of my new, extra thick mattress, the kind that takes "deep pocket" sheets.

That thick mattress means this bed is a good six inches higher than a regular bed. So my little girl, clad only in a dirty diaper I was about to change, smashed her back and perhaps her head against the floor from the height of more than three feet.

Before the fall, I placed her on the bed while I rummaged through her dresser to get her pretty pink dress. Accented with curly, colored laces, I refer to this as her Senorita dress. But she didn't fall while I looked for the dress as I stood right beside her and probably could have prevented it. No, she was having so much fun on the bed, I climbed up there with her for some kisses and cuddles.

I'm not sure exactly what happened. I think as she crawled down the middle of the bed, she got a little tangled in the comfort and sat up to steady herself. But when she sat up, her back was too close to the edge of the bed. Panic stricken, I reached for her but it was too late. She was already on her downward descent. She fell, she screamed, she cried, I scooped her up. I held her against my hip, shushing in her ear, my head pounding because I had no idea what to do.

After a fall what do I look for? My own feeling was if I could calm her quickly, then it probably wasn't that serious. If she was really hurt, she'd cry for hours, right? She did calm down within a few minutes but what if this theory was wrong? Should I take her to the emergency room? Should I immediately put ice on the back of her head?

Unable to decide for myself, I called my mother who told me to call the doctor. My mother has turned into a bit of alarmist since Eliza was born and if I say anything about so much as a hangnail she wants me to call the doctor. The reason I hestitated to do this was Eliza's regular doctor is on vacation and one of the on-call doctors scared me a few months back when Eliza had a fever. Afraid the doctor would frighten me more, I balked at calling the office.

Instead I hung up with my mother and called my friend Meredith, the proud mother of six kids. She assured me that if Eliza seemed okay, she probably was, just watch her pupils, watch for vomiting and don't let her go to sleep. This posed a problem because it was now Eliza's naptime and her eyes drooped accordingly. I know about the no sleep after a head injury to avoid comas rule but I wasn't sure I should do that right now for my daughter. She'd had a rough morning, my gut told me she needed to sleep. How could I really keep her awake if she was determined to snooze and would keeping her awake be the right thing for her?

Meredith couldn't talk long (with six kids, who could?) so after we hung up, I called a friend who'd told me that her baby fell off her similar-sized bed. She told me the doctor just told her as long as the baby was conscious after the fall, she then should watch the baby for anything unsusal. The doctor also didn't encourage my friend to forego the kid's nap. Eliza was already asleep in my arms so I felt relieved that I wouldn't have to wake her. I did call the doctor and leave a message for the nurse to call me back. I held Eliza for a few more moments and then gently placed her in her crib.

When the nurse called back, she calmly told me what to look for. Reassured that her first words weren't "bring her to the emergency room immediately," I listened carefully to what she said.

So here's what you look for if your baby falls and hits his or her head:

Watch the baby's mobility and if there's a regression. For instance, if the baby was sitting up and suddenly can't sit up well, that's the sign of a problem. Watch his hand and leg movements to see if anything looks different. Repeated vomiting is the sign of trouble as is a noticable difference in the size of the baby's pupils. If one pupil looks bigger than the other, it's time to call the doctor.

She also said it was fine for the baby to sleep but I'd have to go in and stimulate her once an hour. Eliza didn't need to wake up and look at me, she simply needed to move, roll over, do something. It was around 10 am or so and the nurse encouraged me to do this until midnight.

Eliza ended up not taking her full nap but she woke up smiling and ready to play. Heartened by her happy mood, I felt the worst was behind me. We did have a nice day together, culminating in a wonderful trip to the playground. Eliza laughed so much in the swing, the only other person in the park, a woman with a baby, sat near us to watch. It wasn't until the evening that things got tough again. C's son came over and since he arrived about 20 minutes late, it threw off Eliza's schedule. I ended up not getting her dinner (steamed vegetables) on the table until 7:30 when I usually feed her around 6:45. After a long day with very little naptime, she didn't want to eat, she just wanted to go to sleep. I tried to get as much food in her before giving up and putting her down. C's son was set to sleep in our living room because his mother would be out late. So the three of us were stuck in the living room together with C tense about the Agassi/Bagdahtis tennis match and me determined to stay awake until midnight because I had to check on her. In some ways, it's great that C's been through all this before so he's not a worrier but often on nights like last night, I feel very alone. It's not that I don't trust C to look in on her every hour, it's just that with an intense tennis match going and his "Oh she's alright" attitude he might not think it necessary. So the TV blared, C's son talked loudly over the TV and I went in to check on my girl. At 8:50, she really gave me a fright, barely moving when I lightly patted her back repeatedly. It was a kiss on the cheek that caused her to stir. When I went in at 9:50, I could barely find her because she'd managed to completely flip so her head to face the other end of the crib. I realized this probably meant she was okay but I patted her anyway until she curled up more against the crib. And I kept this going until midnight, when finally I turned in. It's terrifying to love some one so much. The freaky, superstitious part of me feels like it could be regarded as sinful by some kind of otherworldly God. However, if that were the case than mothers everywhere could be regarded as sinners every day. And knowing that I'm not alone in this love, it comforts me.

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