In the event of an emergency

On Monday, I packed up the kids and headed to my sister-in-law’s lovely home for my niece’s 5th birthday and some good old fashioned cousin summer bonding. I arrived with 2 bottles of wine, one outfit for each of us (hooray for abusing my title of family to take over the laundry facilities!) and visions of lots of pool splashing, fart humor and, “She said butt!” tattle-taling.

We had been there for only five hours when, in the midst of dinner clean-up, we heard the sickening smack that indicates an injury. With seven children between us and neither of us strangers to the world of pediatric bumps and bruises, we dropped the dishes and ran to the play room. The cries were anguished. The culprit was a doll bunk bed. She climbed and fell. Not a high fall. Not an unusual injury for a busy, almost 18 month old, but, this injury was very different.

When I picked her up, her little eyes rolled and she went limp in my arms. I screamed. She awoke, went limp again and then, for the first time in my years as a mom, I lost all control to fear. I screamed to my sister-in-law, “CALL 911!” and other things I do not remember as I began the process of waking my daughter. I heard my sister-in-law in the background calmly but firmly giving the details to the dispatcher. “Baby, almost 18 months old. Passed out twice following a fall.”

The wait for the ambulance was the longest of my life as I held my daughter, her little eyes fluttering; her body normally never still, limp across my body.

They arrived and after a very brief discussion with the medics, we were off. Our very first ambulance ride.

During the trip, I gave the vital information. I called my husband and held my daughter on the stretcher. She had to be kept awake, a difficult task, during the 30 minute ride to the hospital.

In the last 7 minutes of the ride, she sat up and said, “Mama!” and something inside of me broke as I cried for the first time since the fall. The medic smiled. “This is a good sign.” I thanked the universe with my tears.

A CAT scan and tests and waiting and, long story short, she will be fine.

Just like that, human frailty and fragility and the luck of the draw. It is still so much to process. How we came through to the other side and how my baby is here with me and how life was moving even when it was standing still as I held onto her small chin so the big, scary machine could take a picture of her brain. Birthday cakes were being made and my children were with their loving aunt being bathed and my husband, over 3 hours away, sat on our couch with a neighbor awaiting word of our beautiful, baby girl.

Following release, I sat in the car with my saintly sister-in-law, who in the midst of finishing a two-tiered, fondant covered marvel, dropped her cake tools at 11:30 p.m. and drove to pick us up from the emergency room. I apologized for my terror induced screaming. I thanked her for her calmness. I put silent, throbbing thoughts of gratitude into every particle of air and life on the outside of my body. And, we laughed. Because the baby was complaining about her hospital vending machine yogurt bar and because laughter is the only release following an event like this that normalizes your core.

For three days, when she slept, I would quietly creep up the stairs to place my hand on her chest, wait for the soft, sleepy sigh or to see the rise and fall of her back. I followed her around like the crowned Queen of Helicopter Parenting and I scanned the internet for helmets for everyday use.

I let her color her entire body with markers and she may have had five packages of fruit snacks just today, but, I am so damn grateful to life and chance and fate and the swiftly moving planet and to cranial structures of steel and family and friends who love us and to laughter for cushioning the blow of momentary despair and to medics who held my hand and to the gorgeous birthday party the next day where we could all joyously celebrate beautiful, beautiful life.

And, we all ate cake. With sprinkles.


  1. Rebecca says:

    I’m so very glad your daughter is okay! My son’s first ambulance ride was exactly one week from the day he came home from the hospital after his birth. It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as this, and it was still terrifying. His first CAT scan was at 7.5 months (just a couple of weeks ago), and it was also terrifying, but nothing compared to your story here. I’m so thankful every day for every breath my baby takes, and always a little afraid (without legitimate reason) that each breath will be his last. This must have been so incredibly frightening, and it’s wonderful that she’s safe.

  2. Oh bug hugs hunny!! My son had a fever induced Seizures a few yrs back…and I reacted the same way…only i had a some unhelpful family…lol. So glad all is well!!

  3. I’ve been so insanely lucky that the worst medical emergency I’ve had with my kids was a broken leg (and it wasn’t even that broken — just a hairline fracture). That is so, so, sooooooooo scary and I would probably lose my mind if that happened to me. So glad she’s okay!

  4. How terrifying! Thank you for sharing your story with humor and grace, but most importantly, thank goodness your baby girl is ok. Speedy recovery for the little one, and maybe an adult juice box to her momma!

  5. mamaotwoboys says:

    ohhhhhhhhhhh the stories our children give us. I have had two ambulance rides with my now four year old and one concussion from falling head first from the second step of our stairs…

    The first ambulance ride is the funniest/scariest .. My 18 month old baby stops responding while I’m driving the vehicle. He hasn’t been feeling very good, but nothing to make me think even a trip to the Dr’s office is warranted. Anyhooo he STOPS responding in the car… no amount of yelling or screaming does any good and luckily I’m two blocks away from home; otherwise people would have died that day due to my complete loss of driving skills. I careen into the driveway thinking he’s having an allergic reaction. I yank him out of the car, make it into the house, lay him down on the floor, (he’s now turning blue and convulsing and not breathing) grab the epi pen and call 911… AND then I slammed that Epi pen right into his thigh… except, it was upside down… So while on the phone with the 911 operator I have now had an Epi Pen injected and stuck in my thumb. Oh joy. I run to the bathroom to get the second Epi Pen, and through tears and screaming at the 911 operator asking WHY THEY aren’t here yet… I manage to give the baby the shot and he starts crying and color returns. It turns out laying him on the cold floor is probably what solved the issue. He has febrile seizures which someone somewhere should tell you about when you’re pregnant. So, he’s fine and it only took two confused firefighters to pull the stuck epi out of my thumb bone, and then we were both trucked off to the hospital.

    PS … the call from the insurance company about my stab wound was priceless… ma’am were you injured in a fight? ma’am was a police report filed? ma’am did you get this injury at work? … uhhhhhhh no.. I got this injury because when my children are hurt I get stuck on stupid.

    Sooooo thank you thank you thank you thank you for your wonderful story. Glad to hear your little is good and I love love love your blog/website, and facebook and everything else about you!!!!

  6. So, so scary. I’m grateful she’s okay. And the cake was finished.

    Hug that little self-colorer for me!

  7. I can imagine your panic! Seeing our typically non-stop moving little ones still and limp is nothing short of terrifying. I’ve not had the experience, though we did have an ER trip when Sweets was around that same age. We were going to a Nat’s baseball game, had awesome seats on the 3rd baseline and Strasburg was pitching in one of his first games (if you know Nat’s baseball, this was a big deal). My sister-in-law and her husband had scored the tickets and our neighbor Tim was watching our girls (two 18 month olds).
    We had just gotten to the ball park, got our beers, were sitting down in our sweet seats, took the first sip of beer and then I hear my husband saying into his phone, “The ER?”
    All attention now on my husband, turns out Sweets had been spinning and fell into the corner of the marble fireplace and had a nice “needs to go to the ER” gash in her forehead. I think his exact quote was, “It’s not an emergency, but Sweets needs to go to the ER”. Yes, that sentence didn’t make sense to me, either! The interesting thing is that my sister-in-law is the one that FREAKED. OUT. And not about Sweets….she was concerned with HER daughter, who was fine and not going to the ER. She kept on asking if her daughter was okay and who was with her and was so panicked I thought perhaps she thought it was HER daughter that got hurt. And not once did she say anything of comfort to me. Oh, family.

  8. So glad she’s OK.

    My year-old son fell down a flight of wood stairs to the concrete basement floor at a friend’s house when someone left a baby gate open during a party. He, too, was OK but those heart-stopping moments of terror when I saw him lying at the bottom of those stairs will never be forgotten.

  9. I’m so glad your little one is ok. I know it’s so scary when their bodies go limp. I’ve had 2 ER visits with my son and the first was via ambulance when he fell off the bed and he went stiff then stopped breathing and went limp in my arms. We had an older doctor who had experienced this before and with his own little brother. Apparentlly, my son got so scared he held his breath until he passed out. It never happened again because I’ve been very careful to not allow him to get that upset, but I was home alone with him and hysterically crying on the 911 call while the operator begged me to calm down and breathe as it wasn’t doing my baby any good for me to be hysterical. The EMTs were equally as calm and wonderful and really helped me get through and held my hand as well while I waited for some kind of sign from my son that he was just fine. His excitement with the sirens and being in an ambliance (as he calls them to this day) gave us all some relief that he was ok. The second ER visit he ate a glass thermometer on the wall? I have no idea why… This is why God created beer!! Again, glad your munchkin (and you) are ok!!

  10. Wow is really all I can say. So scary. I’m so grateful to hear all is well and that you were surrounded by people who could support you when you needed them!

  11. OHMYGOD ignore the email I sent you about stupid clothes before I knew there was real-time, real-life emergency stuff happening in your world! So, so veryvery beyond grateful that she’s okay. My youngest boy choked once on a piece of food, his eyes terrified and widening and pleading my to do something as his face turned blue. That was the parenting moment I lost to fear. Virtual hugging you, my friend.

  12. Way to make me cry, B. I can’t even imagine, and I wish I could take a piece of that horror from you.
    I am so, so happy the little squidgy one is okay.

  13. Absolutely terrifying. How you kept it THAT together is beyond me.

    I was with my daughter in emergency a few years ago now, she had a broken arm. She was completely calm and playing with the teddy the hospital give to little kids and I was lying on a bed hyperventilating and having a severe panic attack.

    Needless to say it is something you never forget.


  14. I lost my breath reading your post. So sorry you had to go through that and so glad everything turned out okay.


  15. I have nightmares about making 911 phone calls like that. Sounds like you kept it together considering the circumstances. I’m so glad she’s going to be ok!!

  16. Maria S. says:

    Reading this made me tear up as I remember the anguish I felt when my little nugget had her febrile seizures (one episode in the Philippines and another in Italy). Not an experience I wanna go through again.

    Glad your baby came out of it unscathed. Now back to my helicopter parenting. 🙂

  17. My heart was aching for you as I read your story. I’m sooooo happy to hear that she’s ok 🙂


  18. Oh, good God, I would have been terrified too. I understand that loss of control to fear. I’ve done that before, when my daughter fell down the stairs. The scream that came out of my mouth as I watched her tumble down was primal. Luckily she was fine, but those were the most sickening moments of my life.

    I’m so glad your baby girl is okay. Big hugs.

  19. I am so sorry this happened. It made my knees weak. I’m so glad she is ok.

  20. So scary! I’m glad everything was OK. My daughter did that limp passing out thing once when I picked her up after a fall. Scared the living shit out of me. It was because she had been crying so hard that she didn’t take a breath. I picked her up, she turned blue and fainted. I was the only adult around and my screaming scared my then 4-year-old son so much. Soon we were all screaming and crying. Took awhile to get over that one.

  21. Hi,

    I’m just blog hopping 🙂
    I had fun reading your posts.

    I so feel you…
    I had kids too and just recently we met an accident and too bad that we don”t have 911 here in our place to call for… I got panic and all ,I need to bring my baby to the hospital which is located in the city
    (20 min drive) and without thinking twice I carried my baby and rode on a bus.

    Anyway my baby is fine now… I’m glad your little one is ok.

  22. Yes, I know that feeling as I was completely paralyzed with fear when my then 3 year old fell on our camper steps ultimately busting out her three top front teeth. There was alot of blood, I am just glad my husband was there to pick her up because all I could do was scream and then TRY to will my body to move, unsuccessfully. We had a 90 minute ambulance ride. It was only adrenaline that allowed me to hold her flailing body down while they yanked tooth after tooth from my baby’s head. She turns 7 next week and still does not have front teeth. She was over it in about a day, I still am not.
    I am so glad your princess is ok! Good thing you had wine for when the all clear came!
    <3 Devan

  23. I came to your blog through a friend’s and just wanted to tell you that this was an amazing post. I could feel what you wrote. I don’t have any kids myself but my nephew and niece have been with me since they were born and they both have given me my share of scares and sleepless nights. I’m glad to read that your baby is ok.

    this is the first post I’ve read so I’m going to stick around and read some more of your posts.

    Take care and keep up the good work.

  24. How terrifying…especially with the ER being so far away! I’m sure it will be awhile before your helicopter propeller stops 😉

  25. My heart was pounding as I read this. So happy that your little one is okay. Please excuse me while I too look into “helmets for everyday use.”

  26. holy crap, that is terrifying!!! so glad she is ok. i think my heart stopped briefly when reading! (i have a 2 year old, so it hit a little close to home!)


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