Saturday, May 2, 2009

Blood and Guilt


"Mommy, what do you suppose this is?" asked the confused and wide-awake voice of my 4 year old daughter around 5am. She talks in her sleep, and I was hoping that she was dreaming, and was going to fall back to sleep. I am often the object of her nocturnal conversations, usually dealing with something that I am not allowing her to do. One night, I banned her from riding the purple unicorn...the one with sprinkles.

"Mommy?" The second call sounded a little more panicked, but my husband got out of bed before I did so I figured it was under control and snuggled deeper into the covers, one ear listening.

"I better turn on the light for a moment," my husband told my daughter and then I heard his "what the..." and was out of bed and into her room a moment later to see what was going on. My daughter's bedroom looked like a scene that would have done CSI or Criminal Minds proud. Her pillow was covered with congealed blood, there was blood across her face, on her hands, on her pyjamas and on her quilt. A small trickle continued from her left nostril, and she was covering her face with her hands, because my husband's reaction had scared her and she wasn't sure whether she was in trouble or in danger. Either way, disappearing seemed to be a good option.

I bent down and coaxed her to look at me. The whole lower half of her face was smeared with blood, and the smear on her sleeve indicated how it had gotten there. My daughter had just experienced her first nosebleed. We stripped her, stripped the bed and poured a bath for her. While she soaked the scary away, I went down and started soaking the blood out of the bed clothes. The pillow is a goner; it cannot be salvaged. Everything else was treatable.

I know a little bit about nosebleeds. I used to have bad ones when I was a kid. In fact, I once had to have my nose packed because the hospital couldn't get the bleeding stopped. Going in was not fun; coming out again was even worse. I know from nosebleeds.

For the past year, I've been dealing with blood stains of a different sort. I've been having periods that last for weeks and are so strong that "soak underpants, pyjama bottoms and sheets" have become part of my morning routine more often than not. I've soaked through a super tampon, a maxipad, underwear and jeans in an hour, only to repeat it an hour later. I have a fibroid (named Stan because anything that big living in me needed a name) and a cyst on my ovary, but the specialist is still trying to figure out what's going on. In the meantime, I've gotten good at blood stains...compared to some of my own messes, the nose bleed was bush league.

We got our daughter clean,dry,calmed and clothed in new pyjamas. We were all wide awake by that point, so we put on a pot of coffee and convened in the living room to watch Madagascar II en famille. We laughed more than she did, but she took turns snuggling on mommy and daddy. I told her in simple terms what a nose bleed was and she finally admitted that it was pretty scary. By the time it was time to leave for swimming, she was back to normal, although the 5am wakeup is going to be ugly by about 5pm this afternoon.

I'm now alternating between feeling pretty good that when she woke up scared she called for mommy (usually it's daddy overnight, and when she gets mom instead, she is not pleased) and feeling like the worst mom in the world for trying to catch a few more minutes of sleep while my daughter was wondering why she was covered in blood. Parenting is full of these "best decision at the time" moments that can rip you apart if you let them. We have a sunken vestibule, and when my daughter was starting to crawl, she faceplanted down the stairs...and had been leaning against me a nano-second before. I turned my back to put something down and tumble-silence-scream. We had just purchased a baby gate for that area, and I had moved it to take something out to the car and forgot to put it back. My daughter broke her leg a couple of years ago riding a tricycle in my in-laws' basement, with my husband and his parents sitting a foot away. Wheel jack-knifed, bike tipped, and twisted my daughter's leg, breaking it in 2 places. My husband felt horribly guilty, even though he hadn't hurt her, and he was supervising her well when it happened. It was one of those "oh crap" moments like this morning.

The bed is clean and waiting to be re-made. My daughter has already forgotten her morning wakeup call and is bouncing around, talking a blue streak and being herself. My husband and I are on our second pot of coffee, and are hoping that Vampira will go to bed on time that we can follow suit. And I, I've made a promise to myself that I will respond the first time the next time my daughter calls me in the night. After all, how will she ever know she can count on me for the big things if I don't show her that she can count on me for the little things? Motherhood is no place for sissies.


Janet Jarrell said...

Wonderfully honest! I have four daughters and thus was forced to abandon any sqirmish behaviour where blood is involved.

It is quite striking how our bodies take care of us.

I love the idea of early coffee, movie and familt time. You are a good Mom.

Atlantic Writer said...

I think you handled this beautifully but isn't it amazing how, no matter what we do, we still beat ourselves up? Motherhood certainly isn't for sissies and you, my dear, are one tough broad!