When your child hangs limp in your arms, flopping forward like a battered rag doll, it’s terrifying.
Everything leaves your body. Your breath, your mind, your soul, everything. I sat on the floor in my empty husk of a body while I clutched her as she drooped.
I said her name.
I shouted her name.
I cried her name.
And then, with a choke, she cried.
She sat up and looked at me and I came down from the place on the ceiling where I had been hovering, waiting and watching. I came down with all the force of the universe behind me and I pulled her close and rocked us both.
Ten minutes before she had slipped in the bathroom and hit her head on the side of the bath. She cried, I cuddled. She calmed down and we went through the usual routine of massage, pyjamas, cuddle, bed. No huge bump, no red marks – nothing as bad as I was expecting after the loud thwack of head meeting bath.
I put the blackout down to how frantically she was crying, how when she is wracked with gulping sobs she gets breathless. I put her to bed, sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when she asked and kissed her goodnight. I shut the door with tears rolling down my face. Never again do I want to feel my baby go limp in my arms while I am powerless and clueless and senseless.
Half an hour later the husband went to her when she cried. I felt something wasn’t right so I followed. And then came the sick.
Beans has never vomited before, so it really scared her. She screamed and panicked and we shushed and stroked and tried to calm her down. She started wagging her finger at herself and saying no. She was telling herself off.
Clearly she had no idea what had happened and, assuming that she had made a mess, saw fit to reprimand herself. My heart splintered, bursting out of my chest with the impact.
No sweetheart, it’s ok. You’re ok. You are just a bit poorly, you’re not naughty. You’re a good girl. It’s ok.
Her frightened eyes blink back at me.
Sweetheart, you’ve done nothing wrong. It’s ok.
I cuddled and shushed and paced.
We clean up as best we can and at some point it dawns on me that we should get her checked by a doctor. That’s what they tell you to do isn’t it? Isn’t it? Suddenly I feel as helpless and lost as I did when I cradled her as a newborn and wondered what I was supposed to do with her. I didn’t know whether we needed to take her to A&E or whether we were over reacting.
I remembered sitting with a friend at the age of eight in the sick bay at school, staring at the flaking layers of paint on the walls, red then blue then grey then blue, while she threw up into a mixing bowl as I held her hair back and tried to think of something else. Her mum came to pick her up and take her to hospital.
Yes. We should go.
And there we were for three hours. I naively assumed that young children – babies, she’s my baby – are seen quickly, as are head injuries. I was wrong. For three, long, torturous hours we paced and soothed and paced and cuddled and paced and sung.
We sat in the overflowing waiting room and watched the sick and injured file in; the old in wheelchairs with bandaged legs or cut arms, the young with ice packs on knees and grazes on faces, the huddled pairs of women with no obvious affliction, eyes fixed to their mobile phones.
We questioned why we couldn’t wait in the children’s area. Where the door is closed and it’s quiet and she can toddle and sit and be safe and calm. We just couldn’t they said.
We soothed, we paced, we rocked, we sung.
I tried to keep my panic at bay.
We were seen, finally, and Beans was greeted by a woman in latex gloves shining a torch in her eye. She decided this woman was not her friend and I had to pin her against my chest while her shakes and her sobs reverberated off my rib cage and through my body all the way to my toes while the torch was shined and ears were checked I could soothe and pace some until the sobs subsided.
And then, once we had been made to feel like those parents, the ones who jump at the slightest scrape, we were sent on our way. Sent back home with a leaflet telling us that with children under four you only need to seek medical attention in the case of fits or constant vomiting after a fall or bump. Back home feeling stupid and scared and stressed and upset and worried and relieved.
I know I have a lifetime of worry ahead of me, a forever of caring and loving and feeling the fear. I know that wasn’t the last time we will have to visit A&E, but I hope with every last ounce of my being that never, ever again will I have to be so helpless and scared as I was for the eternal five seconds that she hung lifelessly in my arms.