So I thought that first fall was my worst nightmare come true. I never counted on feeling worse than that, even though I know it was unavoidable that it would happen again.
On Thursday night, Kev went for a run whilst I agreed to bath Squidge alone. I wrapped her in her towel and lifted her into my arms, doing well so far. I tried to pick my steps back into the lounge carefully, she is precious cargo after all. But I kicked one of her boots that I’d stupidly left on the floor and we keeled over together. I wanted to throw her away from me, but the only direction she could land in the split second that we fell together was towards our glass coffee table and I just couldn’t make myself let her go. So in that instant decision, I had no choice but to land on her. I moved off as quickly as I could, but understandably she cried.
The guilt coursed through me and I cried too, checking her over again and again, even when she’d stopped crying as soon as I’d adminstered ‘magic kisses’ to where she said her arm hurt. But oh, I felt like a monster, a careless monster. After all, I should have known to pack her shoes away before undertaking bath time by myself. I called Kev in an instinctive panic and he came home as quickly as he could. The rest of the evening passed just as normal, though I’ll admit I did have a glass of wine for medicinal purposes!
The next day, playing on the floor with Squidge, she playfully pushed me back on the rug, wanting to climb and lie on me and play. That’s usually a good way for us to play together, because there’s nowhere else to go if you’re already on the floor, it’s pretty safe. But this time, I fell back on her big toy drum with quite some force and I cried out in pain when it dug into the tense muscles of my shoulder.
Squidge stopped dead, frowning in concern and confusion as Kev moved to help me get up.
“Mummy ow.” I explained when I was sat down safely.
“Mummy ow the drum.” she replied.
About half an hour later, she threw herself down on the floor, striking her back on the drum in the same fashion I did, looking over at me as she shouted: “Immy ow!”
In that second, I was heartbroken, realising she was imitating my fall, repeating my pain as if it was a normal aspect of the life we live together. In the next second, I was impressed that she had understood the whole incident. After all, imitative play is how children develop an understanding of their world and whether I’m comfortable with it or not, falls and pain are a regular and undeniable part of our life.
I got down on the floor and said gently: “Oh darlin’, Immy doesn’t have to ow. Mummy ow cos Mummy fell over.”
“Immy and Mummy fell over.”
Then I realised she was connecting the two incidents, as if it was she thought she had to fall because I did, because we’d fallen together the previous night. Again, heartbreaking. After all, I am her mum. I am alive to be her greatest protector and yet from my arms, she had felt pain, however fleetingly. I felt so guilty, although given how much I worried about this exact incident when she was a tiny wriggly newborn, I suppose there was a need to be proud that it had taken me over 2 years to get to the dreaded moment.
But still, it showed how clued in she is. That made me very proud too. She shows such a great level of understanding and empathy.
“We did fall over darlin’, but only because Mummy has tired legs. Immy has clever legs, you don’t need to fall.”
I showed her where on my body I had hurt myself on the drum, let her feel the tight tenderness in my shoulder.
“I don’t want you to ow like Mummy, when you have clever legs!”
“And what does Mummy have?”
I think this is the start of explaining Mummy’s differences. In the simplest terms I can. And so far, my beautiful Squidge’s head and heart are keeping up. I really hope this won’t be so bad after all.