Wednesday, May 22, 2013


One moment, Linnea was playing with my plastic water bottle, and the next moment she was not. One moment I was pulling her pajamas out of my suitcase, and the next moment they were flung to the floor. One moment, my nine-month-old daughter was sitting up on the bed, and the next moment she was sliding headfirst to the ground.

I did not catch Linnea before she hit the floor. I saw her falling in my periphery, and I reached my arms out too late to prevent the thud. Her mouth formed a wide oval, her eyes closed, and she tried to push air out through her shock. And then, the crying. The desperate, bewildered, frightened wailing that continued as I pulled her to my chest and rocked her back and forth.

My mind ran through all the signs of intercranial trauma that I knew. Remarkably, I had a penlight in my backpack, which I pulled out to check her pupillary reaction. Direct, consensual. Direct, consensual. PERRLA. I feel gently over her skull to check for swelling or fractures. Her anterior fontenelle is still not closed. I check for brain bulges. I check for hemorrhaging in the eyes. I check for any neurological asymmetry. I do this to stem the panic clutching at my throat. She is crying less frantically, although doing that post-crying breath catch that hurts my heart. I nurse her, and she falls asleep. I gently lower her into the crib, and then spend the rest of the night creeping up to check her breathing, feel that her hands are warm, silently begging forgiveness.

She is fine. She has a bruise on her forehead where she landed (it looks like lipstick marks). And she is still trying to peek over edges (but this time, we are holding her tight).


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