Henry turned 8 months about 3 weeks ago, and the destructive baby fairies dusted him with their wands and away he went. It was like one day he didn’t know how to crawl, and the next day he won the baby crawling olympics. And then the next day he was pulling himself up on stuff, and that’s when it started…all the falling. Then came the bumps and bruises from figuring it all out and pulling himself up on the couch, chair, and–I’m not kidding–even just the wall. He’s like Superman plank style. It’s both comical and nerve wrecking to watch. He is literally with me 24/7, yet the second I turn my head, he falls again. Most of the time it’s on his bum or back, but sometimes it’s hard on his noggin.
He’s had a couple of fairly intense falls but nothing that would really concern me. We live in a house with tile and wood floors, so when he did fall on his head, it made me nervous. He’s so chubby and tall, and his head is the size of China. If he was standing up, sometimes it would all just come crashing down! One night I was making dinner, and Henry was crawling around and pulled himself up on the dining room chair. The chair is very light weight, and he and the chair fell back onto the rug that lies on the tile. I immediately picked him up, and he settled down after a while. I didn’t see anything noticeable on his head, and he was smiling in no time.
Something’s not right
Well, last Friday I noticed a little bump on the side of Henry’s head, like a little hematoma (an internal bruise with a collection of blood, usually from popped blood vessels from some kind of trauma). It made me nervous, but honestly I wasn’t super surprised since he had been falling and figuring things out recently. AND more importantly, he was fine and acting normal. Then on Sunday I noticed another hematoma on the other side of his head, and I just knew that wasn’t normal. At all. I checked with Jeff, and Henry hadn’t had any incidents that would have caused that while Keff was with him either.
I took Henry in on Monday, and the doctor was concerned but also confused because Henry was acting so chill and passed the neuro exam with flying colors. She initially wanted to order an ultrasound because a CT scan has radiation, and she wasn’t sure it was necessary. We went back and forth for four days. The doctor was so wonderful. She called me and gave me her number, updated me, and consulted other doctors and neurosurgeons. Still, I just knew I wanted to get it checked out.
The doctor called ahead to the ER and briefed me on what to expect. Because it was a head injury and there were two of them, we were looking at having to do a child abuse screen as well. And honestly, it hurt me to know that I would immediately be judged, but I just wanted my baby to be okay. I didn’t care what they thought. There were 6-7 doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals listening to me tell my story. I gave the entire speech while Henry was smiling in my arms. They quickly decided to do a CT scan and shuffled out the room. The nurse came up to me, hugged me, and said, “My name is Shannon. I’m your nurse, and I know who you are. It’s going to be okay, I promise!” I cried and knew she was my nurse for a reason.
We went into the CT scan, and Henry did so well! He sucked on his little binky and let them wrap him up so perfectly! It lasted less than a minute, and we were back in our room. I wasn’t expecting what happened next. The staff all came into my room (bad sign) where the lights were dimmed while little Henry slept in my arms. I sat and stared up at them, thinking maybe, like worse case scenario, we would be looking at a teeny tiny fracture.
A punch to the gut
And then the doctor opened his mouth and the words “bilateral skull fracture with cranial bleed” hit me like a punch to the gut. I was shocked. And sick. And I couldn’t stop sobbing. I heard nothing after that. Nothing. I completely lost it. I honestly don’t remember anything. Guilt and fear swept over my body stronger than ever before and I couldn’t breathe. My perfect, sweet, chubby, angelic boy was broken and had blood on his brain and might need surgery. Thoughts flooded my mind.
How is he going to sleep in a hospital and not his bed?
How will they find a vein in his chubby arms?
He’s hungry and needs to eat.
I am never leaving him ever again, and I’m never setting him down again.
Everyone left and the nurse stayed back again. “I know this is all a lot and really heavy,” she said, “but if you remember one thing right now, it’s that you will get to take your baby home with you!” I honestly don’t even know if I heard her. Bless her amazing heart. I was trying to be rational, but I couldn’t help but feel devastated. For a good 45 minutes, I stood in that room and sobbed. I didn’t know if we were prepping him for surgery or admitting him to the hospital. I just didn’t know.
Guilt continued to consume me. I did this. I did this. I did this. How could I let this happen? How could Henry be so broken? How is this even possible? I am so sorry, Henry. I am so so sorry. You didn’t fall on the pavement, I didn’t drop you on your head, this seems so extreme. I was not expecting this. It all flooded in. Jeff tried to console me with hugs and love. My dear sister was there. She flew with her 15-month-old babe to be with me. They held me and Henry. We cried and loved and prayed and hoped together.
And then the neurosurgeon walked in the room. I turned around to face her as her eyes widened and the corner of her lips turned up. “Wait, this is him? He looks so great! What made you even come in?” she asked. My tears immediately turned from devastation to hope. She continued to talk to us about how incredible he looked for the intensity of his fractures and said if her child looked like Henry, she wouldn’t have even thought about bringing him in. I almost kissed her. I am not exaggerating when I say that I almost straight up kissed her! She said that per protocol, we would have to stay overnight but that he is a healthy, perfect little boy and will be just fine. She talked to us about healing time and the importance of him not falling or bumping his head for the next 4-6 weeks. No helmet right now, specifically because of the hematoma’s, but I planned to layer all the baby beanies! And then she mentioned that she was stepping into a 6-hour surgery. A 6-HOUR SURGERY. On someone’s child. And here I am, acting like the world is ending with my healthy, chubby child in my arms. God bless those parents that had to go through that surgery last night.
After she left, the staff did a full body x-ray for the child abuse protocol screen. They wouldn’t let me help or hold Henry during the screen. That was the hardest part for sure. I just wanted to be able to touch him while they had to take x-rays of every single little part of his body. The techs were kind but clearly calloused from previous experiences. When this type of x-ray is ordered, the majority of the time, it is an abuse case. They see that a lot in the ER there. I tried to be really local and tell them I was a nurse, but they still wouldn’t let me. After the first couple of screens and the energy we were putting off, they let me come in between x-ray takes and hold him. Honestly, as hard as it was to see my little babe on that cold x-ray table, it was really beautiful for me to see his perfect bones protected by his perfect chubby body. From his tiny toes to each rib and even his little pelvis. He was perfect. And healthy. I can only imagine the things those techs have had to witness.
After the x-rays, the doctor came in and told us we didn’t even have to stay the night, which was protocol for a head fracture like Henry’s. We were so relieved and ready to place him in his comfortable bed at home.
I am not naive to the fact that a lot of crap comes through those ER doors: a lot of evil people with innocent children. Those doctors and nurses see so much. And yet, here they are, day after day. Helping and healing. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so helpless and scared in my entire life, and although this was minor compared to what they see, they still took care and were so kind. The sweet nurse Shannon is like a sister to me now. We hugged and laughed and cried together. I will be forever grateful for her. My child is healthy. I am so grateful. Yes, he is broken. His skull is fractured, and he has blood on his brain, but he is going to be okay. In 6 months, this will be a memory, and he will be getting himself into more trouble in a different way.
Trust your instinct
When I posted an update on my IG stories, I got a lot of messages about mamas worrying about their babes that fall. Babes are resilient yet fragile. Pretty much everything about parenthood is a walking contradiction. It sucks so bad, but it’s also so amazing. Don’t second guess your judgement. Although Henry was checking out neurologically and was still the happiest child in the world, he was a bit fussier. I just felt like I needed to get the scan. I knew he would be okay, but I also really felt like I needed to see what was happening inside his head. He should have had more bleeding with the size of those fractures, and he should have been acting differently, but he wasn’t. So we were good. But if we hadn’t gone in, we wouldn’t have known that he couldn’t hit his head again for 4-6 weeks, and then we possibly could have been back in the ER with a devastating outcome. Instead, we will be fine. A handful of weeks without a fall. We can do that! We can!
If you aren’t sure whether or not to take your babe in…
- Listen to your heart. Listen to the spirit.
- If they fall or hit their head and you are concerned, check for loss of appetite, vomiting, increase in fussiness, loss of consciousness, or change in their behavior.
- Consult with your family doctor and don’t stress. (I am saying that to myself as I type.)
I have 3 healthy, perfect, beautiful children. I am blessed and grateful.
Hefty Henry is strong and his skull will heal.
I’ve been trying to understand how I feel through all of this. I am usually a very calm and calculated human, and this has kind of (totally and completely) thrown me off. It’s like I second guess everything now. Jeff wants me to take a second and get out of the house without Henry, but how? I feel like nothing else matters. I just have to stay by his side. I feel anxious, mad, sad, depressed, grateful, stressed, and nauseated–all at the same time. When I look at Henry, it’s hard to see anything but those huge fractures on his skull. I am mad at myself for letting it happen, and I am still so shocked that it did. Mom guilt is real, but I didn’t realize just how real it could get until now. I am sure I will give myself grace and find some peace with each day that passes. I just need to write down my emotions because I have never felt this way. I don’t feel like myself. But that’s okay because all that matters is that we keep Henry from falling. I can find myself again in 6 weeks.
I love you, Henry. With every single fiber of my being. I would and will do anything and everything for you and your siblings. Motherhood sucks sometimes, but it sure feels good to have someone to fight for!