Today I experienced fear for the first time in my life. Don't get me wrong, I've been scared plenty of times - even terrified a few. But you have officially graduated to full-blown parenthood when you experience the "I'm so terrifed that I need to throw up right now, but I can't because there are more important things to worry about, my arms feel like they weigh two hundred pounds, and I can't quite hear what's going on around me anymore because I am so hyper-focused on what's happening with my son" type of fear.
Alex and I went hiking today with a small group of people. I had him strapped into the Baby Bjorn on my front. About 3 miles into the hike, I tripped on a rock and landed face first on my child. In retrospect, I think I caught a great deal of my weight on my hands and elbows before we hit. But in a split second I experienced what I believe to be the greatest fear possible. I had landed on top of my son. My brother, who was part of the group, was a true champ. He helped me get Alex out of the carrier and searching every square inch of him for cuts, bruises, breakage, etc. When we determined that nothing was outwardly damaged save for a scrape on his ankle, I managed to get Alex calmed from an all out wail to a more subdued cry.
Now I found myself three miles from the car with a group of very competent people. But none of them, including me could do anything to take back the past several minutes. None of us could do anything if I had broken my son's ribs or banged his head on the ground when we fell. (Thankfully, from everything I can tell, he didn't.) I suddenly realized what hikers must feel like when their partner suffers an injury miles from anywhere. What do you do? You put the pieces together as best you can, you calm down and you hike the rest of the way out. So, we did.
The rest of the hike was relatively uneventful. Alex managed to eat a little, and after sucking the sunscreen off of his arms (strike two for Bad Mother of the Day! - but I figured if the fall hadn't smashed him, two-hour old sunscreen wasn't going to hurt him. And he deserved more than a little self-soothing at this point!) he fell asleep for the next couple of miles. By this point, I had determined that we had full consciousness, full range of motion for all limbs and head, and I had managed to calm the wailing. I figured if something was majorly wrong, he'd be telling me about it whether he can form words or not. When I got him to the car, I even got a smile out of him - major relief there.
I did take him to the doctor. I didn't trust my own physical evaluation completely. I wanted the pediatrician to tell me if everything felt just right on the little guy. Clean bill of health from the doctor. Alex is jabbering, smiling, kicking his feet and back to his normal self. And every mother at the doctor's office (doctor, nurse, receptionist) had their own "I remember falling with my child story." Sad that misery loves company, but it does make you feel a little better. Whew!
As I sit here with him sleeping peacefully next to me, I'm thankful for today. No, not thankful for the fall - I'd give anything to have prevented that. But thankful for a love that is deep enough to make me experience physical agony at the thought of harm coming to Alex. Of course, I've felt that type of emotion for Kevin or friends or family. But usually, these are adults who can ascertain the level of damage for themselves and tell me how to help them. The type of fear, and the type of love I experienced today are something that I wish for everyone. We try to teach our children all about life, but in a split second our children teach us what life is about.