Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mommy vs Writer: The Encounter with Blood

Yesterday we were doing haircuts for the boys on the back porch.

I buzzed Daniel, and then we wrestled Benji onto the stool and mostly cut his hair before he escaped and ran off. Then Tim sat down.

And Benji climbed up on the table on the back porch and started trying to sit in the carseat that was put up there to keep hair out of it.

So Tim said, "Benj, get down." and I, scissors in hand, went over to lift him down.

I put out my free, unscissored hand to lift him down, and instead, he jumped. Right toward the scissors. I turned the scissors away so as not to impale him, but then couldn't catch him, and he landed, SMACK, on the concrete, his hip, elbow, shoulder, and head hitting simultaneously.

Now, I was prepared by my mission for what happened next (yes, I had a weird mission). Blood. Splurting, running, gushing, coating everything. I scooped him up and rushed into the bathroom, where I set him on the edge of the sink and then held him tight against me with a towel sandwiched between us to stop the bleeding.

I learned on my mission that even minor head wounds bleed a lot, so I wasn't panicking.

I also learned on my mission that you can't really stitch them, and can't really bandage them without shaving the hair off (and that some doctors use little girl's hair to TIE the wounds closed).

So I just held him tight until it stopped bleeding, wiped him off a bit (his tummy was red with blood, which had soaked into his diaper and down his legs, down his arm, filled his ear.....), examined the wound (1/4 inch long, pretty clean). And then, as it stopped bleeding, he started begging to get down and go play, so I let him.

And you know how the panic hits after the crisis ends?

Instead of having a full blown "I can't believe what just happened!" panic attack, I found myself sitting back and reviewing what happened over and over--with the writer in me noticing certain details and filing them away, and the mommy in me having other reactions.

The mommy in me kept remembering a firefighter's description of a mother watching her house burn down with her children inside--one of the most potent, literary things I've ever read, and it was only a sentence long! And each time it came to mind, I had a minor anxiety attack.

The writer in me was taking notes. I don't encounter blood very often, but I do write about it sometimes. Flowing, spurting blood has the consistency of whole milk (which is different from water) and is surprisingly bright red--almost orangy red. It's the color of red marker on bright white paper, or pie cherries. It flows like milk, but it sticks like liquid jello, coating everything as it runs instead of dripping off. It only takes a few seconds to cover a two year old. Blood splatters, freshly dried, are still of that bright bright red color (not the brown we come to expect), and they scrape off (my glasses, in fact) the same way tempera paint does. I imagine it would darken as it aged, but it was surprisingly paint-like when it first dried. Blood absorbs into diapers just like everything else does. It's not sticky when it's really really fresh, but gets sticky (like jello) as it dries. Heads don't crack against concrete--they kind of thud, but sharply (gotta find a word to describe that sound.....). The spot where he hit, a little dime-sized spot of blood looked like water had soaked into the concrete--not red--but when I came out later to clean up, it was dry (like water still) and definitely bigger than dime-sized (maybe as big as a 50-cent piece). I didn't feel scared at the blood or the fall--only glad he missed the scissors and spurred to action, but also dismayed that he had tried to jump. I remembered how my brother tried once to describe to me how it felt to have my little sister jump out of the tree house expecting him to catch her when he'd just caught another 2-year-old (and he was only 10) and he couldn't catch her and she broke her arm--a mixed feeling of it was inevitable and there was nothing I could do, and also guilt and sorrow. And I didn't get it when he described it, but I understood. I watched my mommy-self apologize for not catching him and hoping he would forgive me and trust me still, and also going over and over in my mind just how it looks when your baby hits the ground and just lays there for a split second, whimper, and then catch the breath and wail and I can't find a place to put the scissors down fast enough, and did his arm break and poor baby limped for hours after, and blood is normal and expected and can't be bandaged easily--and took notes on all those emotional responses, including noting how interesting it was that I kept thinking of the firefighter describing the mommy losing her babies and fighting off the resultant overwhelming anxiety. (WRite that stress even if at the moment you don't realize you had a when the train ran over that guy in front of me....hmmmmm....). And then later, when Benji flopped into a rocking chair and his wound opened again, it just oozed--oh, and THERE is the color I've come to associate with blood (sweet cherries color), and the thick ooze I associated with blood....hmmmm. Write that down. Interesting--he was unaware he had an owie on his head until the lady at WalMart mentioned it several hours later, and then he spent some time gingerly feeling it and other parts on his head to compare. Even after he stopped limping and was trying to play, he acted tired and grouchy, carried his baba, but couldn't manage to fall asleep even though he wanted to nap. Interesting. Doesn't know he's hurt and tries diligently to play and have things be normal, and it clearly confused that they aren't normal. And he's a little clumsier than usual.

The mommy in me had to stop and think when I noticed that. Anda fell off a chair when she was one and hit her head on the hardwood floor and actually had to re-learn some things, and complained about bells ringing down the hall for months. I've always felt guilty that I didn't take her to the doctor because we had no insurance. She's fine now, but I wish I had taken her in. And now we have medicaid, so with Benji more clumsy than usual, should I take him in even though it's now 3:00 am? (Happy to report that today he's fine.....).

Anyway, it was really really interesting to sit back and watch different facets of me respond to trauma, taking notes as I went.

I felt like a dual outside observer plus an internal observer after the initial trauma was over, with parts of me watching all the others.

Better go write that down.......

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