Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What parents fear

Yesterday, the thing that all parents fear happened to me. Zoe fell down a staircase. Not just a couple of steps but a whole floor, 19 steps marble staircase. From top to bottom. She is fine.

It was one of those days where I tried to do just a bit too much. After talking to the daycare principal around 3pm that day and being told that we could start the next day, I realized that Zoe had almost no clean clothes and rushed up to put on a wash in the communal laundry. To get to the laundry room we take the elevator to 5th floor and walk the last floor up to the big iron door, which leads to several smaller laundry rooms. Zoe loves it up there and she stood there just watching the washer spin as it cleaned her clothes. We went back up to put them into the dryer before leaving to see an apartment that was showing not too far away (yes, we are still looking). Zoe was getting tired and hungry as we got back around 6 pm, but I thought it would be a good idea to go get the laundry on the way in, instead of having to wait for Mark to come home and go get it, so we went directly up to the laundry room. As we exited the iron door, I let Zoe go ahead. She always wait for me to hold her hand before walking down the stairs. The landing on top of the stairs is quite small and it was difficult for me to juggle both my bag and the laundry bag, but I managed to get the heavy door open and closed as Zoe stood there, getting ready to hold my hand and walk down the stairs. Then she got brave and took a small step down but lost her balance. I watched her fall over and tried to reach for her but my bags made me too slow. She started rolling. I screamed. She screamed. I ran after her, trying to grab her, but she rolled too fast. I screamed even louder. At the bottom of the steps she finally stopped rolling but continued screaming. I reached her and hugged her, still screaming "oh my god, oh my god, little Zoe girl". She sobbed and cried and explained to me what had happened: "baba lala bala daba dadu", pointing at her head and the floor and then the staircase, then back at her head. Despite my panic I did consciously think that this was a good sign. She had not been knocked unconscious. When I think back, I remember seeing her little arms above her head as she was rolling down, the reflex that most of us have, to protect our head. I hugged her and kissed her and looked over her little head, moving her hair around but didn't see any bruising. Still feeling a surge of panic I made the decision to ring the doorbell of our upstairs neighbors, a family of five where I had met the mother and chatted to her briefly earlier in the afternoon. "I don't know what to do", I blurted out when she opened, "Zoe fell down the stairs". She went down on her knees to take a look at Zoe and Zoe explained again what had happened: "balala duba bada da", pointing at her head and back at the staircase. "It's not your fault", was the next thing my neighbor said, "but you should take her to the children's emergency room". She gave me the name of it and suggested I take the bus, it would be faster than a taxi.

I called Mark in the elevator on the way down after having grabbed Zoe's stuffed lion George and my Beco baby carrier. There was no way I was going to get the stroller down the stairs and pack Zoe in there when I could have her close to me in the Beco. "Don't worry, she is okay", I said but I want to get her checked out. Meet us there?" At the hospital they were efficient and nice as everywhere else in Sweden and we got to see a doctor within half an hour of arriving. He took a look at my now overtired daughter who was running around, happy with all the attention and after a few tests he reassured us that she was fine. "They are bouncy at that age". I felt relieved but teared up again when explaining to Mark what had happened on the bus home. Turned out the most traumatized person here was the mother.

That night I insisted that Zoe slept in our bedroom and she ended up sleeping right next to me most of the night. I hugged her and kissed her and thought that there definitely must be an angel looking after her. She had no bruises whatsoever on her body, her thick winter clothes probably cushioned the fall. This morning, although tired, she seemed to have no fear of stairs but still waits for me to come hold her hand when going down. One thing is for sure though: I am never taking her to the laundry room again. Sorry Zoe, I'm not.

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