I fell down the stairs while holding my child and I’ll never be the same.
That may sound dramatic, but with the amount of blood and screaming that resulted, I think I’m warranted a little drama.
I wasn’t really physically injured, just minor carpet burns and bruises. My 3½ year-old, Harvey, got the worst of it and that’s actually what’s causing me pain.
I really hurt my kiddo.
The saga started when I got the flu. The real flu. And it was bad. I hadn’t hugged or held my son in days, and one night when I was exhausted and weary and he begged for a hug, I gave in ridiculously hoping I wouldn’t get him sick.
We embraced for a minute or two in the kitchen and when I went to put him down, he clung on. He put his head over my shoulder, arms around my neck and legs around my waist.
I’d have stood there forever, but I hadn’t eaten much in a couple days and had already taken nighttime flu meds, so I was quickly losing steam.
I decided to walk him downstairs that way; it was time for teeth brushing and stories, but hugging could still happen. On the second stair, I slipped and my legs shot out in front of me. When my back hit the stairs, his little face struck the cold, hard tile.
Then we tumbled the rest of the way down.
We screamed — his was bloody murder and mine a combination of swears and sorrys. My wife, Elenor, had just made it down safely before us. She immediately scooped him up from my dazed arms.
I handed him over, thinking it was his leg I had hurt. I had felt all my weight on it for several stairs, so I was sure I’d see it dangling. But to my confused surprise, it seemed solidly attached.
It was when she turned around so I could see his face that our scene went from PG-13 to full on R-rated horror. F-words. Screaming. And so much blood.
I shouldn’t have even been holding him.
But I had no time for regret. Within minutes, all three of us were on our way to the emergency department at Primary Children’s Hospital. Harvey, swollen, bruised and bloody, had miraculously calmed a bit.
I had not.
As the nurses triaged him and took his vitals, I found the only available seat — it was on the floor next to the chair in which Elenor and Harvey sat — and I quietly sobbed under my face mask.
I knew he had split the flesh between his upper lip and gums, and we wondered if he had broken his nose. He didn’t look like himself, and it was all my fault.
I’d never forgive myself.
When we got into a hospital room, Harvey asked if his lip was “bending” (I think that was his way of describing the swelling), so I confirmed it definitely was, and turned on my phone’s camera to show him his face.
As he looked at his reflection, the most miraculous thing happened: His expression went from concerned and curious to warm and smiley.
A real smile. He was pleased.
And he was fine, the docs confirmed. All of his teeth were strong. No broken bones. And the mouth tear would heal with a couple days of a soft diet. The damage was nothing a little time wouldn’t take care of, they reassured us.
“For him,” I thought.
I’m another story. My damage will linger.
But as the days have passed and his injuries have faded, I’ve tried to think less about our fall and more about the moment when he smiled into the camera. And I’ve realized that his resilience can inspire my own.
So, while I hope to never fall with him again, I’m fine knowing I’ll fall for him a million more times.
Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at email@example.com.