Facial injuries: the unofficial badge of the bad mother?

For my son, it’s a moment of pain soon forgotten. For me, it’s a visible outward sign of my failings as a mother. Too dramatic? Probably.

My kids don’t hurt themselves all that often, but when they do, it’s usually in the face, which is just super great. There was the time that 10 month-old Bean fell forward and caught the corner of the coffee table right between the eyes. He has a thin white scar. A few months later as he was learning to walk, he tripped over the edge of a mat at baby boot camp* and landed on his cheek, on my stainless steel water bottle. The bruise added some colour to the vacation photos from our  friends’ wedding in Mexico the next week. Monkey has suffered a couple of truck-to-face injuries, courtesy of Bean. And, if I put off trimming their fingernails one day too long, both boys will invariably seize the opportunity to give themselves a gash on the cheek or nose during the night.

As I am pretty much a walking guilt factory, until those bruises or cuts heal they’re ongoing reminders of how I somehow let my boys down – even if the injury wasn’t preventable, isn’t serious, or didn’t happen on my watch.

Yesterday I was on my way out the door when my cell rang. It was daycare. Bean had tipped over in his chair and hit his mouth against the table. He was bleeding a lot, and very upset, and I should come get him.

I rushed to daycare and found all the kids sitting at the table, Bean whimpering in the teacher’s lap. He had blood around his mouth and on his hands. He reached for me and I picked him up, only to realize that he had just wet his pants. He hasn’t done that in ages. I took him downstairs and changed him, as he sobbed that his tooth and his mouth hurt and begged me to make it better.

I am a feeler. And strong emotions make me cry, whether it’s sadness, anger, fear, or happiness. When I see another person’s genuine tears, there is a 97% chance that I will tear up too. And it’s only gotten worse with age. Now that I’m a mother, I can pretty much forget the possibility that I’ll get through a day without crying at least once. At first I blamed the pregnancy hormones. Then I blamed the new mother hormones. Then the pregnancy hormones again. Then I tried blaming my postpartum depression. But whatever the reason, all the blame-throwing in the world can’t change the simple fact that I am a huge, sappy sap.

Yesterday with my own child, I was helpless. On the drive home as he cried in his car seat, I cried too. Because he was in pain, and because I was worried. Because his tooth might be damaged, might turn grey and fall out. Because it was my fault. Because I was the one who put him in daycare, even if it was just one day a week. He didn’t need to be there – I’m on maternity leave. He could have been home with me. He might not have gotten hurt.

Thankfully, he couldn’t see my tears, and I had them under control by the time we got home. But it was still a struggle. (Side note – at least my inner empathy sensors can distinguish the difference between legitimate and not-so-legitimate toddler trauma. Otherwise I would be facing some serious dehydration.) Bean spent the afternoon with cuddles and movies, and was feeling better by evening. Still, his gums are bruised and puffy, and I’ll be on dead-tooth-watch for a few days. (We called the dentist and he said there was nothing to do but wait.)

So here are my questions to the other mothers and feelers out there. Am I as ridiculous as I feel to be so torn up over a tooth injury? How do you keep it in when you feel your kids’ pain? And do you feel the guilt too? Do you beat yourselves up over the bumps and bruises?

* Despite the name, baby boot camp is for the mums, not the babies. But hey, boot camp for babies could be great too! Teach them some discipline right from the start. Am I right? Anyone?

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