Don't beat yourself up about accidents. They happen.
September 12, 2014
About a month ago, my littlest, Iris, had an accident at home. It was awful. We'd been at the beach bar with friends and had enjoyed fishcakes and a beer and watched the sunset, while all the children had played on the sand (our usual Friday night ritual). We got home at around 7pm and were getting the kids ready for bed.
My husband, Alex, was having a shower with Iris in the family bathroom and I was drying off our little boy, Oscar, in his room, when Alex called me in a panicked voice.
I had a bad feeling. Iris was screaming and he was calling 'Come quick!'
As he pulled back the shower curtain I saw her face was covered in blood. At first, I thought it was her eye, but then I saw what looked like a hole in her forehead. She'd gashed her face deeply and was losing a lot of blood.
It turns out that Iris had slipped in the shower and fallen, forehead first, onto the tiled step. For the next half an hour I struggled not to panic. I called my friend, Melissa, and asked her to come and stay with our older children so we could both take Iris to the hospital. While I was searching for bandage tape and cotton wool, Alex grabbed a towel and pressed it against her head to help stop the bleeding. The wound was deep and would certainly need stitches. It would definitely leave a scar.
In the treatment room of a local private clinic an hour later, it was a struggle to hold Iris still enough for the doctor to examine her. She was hysterical. And I'd run out of lollipops. It was heartbreaking. It was our fault. As Alex tried to distract her with the bird puppet we'd bought and I stole a quick look at her head and felt sick. The gash was wide, and gaping. And it was right in the middle of her forhead.
The doctor decided to use skin adhesive on the wound, advising that it would be easier and quicker to repair the damage that way. The cut was very deep but, according to the doctor, it luckily hadn't reached the skull (ouch!) and should heal within a few weeks.
Although I cringed to think about how much worse things could have been - at least she still had her eyes, at least she wasn't unconscious - I wished with all my heart that the whole thing hadn't happened. But the fact is, it had.
According to UK National Health Service figures, every year more than one million children are taken to Accident and Emergency departments in Britain as a result of accidents in the home. These can range from falling - from stairs or (heaven forbid) balconies, to choking, burns and scalds and poisoning. It advises watching young children closely, being extra vigilent in unfamiliar environments. But isn't that what any sane, healthy parent does as second nature? The truth is, accidents can, and do happen at any time.
Back at the clinic a week later, the doctor looked at the two inch wound still covered in blue skin adhestive and said he could recommend the number of a good plastic surgeon. I hated the idea of Iris having a big scar in the middle of her forehead, but undergoing plastic surgery seemed a bit drastic. Did he really think the scar would be that bad?
Over the next few days I felt so awful. That I didn't manage to protect Iris, to prevent the accident from happenening, was surely a sign of failure as a parent. It was my fault that my little girl now had to live with a scar on her face. But after a lot of worrying, I had to get a grip. As a parent, it's all too easy to beat yourself up. All you can really do is your best.
Having three children is a lot and I often feel overwhelmed by the responsibility. But they are beautiful, crazy, inspiring, wonderful and I love them so. Being in control of everything all the time is just. not. possible. It's not easy but none of the most important or fulfilling things in life ever are. Iris's scar is just one of those realities that I'll have to live with. And in the mean time, she can always have a fringe.