I can remember it as if it were yesterday, yet it’s been over 3 years now. The phone call at work. “L’s had an accident, you need to come to the hospital.” Hearing her screams in the background. My normally hardcore little girl, howling in pain. I ran to the tube station, crying all the way. “I’m a bad mum, I’m a bad mum” going round and round in my head.
I got to the hospital and there was a little girl there, sitting on Hubs’s lap, she looked like L, but she didn’t look like L. Her face was contorted in pain. “They gave her morphine in the ambulance,” Hubs told me, who’d managed to get there before L arrived as his work was so close by, “and they’ve just pushed the bone back in as it was sticking out.”
We headed to X-Ray while I tried to console my (then) only child. You know the way you tell your child “everything’s going to be ok”? I tried to say it, but couldn’t. I didn’t know if it would be alright. I’d failed her. I’d let her down. When she needed me I’d been at work, and the childcare I’d had in place for her hadn’t worked out.
When we moved back to the UK we’d taken on a French au pair, to keep L’s levels of French up and to do the round nursery childcare. She’d been ok at the start, but then had got less and less interested in the job. And then the day came when we found out that she’d taken L with her while she’d gone for a sunbed. This on top of giving my 4 year old chewing gum, straightening her hair, putting mascara on her, and watching The Kardashians on the TV in the living room with her au pair friend while their two 4 year old charges played unsupervised in L’s bedroom, was the last straw.
We found a new au pair. A German one who seemed great (and turned out to be fantastic), but she couldn’t start straight away. My cousin could help us out in a week’s time, but that left us with no childcare for a week and my mum wasn’t around. Flailing around desperately I asked a good friend, whose daughter was at nursery with L, if her nanny could have L for that one week too. My friend and the nanny agreed, but it wasn’t until recently when I became a childminder that I realised what an ask this was, what an imposition, and what a difficult position I put them in.
So when L broke her arm, falling from a faulty piece of equipment in our local playground (that had already been flagged as dangerous), she was in this kind of limbo childcare. And I wonder if I will ever forgive myself for not having proper childcare in place that week.
The X-Ray showed that L had broken her humerus. We later found out that she hit a metal bar when falling, before landing on the soft, spongy playground floor (following the severity of her accident the council razed the whole playground to the ground and built the new one, above). She needed to be kept in overnight so they could operate in the morning. I stayed with her and got no sleep as she spent the night howling in pain – you know that cry of someone being tortured that you hear on programmes like “24”?
I have yet to experience anything worse in my 38 years than hearing and seeing my child suffer like that and being unable to comfort her. I couldn’t even cuddle her as she didn’t want to be touched. The next morning saw her go through 3 hours of surgery under general anaesthetic, where they had to cut open her arm to release pressure on her artery and nerves.
After her 3 hour surgery, 24 hours in intensive care, a second shorter surgery, and 4 nights in hospital, we were finally able to take our 4 year old home. And a week later she got to shake off the enormous cast (in photo above) that she had to support with her other hand as it was so heavy, and change it for a lightweight pink cast.
It felt like it was going to be ok. She didn’t seem traumatised by doctors and hospitals (as we had feared at the start of her stay in our local hospital), she got straight back into things at nursery, including climbing again.
It wasn’t until the cast came off that we saw quite how bad it had been.
L went through weeks of physiotherapy and, with her climbing again (her favourite pastime), it looked like the only scar left was a physical one, down her arm.
But sadly it doesn’t seem that way after all. 3 years on, during our recent holiday at Bluestone National Park in Wales we discovered a psychological scar that is still there. A fear of falling. L continues to climb, and breaking her arm hasn’t stopped her from clambering up trees, and any other object for that matter. But it has given her an incredible blockage about letting go, and falling. Which is something that only came to light when she was scaling climbing walls in Wales a few weeks ago.
And suddenly, all those feelings of guilt, regret, and that I’m a shit mum, came rushing back.
But this time round I can be here for my daughter. So we will get over her fear, and I will get over the feeling like I let her down. Maybe.