Feeling like a bad mum

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.

Girl swinging in tree - Feeling like a bad mum www.FranglaiseMummy.com
L a few weeks before her accident, doing what she does best

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.

Girl in bed with a broken arm - Feeling like a bad mum
L in hospital with her arm in plaster after the X-Ray

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.

Wooden children's playground - Feeling like a bad mum www.FranglaiseMummy.com
The new playground which replaced the old one where L fell and broke her arm

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.

Girl in pink arm cast - Feeling like a bad mum www.FranglaiseMummy.com
Happy to have her pink arm 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.

Scar on a child's arm - Feeling like a bad mum www.FranglaiseMummy.com
Not a great photo but you can see the scar left by L’s surgery (just after cast taken off)

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.

Old scar on a child's arm
The scar on L’s arm, 3 years on

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.

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20 thoughts on “Feeling like a bad mum”

  1. What a beautiful, honest post. And no, you are NOT a shit mum. Think what a dependent individual she’d be if you were with her 24/7. It’s just not possible, or right, to be with them all the time. But with their independence comes the risk that something could happen when you’re not there. So sorry for you it did. But try and keep it in perspective. It could have been SO much worse. Now, go and have a culpa! xx
    Katy Hill recently posted…Let It Go!My Profile

    1. Thanks lovely. It’s so hard this parenting lark, no one tells you it comes with a side serving of guilt! x

  2. You are NOT a shit Mum (says she who let her child not wear a helmet whilst on his scooter as a once off because it was so hot last week, and of course he fell, smashed his head and we had a trip to A&E and now he will have a scar, even though they did a great job repairing it and I’m kicking myself and feel awful!) it was one of those dreadful things that happened and you were doing your best with childcare. Poor L, though on the falling anxiety. Would a course with someone at an indoor climbing place who can talk her through it and ease her fears help or something like that?
    Hugs, this parenting malarky is hard!
    Karen recently posted…Am I wrong? Ofstead job nominations?My Profile

    1. Poor little man, hope he’s healing well. I think we need to find her an indoor climbing place where she can pursue her passion of climbing and overcome her fear of falling at the same time.

  3. Ii think it is natural I feel bad but ultimately, there is nothing you could have done, these horrible things happen. It is so hard though isn’t it? During our recent holiday to Bordeaux, in France, my three year old had to have emergency surgery for appendicitis and peritonitis. She was Ill on the Friday before we left and continued to be unwell until we took her to the ER on the Thursday. She was then transferred to main children’s hospital for surgery late friday night, and had to stay in hospital for a week… It was traumatic but mainly for me and her dad it seems… We feel incredibly guilty as we took her to the beach, and the zoo, and we’re trying to force her to eat thinking it would help her get her energy back whereas she must have been in incredible pain throughout :( she is recovering really well now, although I can’t help but notice she’s hardly eating still. I also hope she doesn’t dread going abroad again! It was without doubt the most painful experience in my life… I was looking at the photos of our holiday last night and you can see her in the background asleep in most of them which is really unlike her… Now we know why we feel even worse about it!

    You are not a shit mum, but this parenting thing is bloody hard at times!

    Courage xx

    1. Thanks, there’s nothing like a good parenting guilt trip! Hope your daughter is doing better now.

  4. You’re definitely not a shit mum, but it’s hard to stop feeling like a failure when things like this happen. I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like going through this. And the fact that there is likely nothing you or the nanny could have done to stop it even if you had been there is of little comfort I’m sure. I’m confident you will both get to the other side of this in time.
    Pauline recently posted…My Writing Process Blog TourMy Profile

    1. Thanks Pauline, I think that us parents, in particular us mums, tend to be hard on ourselves whenever anything bad happens.

  5. You are a fantastic mum and unfortunately these things do happen. Balancing absolutely everything is crazy sometimes and we do the very best we can. You’d left her in safe hands with a qualified nanny, not anyone random at all. Hopefully over time she will let go of the fear and enjoy climbing without any fear again. Lots of hugs xx
    Notmyyearoff recently posted…The Very First Sports DayMy Profile

    1. Thanks lovely. We’re looking into getting her back on the horse with an indoor climbing wall, as she does love to climb, so fingers crossed she’ll get over this fear.

  6. Oh Sophie it must have been such a terrible time for you. But please don’t blame yourself, the exact same thing could have happened had she have been with her own childminder, you or anyone else.
    To make you feel better i dislocated Felix’s elbow by swinging him round by the arms and i also forgot to put the brake on the buggy once and it fell over a step and cut his head open. I’m sure any mum would have these confessions! In fact i have a scar on my shoulder and arm from when i pulled a pan of boiling water over myself at 2 years old, I still blame my mum for that ;)) x
    Katie recently posted…Are you a bad mum if you don’t buy Clarks shoes?My Profile

    1. I know this makes absolute sense, but it’s hard to see clearly when guilt overcomes you. Thanks for sharing your experiences, it’s true that bad things happen to all of us x

  7. You’re definitely not a bad mum! Sadly these things happen – and it might have happened whatever your childcare arrangements had been. I had the same call at work when my eldest was 8. He was at a friend’s house and had fallen out of a tree, hitting a wheelbarrow on the way down (it was almost certainly the wheelbarrow that broke his arm). The break and the trauma wasn’t as bad as L’s, but the rest of the story is so similar. It’s a horrible thing to go through and sorry to read she still has this fear. Now you are aware of it, maybe you can start gradually working with her to overcome it.
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…Starting the Roaccutane journeyMy Profile

    1. Thanks Sarah. We’re going to work on getting over the whole falling fear thing by getting her doing some indoor climbing I think.

  8. Poor little L. and what a scary time this must have been for you and your hubby! Glad she is fully recovered physically and I’m sure with your help she will soon overcome the psychological scar this experience has left on her. I echo what the others have said, this doesn’t in any way make you a bad mummy, you did the best you could at the time to provide childcare for her. It’s just life and sadly we can’t protect them 24/7. Only this morning I was at a local one o’clock centre with my two little ones, watching my 20 months old climbing up on a wooden frame when another mum asked me about the sling I was carrying my baby in. I was simultaneously watching my toddler, thinking he was getting close to the edge and I should go stand closer to him just in case, and trying to finish the point I was making to the other mum. Then my poor little boy fell… He’s okay but I’ve been feeling awful since. I’m trying to tell myself I’m only human (and clearly craving adult conversation), I failed him today but I won’t next time I’m in a similar situation.
    Incidentally, I used to live on Byrne Road, very close to that playground, when it was being refurbished. I had no idea it got closed down for being dangerous (mind you, I had no kids at the time!) and that L. and you were at the heart of the story! Is there a particular day if the week you go there? Next time we go I’ll look out for you and come say hello :)

    1. It seems that so many people have their own stories of when their children have had falls or accidents, I suppose it happens to the best of us ;-)
      We go to that playground all the time, and will no doubt be there a lot during the summer if the weather holds, more often in the morning as naps and heat get in the way in the afternoon. I’d love to meet up with you and kids – do DM me otherwise to arrange a playground playdate x

  9. Oh lovely lady my heart breaks for you reading this – but honestly it’s not your fault. All children fall and hurt themselves, whether we’re there or not. The fact that you spent the whole night awake by her side in hospital, that you even wrote this post, speaks to you being an amazing mother. If there’s one thing that’s inevitable it’s that our little ones will step away from us – our job is to be there when they come running, or limping, back. x

    1. Thanks lovely, and you’re right we need to be there for them when they come running/limping back! x

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