Last night John and I rang in our eighth wedding anniversary sitting by the the hospital bed that held our sleeping son. We munched on fruit cups and chuckled about the craziness of our lives. “Well, this seems about right …” I said, as we noticed it was midnight and we were beginning our anniversary in the ER. Never a dull moment with our little guy.
Earlier that evening John left to give the invocation and benediction at an Eagle Scout ceremony for one of our Youth Group teens. I’m used to putting both children to bed on my own so it wasn’t a big deal. I gave Mareto his two nighttime medications and then settled in on the couch to rock Arsema while Mareto watched a show. He was a bit wired and started riding his tricycle around the house. I didn’t give it a thought. I started getting peeved when I heard him pull a kitchen stool up to the counter. Arsema was almost asleep — couldn’t he just chill until I got her down? Nope. I kept rocking her hoping he wouldn’t make too big a mess. Then I heard an unfamiliar sound so I got up, just a wee bit frustrated, to see what he was into. I came around the corner and gasped. Mareto was standing on the stool, head thrown back, chugging a huge bottle of Benadryl. The unfamiliar sound had been the cap hitting the floor.
I screamed, scared the pants off the poor boy, grabbed the bottle from him and found it empty. He had drained the bottle dry. I grabbed my phone and searched for the poison control number on the back of the bottle. The operator was kind and calm (the opposite of me) and asked how much he’d had. “How many mL’s?” Ummmmm. “Ma’am – he was gulping the bottle – we’re talking ounces here.” We tried to guess how much he’d had and then I mentioned that he had taken his other meds just 30 minutes earlier. She put it into the computer and said, “Okay you need to take him to the ER now – how far is the closest hospital?” It was ten minutes and she said to run to the car and if I couldn’t get there in exactly ten minutes I needed to call 911. I grabbed my pajama clad kids and ran out the front door to find an empty driveway. Oh that’s right. John had the car and the car seats.
I sat down on the front porch and called 911. Mareto played with a stick, totally normal, and Arsema thought it was great fun to be outside when she should be in bed. We went back inside and within five minutes two police cars, two ambulances, and a rescue squad car were clogging up our culdesac. A bit of an overkill. As a dozen different people filled our living room I started answering the same questions over and over and over again to different people in various uniforms.
How much did he drink?
How did he get to it?
What were you doing at the time?
Where is it located?
When did you find him?
With each question my already guilt ridden mother heart sank deeper and deeper. This was all my fault. I wasn’t watching him well enough. I didn’t have the medicine secure enough. I could have prevented this. I felt like the worst mother on earth.
I watched his face fill with fear as we rode in the back of the ambulance. When they wheeled him through the hospital doors his eyes darted back and forth and his hands clutched at mine. He was terrified. My heart broke as I told myself this was all my fault. All this fear he was experiencing could have been prevented if I had done a better job. This didn’t need to happen.
Inside the ER I had to answer the same questions again to nurses, technicians, and doctors. I apologized over and over and as I allowed shame to wash over me. Mareto passed out about two minutes after ripping off all the wires and such monitoring his vitals. So we re-attached them all while he slept. The nurse came back in and we tried to wake him. We shouted his name, shook his shoulders, sat him upright, pried open his eye lids and shined a light on his pupils. Nothing. He was out. I stared at the monitor and found comfort in the normal vital signs.
So I snuggled in next to him and took pictures because he’s just so cute while he sleeps. After debating back and forth for several minutes I posted a picture to instagram but didn’t say why we were in the hospital. I was too ashamed. Minutes later my friend Sarah texted (not knowing where we were) about a book we had both ordered. I texted back and shared what happened. Her response helped ease my load… she immediately told me about her two year old dumping a potted plant and spreading soil everywhere. “Kids get into stuff fast” she texted. “It really could happen to any of us.”
I felt better. Then my mom texted… “As for feeling bad, hey he could have been riding his trike down the highway like you did once.All I mean to say is this stuff happens to everyone. Not your fault.” I laughed at the story and then truly understood how terrified my mom must have been when she looked up to see a two year old me riding my tricycle down the center of the freeway while cars honked.
So I posted another picture to instagram and this time I shared what happened. The response blew me away.
“You are a great mom, Lauren. This has also happened to us.”
“Praying. And love you.”
“Wish I could give you a big hug.”
“Oh dear! That is the scariest!! My daughter did that before…”
and dozens more, but my favorite…
“So sorry, Lauren. Glad he’s doing well. Hope you aren’t beating yourself up about it — try to give yourself the same grace you would give your best friend who was beating herself up over it. xoxo”
So that’s what I did. I took a deep breath and gave myself a little grace. Because I know I didn’t want for this to happen, and I know how fast and smart Mareto is. I know I was trying my best for a peaceful night and could have never guessed he would get into the medicine. I was afraid of judgement and scolding but instead when I shared the experience mommies everywhere came out of the woodwork to tell me it was okay and that they had been there too. No cattiness, no smugness. Just love and support.
It hit me this morning that I have been blessed to be surrounded by an amazing bunch of women. Women who know what it means to be a friend. So I say, what mommy wars?
PS – Mareto is home and back to his normal self this morning. And I’m buying a pad lock for the medicine cabinet.
Oh, and since it’s our anniversary… here’s a kissy wedding picture for ya.