And as I was rushing to the scene, I heard Robb say, "Oh, buddy, did it get your face?"
Your face. Whose face?
He was sitting on the steps putting on his shoes. Daddy was just home from the conference in Connecticut (like just home three hours ago), and we were celebrating with a trip to ride bikes at a new park. We were stoked, for a few minutes anyway.
Suddenly, a toy was tossed or a brother was pushed, and a picture frame came crashing down onto Tyler, gashing his left cheekbone in two places. I came rushing down the stairs, and Tyler was bleeding, bleeding, bleeding. No question: this was beyond a band-aid.
Robb and I sprang into action on Team Parenting. Within minutes, we had made the necessary phone calls and were in the van, heading first to drop Tuck with Grandma and then to get Tyler on the mend. I sat on the floor next to him the entire way, and my sweet child never, ever broke eye contact with me. You may disagree, but there are times when eye contact is more important than a mom's seatbelt. It's an entirely separate form of safety.
Our pediatrician's office has an ER/Trauma Room, so they have often spared us a trip to the hospital. (Often. In fact, for a brief summer, that room was called the Tucker Room because of our frequent visits. Thank you, Tyler, for waiting three years to take your turn.)
We made a beeline for the designated room to suit our needs, and the doctor followed right behind us. He took one look at Tyler and said, "Oh, yep. Sure enough. Okay. I think I can take care of the smaller one with some adhesive and a steri-strip. But the other one will need stitches. I'll put some cream on it to take the edge off. It won't numb him completely, but it will help with the shot. After the shot, we'll stitch him up. Just give me a few minutes."
He left the room, and I listed in my mind all the steps he had just described. (I cussed in my head.) I tried to get my mind around the maternal task at hand, all the while with my crying baby snuggled so still in my arms.
And then... my ears started ringing. I felt warmer and warmer. My vision got fuzzy around the edges, closing in like a tunnel.
"Water. Water," I whispered to Robb.
My request alerted a nurse who said, "Oh, my. The mom. The mom. The mom. Get a chair under that mom."
She put a chair under me just as I fell into it.
Yep. I'm that mom.
Robb took over with Tyler as they escorted me into an exam room where I could lie down. I kept saying, "I have to do this. That's my baby."
"We know, Mom. That's why you're having a hard time - he's your baby. Just take a minute." She reclined me with my glass of water, and she went back to the trauma room. Another patient needed her more.
But that other patient needed me more.
I waited until the dizziness went away, and I headed straight to Tyler. And as I walked in, they were lying him on the table for his shot - a shot to be administered a half-inch from his eye. Daddy was holding him down, the nurse was holding his head, a doctor was aiming for his face, and Tyler was screaming.
And all those symptoms washed over me again. The nurse looked up and said, kindly but firmly, "Don't come in here, Mom. Do not come in here."
She didn't have to tell me twice. I stayed in the hallway, crying and praying, catching my breath, trying not to throw up.
For the very first time in the life of either of my children, I could not 'man up.' I was so frustrated with myself. I have always been able to stand beside them, through shots, pricks, tests, broken arms, and a surgery. If he has to experience it, I'll sit right beside him the whole time. But today, no dice.
To my credit, this one was a doozy. Not exactly par for the course.
Finally, when that task was complete, I rushed in and scooped him up. I could hold him until the next phase: the stitches. He just wanted me; I just wanted him. Together, we would fuel ourselves for a few minutes.
I held his sweaty little body so close, rocked him as I always have, and said, "Tyler, I'm so proud of you. You did so great, buddy. So great. That was the worst part. Now, here's the plan. In a few minutes, the doctor will give you your stitches. He's going to tie some knots on your face just like we tie knots on your shoes. It might feel scary, but it won't hurt. I promise. Okay, buddy?"
He whispered a tender, weepy, "Okay, Mommy."
And just like that, it was game time again.
I lay him down on the table, determined to keep my mind, pulse, nausea, and emotions under control. Everything was happening right under his eye, which meant he had to watch everything coming at him. Well, not on my watch, kiddo. I positioned my face directly over his, and I kept his eyes on me. Stare down, kiddo.
You can do this.
And by letting him watch me, I had to watch them put five stitches in his sweet, freckled face. I know how that procedure is done, now. I know all too well. And every once in a while, I felt the heat rushing up my neck, the dizziness sweeping in, and my breath getting faster. So I would stop, look away, focus on the picture of a clown on the wall, and find my maternal strength again.
And all the while, I leaned hard against my husband. Physically, I leaned. Team Parenting. Team Us.
Tyler cried, asking them, "Can you please stop? Can I be done? Can I sit up? I just don't like this." Of course you didn't, tough guy. But you were so brave.
He did it. We did it.
And now, five stitches later, there's a story to tell, a scar to prove, and another notch on the belt of boyhood.
We have a family portrait session next weekend. We're choosing not to reschedule, regardless of the stitches and pending black eye. This - this, right here - is our life. Let's document it.