You see, our daughter has basically been a motionless blob for most of her life. That’s why I have usually seen those straps on changing tables and bouncers as useless accessories. That is why there was usually no problem with me watching the Red Sox game with my daughter laying on the couch next to me. Well, that has all changed. Here is what happened: Monday morning, just finished breakfast and my wife was getting ready for work. Our daughter was happy and smiling and loving life. I put her on the couch next to me and propped her up against the end pillow.
I then turned my gaze away from my daughter to open up the curtain behind our couch.
As I was turning back around I see my daughter, in slow motion, leaning to her left, heading for the edge of the couch. A baby’s head at this age is the heaviest part of their body, which causes them to behave something like a shuttlecock – the head will always hit the ground first.
(Do not take this me encouraging anyone to try playing badminton with a baby – you just have to trust me)
It felt like I saw the whole thing unfold before it actually happened. I knew she was going to nosedive into the floor. The only question was what part of her head would absorb the impact and what force. Luckily, couches are pretty low and she sort of slid of the seat. But I still watched as my daughter fell, hit our hardwood floors forehead first, and then screamed.
Then I screamed. My wife said she has never heard me yell like that before. I panicked. I screamed. I ran to my wife to have her take the baby because for some reason I thought that my daughter would know that I was holding her and somehow she didn’t trust me with that responsibility anymore.
Luckily, our daughter is fine. She was smiling and happy within five minutes. We did go to the doctor and they checked her all out and then gave her a battery of x-rays, the purpose of which, I think, was to make me feel like a bad father. I don’t think these words were ever spoken, but they were at least implied by the many doctors and nurses we saw.
-Oh, head x-rays for a 2 month old, huh? Yup, right this way father-of-the-year.
-(said much too loudly in the packed waiting room) OK, take these films back to your doctor so you can make sure your need to open the curtains didn’t give your baby irreparable brain damage
-She is fine, but you might actually want to pay attention to her when you put her on the couch. Yeah, and don’t let her play with knives, matches, or bleach, either, Einstein.
So I left the doctor’s office with a healthy baby, but I was pretty sure I felt at least three people in the waiting room silently judging me.
I only started to feel better after telling other parents about the fall. What I didn’t realize was the fall was kind of a right of passage for parents, and this one wasn’t that bad.
-Oh, she only fell from the couch? My first son fell from the changing table. Twice. And we keep the changing table on stilts.
-Yeah, my friend dropped her baby, and then she picked him up, she hit his head against the door jam.
-My bother broke his son’s arm by accident when they were wrestling.
-I ran over my toddler with my SUV
Okay, that last one didn’t happen – but those SUV’s do have pretty big blind spots. But hearing everyone else admit to their mistakes somehow made me feel better. I continue to learn that my own ineptness as a parent is usually par for the course for parents. Everyone messes up a few times. Babies are hard to pay attention to all the time, and sometimes they fall. If we are lucky, they, and we, bounce back.