Quinn broke her elbow yesterday.
It’s just a slight fracture. She was in and out of the urgent care center in an hour, with “pictures” of her arm and a recommendation for an orthopedic pediatrician. She got pizza (“pepp-ee-roni”) and frozen yogurt (chocolate) for dinner. She skipped her bath. She has to wear a splint that goes from her wrist to her upper arm, with a sling to match. She, surprisingly, doesn’t seem to mind the sling so badly.
For me and David, though, well, that’s a different story.
It happened while we were downstairs, in the family room, talking. The girls were in the living room a few steps above us, playing with some toy airplanes. I’d just made a comment to David about how lucky we are that they play so well together–listen to the stories they make up!– and how just downright awesome it is that we have such happy children. There was no thump, nor scream, or anything like that. Just Quinn, appearing at the top of the stairs, clutching her left arm and sobbing. Big fat tears rolling down her cheeks. Her little lower lip sticking out in a pout that may have definitely shattered my heart into about a million tiny pieces. And her arm. Her arm. It was just hanging there. Her hand looked odd, like it was attached funny. This is a child who can run into a wall and bounce off and keep running. She takes a tumble down the stairs and just keeps going. But this time it was a toy on the floor that did it. She was walking around, “flying” her airplane, and from all reports from the 5-and-under crowd, tripped over a toy and fell onto the hardwood of our living room. And even then, she tried to go back to playing. But then she clutched her arm, the arm that wouldn’t move, and said “Ow.” And the lip went back out. “It hurts, Mommy.”
When I fell in love with David, I was upset. I didn’t want to fall in love. I was enjoying learning a new city on my own. I was concentrating on grad school and training to become a teacher. I was determined to keep my perfect GPA (penance for the first couple of my undergrad years, no doubt), focused on learning everything I could, on landing a job. And I knew–knew–that loving David would be it. This was the guy. I was walking into a life of worrying about someone else, of caring so much it could be scary, of permanently attaching myself to someone who’d become as important to me as I was to myself.
I had no idea.
After the girls were in bed last night, after I’d positioned Quinn’s little arm so that she didn’t have to sleep with it sticking straight up, David wrapped me up in one of his big bear hugs. “I love those girls more than life itself,” he said. Yes. It was just a fracture, but it was our child who’d been broken. Our child crying, our child with a limb that wouldn’t move, didn’t work. Never in my life had I wanted to jump into someone else’s body so badly, to take the pain away. And this is just the beginning. There may be more broken bones. There will be broken hearts, mean friends, bullies, disappointments in school and sports and love. I cannot protect my children from these things, but I know without a doubt that every hurt that they feel I will feel ten times more. I know this, and I know that this is some sort of maternal covenant I signed three times over. I signed up for this. Willingly. I got pregnant and basically agreed to waive any rights to my heart so that it can be held by persons too small to understand the weight of what they carry.
I cannot even grasp the fierceness of this feeling, and I’m certainly having a tough time describing it. It makes me wonder if people even know what they’re getting into when they have children. Because I have a child, I will never not worry. I will never walk away from a difficult situation. I will be their fiercest advocate, their biggest champion, and I will always, always, know that if I could ever take their places in times of hurt, I will in a second. I’m not sure they need to know this. I don’t know. But I know it. David knows it. And we have to sit on the sidelines and watch them live their lives with this understanding. It is terrifying to love something this much. It is unnerving to know that I will do anything–anything– to protect my children when I can, to know that I would give up myself in a heartbeat so they would not have to feel pain again.
Happy Good Friday, everyone.