Thursday, October 14, 2010

And They Hired Me Again...

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I loved babysitting when I grew up. Heather Hermalink was my favorite babysitter ever, and I emulated everything I could about her. When she sold her broken down, ratty ten-speed bike at a garage sale, guess who bought it? She painted her finger nails? So did I. She wore a headband daily, well obviously I had to find a matching one, right? And she babysat. A lot.

She wasn't much older than me, maybe four or five years, and eventually she moved away, and I took over much of her babysitting - including that of the boy and girl who moved into her house. When I went to college, I discovered that there were parents living nearby who loved having responsible college students babysitting for them, and by my junior year, I had a family that I nannied for regularly - three days a week for several hours each day.

That family had the sweetest little baby boy. He was about three months old when I first met him, and he was one of those happy guys who was never bothered by anything. I got along well with his mom - who was new to the area and had a husband who traveled all week long - and she often stayed around just to chat with me.

I loved watching him. While his mom sometimes had the tv on in the background to keep her occupied, I never wanted anything to distract me from his cuteness (this may also be partially due to the fact that I was with him fewer than twenty hours a week rather than 24/7 with a traveling spouse). I watched him learn to eat from a spoon and delighted in finding new favorite foods for him. I remember his mom telling me that she was amazed by how much better he'd eat with me than he would for her. We went for long walks through the neighborhood whenever the weather was nice - even though it required me lugging his large stroller down two flights of stairs (welcome to apartment living in Chicago).

It wasn't all sweetness and light though.

I also had to change his diapers. And I swear that boy had the worst diapers of any child I'd ever met. Or maybe I was just a naive college kid who had yet to be initiated into the real stinky diaper society. Regardless, it still holds some unpleasant memories for me.

One day, his mom was in the kitchen, having not quite left the house yet - one wall away from the boy's bedroom. I was in his bedroom changing a particularly nasty diaper. He was on his gorgeous high honey oak changing station when I began the task of gingerly dismantling his explosion. As I lifted his Polo onesie (his auntie worked for Ralph Lauren - you can only imagine the wardrobe this boy had!), I saw that he had succeeded in blowing out the back of the diaper.

I sighed and turned to the wardrobe to get a change of clothes for him while my adorable, immobile charge lay admiring his pinky toes. I rifled through the wardrobe to find one of my favorite outfits, and I finally found it buried deep among other - probably equally adorable - outfits. I turned back to the boy just in time to see him roll over for the first time. He was rolling off the changing table that I'd neglected to strap him into because ... well, he didn't move and he was filthy and I didn't want to get the mess further smeared on him and his clothing. Neither of those is a good reason, but it is what it is.

I was across the room, a good six to seven feet away, as I saw his body tilt downward and towards the hardwood floor a good four feet below - remember, this was a very high changing table. I don't think I've ever moved so fast, before or since. Somehow - someone was looking out for him that day - I managed to lunge across the room and get my arms out before he landed on his beautiful, perfect head and split it open or worse. I caught that little boy inches from the ground as my knee thunked solidly into the floor. That hurt. It really hurt, but I was focused on ensuring the boy was ok.

Needless to say, he began crying. He didn't scream, as I don't think I ever heard him truly panic cry, but he was not a happy camper. He didn't like his adventure of plummeting off the changing table, and he probably picked up on some of my panic, not to mention the abrupt catching and halting of his fall. I quickly righted him into my arms and began soothing him to the best of my ability, hoping that his mom would have left before this incident.

I'm not that lucky, in case you're wondering. Within seconds, I heard her thundering into the bedroom to see if everything is ok - she'd heard a thunk (my knee) and her baby was crying. Note that her son was still filthy and partially exposed, as I'd already lifted his onesie up before discovering the need for a new outfit. I explained it away as me having gotten a new outfit that had fallen and my knee having hit the floor (true) as I bent down to pick it up with him still in my arms (not so true) and that he was just a little startled (mostly true).

She believed me and went on her way, shortly leaving the house to go about her day. As for me, I stood there for a full ten minutes, holding her precious baby and thanking whoever it was that kept him from brain damage. I didn't notice the stains on my shirt until after I'd gotten home, but I figured it was a small sacrifice for a worthy baby.

Nonetheless, I've never again left an infant unstrapped or in a position where he could roll or fall from a high place. I've never stepped away from a child placed on an elevated surface. And I don't think the mom ever learned the truth of what almost happened to her precious boy.


Karen October 14, 2010 at 9:23 PM  

Good heavens, that could have ended badly!

This explains a lot about you. You're so focused and detail oriented with how you raise your kids. It's all the wonderful experience you've had.

Michelle October 15, 2010 at 9:09 PM  

Karen - Absolutely... and what a dumb mistake to make. I don't know that I'd chalk that one up to any "wonderful" experience though ;)

The Everyday Mommy October 16, 2010 at 12:51 PM  

Now I feel better about never leaving my infant with a sitter! Just kidding... lesson learned and you were willing to take a hit for the little guy so your heart was in the right place... no one is perfect when it comes to child care!

Visiting from Saturday Sampling.

Pat October 16, 2010 at 1:23 PM  

That was a great learning experience...I'm glad you caught the little boy before he hit the floor.

I set my first son (strapped into his infant seat) on the back of the car (on the trunk of our Plymouth Duster) and then went to open the car dooor...This was in 1979; he was about 4 months old). This was before infant seats had handles for lifting them; I set him on the back of the car to save my aching back. I was about to go home from visiting a friend; she had a slightly sloping gravel driveway; the car was wet from recent rain. I was about 4 feet away from him; his infant seat began to slide down the trunk. I moved as fast as I could, but he ended up face down, strapped to his infant seat, in the wet gravel driveway. Needless to say, I felt like the most horrible mother who had ever lived on earth. Nathan was crying, I was crying; I went back into my friend's house to recover. N had tiny little red marks on his face from the gravel, but nothing else was wrong. I had terrible flashbacks about that for a long time.

Sharon Cohen October 16, 2010 at 3:05 PM  

I'm amazed you could relate it in such vivid detail. Most horrific incidents in my life are locked solidly behind steel doors in my brain and guarded by two members of the memory police. Did I mention that I am royalty? Queen of Denial. That's me.

Your post amazes me - for more reasons than I could number here! So glad you added this linky to Saturday Sampling.

My contribution to Saturday Sampling is from my resurrected original blogspot. I'm hoping to gain some followers. I'm #15 - Hearten Soul For You

Rachael October 16, 2010 at 11:36 PM  

Want to know a secret? EVERY parent I know has dropped their baby or had their baby fall at some point. With my first, I fell asleep with him in our king sized bed, my arm relaxed, and he rolled off. He was only 2 weeks old. With my second, he somehow managed to wiggle off a couch where he had been sound asleep. Not much can make you feel like a bad mommy than these things! But, babies are tougher than we give them credit for.

I'm impressed by the fact tat you were able to catch him! We've seen a few crazy fabulous saves in our house, and I am still amazed by the reflexes babies in proximity seem to give us!

septembermom October 17, 2010 at 12:56 PM  

I had that happen when my oldest was little. I still beat myself up about that moment. So scary. I think I'm super vigilant because of that fall.

Mrs4444 October 17, 2010 at 6:08 PM  

The same thing happened to me, though I was not as lucky. Good thing their floors were carpeted; she survived just fine.

Melisa Wells October 17, 2010 at 8:40 PM  

YIKES. I bet your heart skipped a couple hundred beats...

Michelle October 17, 2010 at 10:22 PM  

The Everyday Mommy - Oh, I deserved that. It was completely innocent and all, but .. I didn't have the experience or knowledge to know more. I'm just glad it ended the way it did!

Pat - Ohhh poor little guy! It's so hard to see anything bad happen to them ever - even if it isn't anything major.

Sharon - Oh most incidents are locked away for me, too. This one though... it is seared into my mind quite vividly.

Rachael - I'm sure they have. Mine was when Little Miss was a few days old and Mister Man stood on her head while she was laying on the floor. Yikes! (She was FINE.)

Kelly - You aren't the only one who's hugely vigilant :)

Mrs4444 - So glad to hear it. And yay to carpeting for SO many reasons!

Melisa - Ummmm yeah. Just a few hundred....

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