Whatever you are picturing in your head right now, it was just that scary.
I will tell you the whole story here, but know from the outset that right now, it is five in the morning and as I am typing away, Lucy is in her own little bed, sleeping peacefully. I know this because I have gotten up through the night and checked her and laid my hand on her belly, listening for signs of life.
And they have been there. She is, indeed, fine. But I will tell you the story from the beginning...
It starts and ends with a piece of clothing she has named, "Baby Jaguar Coat". A friend of my mom's bought her this very luxurious faux fur, pink and white leopard print coat. And when she wears it, she truly looks like and feels like a princess wearing a coat that looks like Baby Jaguar's coat on Diego. So, she decided to wear it to school and be all up in her princess self. She went to school. Edie, Lucy and I ate juice and eel avocado roll for a snack and then, on to meet her friends Sophia at the play ground. All great. We left the playground and headed for the 103th street subway station. Still, feeling like princesses, mind you.
Now, the weird thing, is that I almost never bring two small kids home on the subway. Mostly because there are numerous flights of stairs, which means if someone stages a rebellion and refuses to walk, or falls apart from exhaustion or needs to be held for any one of 200 serious emotional impairments, or God help, me if they both fall asleep and are like un-wake-able, which has also happened and my husband has had to jump on board like super-man and rescue us from public transportation, I could feasibly end up hiking two kids and a small stroller down and up again multiple flights of stairs which I have done before and really don't want to do again.
But Lucy was gung ho about the subway and I had bought a bunch of packages and if you have a lot of packages, the bus becomes onerous. Usually we do not buy packages when we go to school. At about 5:30 when all of this happened, the bus gets chock full with people heading home from work and so there are rarely seats, which would be fine except you have to collapse the stroller before you get on the bus, which means, I'm standing with two kids and holding a stroller and all of the packages I bought, which were quite heavy this trip and trying to keep everyone safe and un-complaining and happy for like 45 minutes, which would have been nearly impossible for all of us and I might have cried. And they would have cried. So, we took the subway.
And unfortunately, there was crying anyway.
Now, Lucy prefers to have someone carry her down the subway steps in the stroller, as her father is able to do with his manly rock-climbing arms, but this is something I can no longer do, especially with Edie in a sling strapped to my chest, so I told her she was going to have to walk this trip and like a trooper, she got out of the stroller and started down the stairs. I picked up the stroller and had Edie in the sling and started down behind her.
Here was mistake number one: I was 1/4 of the way down the stairs, with Lucy walking down just in front of me, when a man behind me asked if he could take the stroller down the stairs for me. I turned to look at him and thanked him, but as I was already in the middle of doing it, I figured I might as well keep going. Also, he had a little girl who was much smaller than Lucy and she was walking next to him, so I figured he was being kind and really had his hands full anyway.
So, here's a lesson I learned - just say "Yes" when people try to help you, Kim. Just say, "Yes, it would great if you took the stroller for me, so my kid doesn't lose her balance and fall down the cement stairs, while I watch helplessly instead of holding her hand until we were safely at the bottom."
I said as much to David last night and that I was feeling like going on the subway at all was such a mistake and his response was so typically David and the thing I love about him. He basically said that Lucy's more than capable of walking down the subway stairs by herself, that she has done it a lot and and she'll do it again and she may even fall again, but we weren't going to avoid the subway because she fell, in fact, this was exactly the reason we had to do it again, so she wouldn't be afraid of doing things after she had a bad time of it. David is the king of getting back on the horse. And the king of not letting me punish myself with guilt.
Still, as I write this, I feel like a terrible mom. Like I failed to do the very least I was supposed to do to keep my kid safe. Uh...But that's my shit. I could do a whole blog just about my guilt. Back to the story...
So, one minute we are tottering down the stairs, me with Edie, packages and stroller in hand and Lucy moving down the stairs on her own. Some people were moving up and down the stairs on either side of us. About ten people all together. I don't know what happened next and Lucy isn't saying. When we asked her in the hospital later, she said an "alligator on the stairs pushed me." And then, she cracked herself up. That's her story and she's been sticking to it.
Maybe she lost her footing, or maybe I tapped her with the stroller or my knee or some other extraneous body part or she just wasn't looking and missed a step or maybe she saw me right behind her and tried to speed up, I have no idea because it all happened so fast. One minute she was right below me, on the next step, a few inches away and the next, I am watching her and it's like you took a Raggedy Ann doll and just threw her into the air.
The life went out of her. Her whole body just went flat, like someone squeezed the air out of her and all that was left were hollow tubes of cloth for arms and legs and they tumbled like clothes in a dryer, down eight maybe ten steps, cement steps, and none of us could do anything. We just watched. And people screamed. And I saw her land at the bottom and immediately stand-up. Covered in bright streamers of blood gushing down her face and down the front of Baby Jaguar Coat.
And as I stumbled down the stairs to get to her, in perhaps the longest stumble ever on the planet, she got up and screamed for me and put her arms out and a man came up behind her to comfort her and she pushed him away and I dropped the stroller and pulled her into me and carried her and Edie down to the bottom of the subway because I needed to survey the damage or call 911 or find a first responder. Or something. I needed to get a handle on exactly what we were dealing with.
So, I get a good look at her. Bright red blood is gushing out of her nose and it won't stop. Lucy is hysterical. The blood is all over the front of her, her hands, her face, running into her mouth. She's spitting it out of her mouth as quickly a it flows in. There's blood allover me, in Edie's hair. People feed me tissues and paper towels to stop the flow but it is relentless. A police officer calls 911. People stare at us. I am sitting on the floor of the subway with 2 children on my lap, one latched to my boob, looking blood-spattered and the other looking like she had been shot in the face.
The police officer is especially worried about her bleeding head wound. I look where he is pointing. It is red paint in her hair from pre-school. I exhale. Jesus, thank you.
That night, every time a new medical person examines her, we preface the event by pointing to her head and saying, "This isn't blood. It's paint from pre-school." And every time, the medical person, says something like, "That's great, because when I saw that I thought we were dealing with a real serious head wound, blah blah blah." Frankly, everyone was pretty blase after they figured out the gaping head wound was actually craft paint. Anyway...
I get the bleeding to stop finally and by that time, Lucy is hysterical and the more police who come and people who try to help, the more hysterical she gets. She is hyperventilating and begging me to take her home. Begging. It's the only thing I want to do, just blink her back home like "I Dream of Genie" would do, but my powers suck and the wheels are in motion and there is no going home now without a barrage of medical opinion first. And at this point, I didn't know what other injuries she could have sustained.
But the ambulance doesn't come, for like, 15 minutes, which is fine if you aren't sitting on the subway floor with a bleeder and a breast-feeder and so, I decide to take everyone up to the street and call David. I had originally asked the cop to take my phone and go upstairs and make the call and in probably the smartest move of the day, he asks, "Do you really want your husband to get this call from me?", which was, like, spot on, because can you imagine hearing that Lucy tumbled down the subway stairs from a cop? Really, spot on.
Going upstairs turns out to be a good move. The air and light feels better, more alive and normal and I catch David on his bike on 125th street coming home from work. He would be there in, like, seven minutes, which was perfect because the ambulance had pulled up and Lucy saw the paramedics coming off the back of the truck and promptly freaked out.
She wriggled herself into a ball and dove into me, babbling "Home, Mommy...Take me home, Mommy" and gulping for air. She never let the paramedic near her. The guy did everything. He made purple latex glove puppets and drew smiley faces on them and sang songs and tried to make her laugh and she would just ball up like a porcupine and scream every time he tried something. Edie just kept having boob, waiting for the drama to stop. The poor paramedic couldn't get a break. He couldn't do the exam on her and he couldn't get a laugh.
But apparently, the paramedics felt that she was fine because of the very fact she was hysterical. Apparently, in the world of 3 year olds tumbling down the subway stairs, getting up and being hysterical is drastically preferred over being sleepy and complacent. So I start to barter for our freedom. I have hope we can forgo the hospital in lieu of a couple of Tylenol and a visit to the pediatrician the next morning, but the boys of EMS aren't buying it. We're going to the hospital. This makes Lucy scream louder.
David arrives and Lucy falls into him. She actually leaps toward him. She puts her head on his chest. He puts his hand around her waist, the other in her hair. He is talking to her softly. It is just the two of them in this bubble now. The rest of us are just haze in the distance. And she grows quiet again, siphoning off his calm and letting it course through her, moving from limb to limb, blood vessel to blood vessel.
He is her great comfort. David matters to Lucy on the most granular level. They are sort of built into one another, her mini-me to his me. She immediately settles into his arms in the back of the ambulance, hiccuping every once in awhile. "Home, Daddy," she tells him. She still doesn't want to go, but she allows it instead of fighting. She trusts him the way she doesn't trust anyone else. She knows instinctively what he thinks and how he'll do things, that it is always in her best interest. She allows him to take charge of her.
I lay down on the stretcher. I am told to do this. Really. This is how I must ride to the hospital. It is the only seat left. And I do and find myself kind of enjoying it.
The rest is all okay. The bleeding had stopped. I had bought them Halloween books as a surprise and the hospital became the perfect excuse to get their treats early and that made everybody have good feelings about the hospital. Although I kept washing them with bacterial cleanser so that they wouldn't pick up a staff infection or something. I was kind of obsessive about that, I mean, there are a lot of germs in the hospital. We could leave sicker than when we came in.
If you saw me in the hospital, you'd see a woman with bloodied clothes, shrieking things like, "Oh see, now you touched the IV stand, now we have to wash your hands again." This trip to the hospital alone could have made one or both of them obsessive-compulsive. Only time will tell.
Apparently, the fact that Lucy was having so much fun playing with Edie and the toys in pediatrics, made the doctors feel fairly confident they could rule out brain damage and "hovering on the edge of death". She let doctors pull on her nose and take her temperature with this thing on her toe and check out the paint on the side of her head. Like we were lying about it or something. Everyone wanted to check the paint...just in case.
When we walked out into the night air, Lucy was cold and wanted her coat, which was splattered with streaks of blood. I showed it to her and she looked a little horrified and so I told her I re-named it "Baby Bloody Coat" which she found weirdly funny, and so I kept trying to get her to wear Baby Bloody Coat and she kept working the phrase "Baby Bloody Coat" into every sentence, like, "Can I hail a taxi with my Baby Bloody Coat?" or "How many penguins can I hide inside my Baby Bloody Coat?". And we spent the rest of the trip home talking shit about Baby Bloody Coat.
When we got home, David and I ate plates of leftover meatballs (that recipe is from a old post here)standing in the kitchen, pulling food out of the fridge and gulping down glasses of much needed wine to shake off the evening. And the kids fell asleep as we watched the VP debates, which, frankly, seemed pretty anti-climactic in that moment compared to our little drama, although I did follow Andrew Sullivan blogging it live and that seemed to help me feel human and consumed with the world again. Oh, and I got all teary and clutched my chest when Joe Biden choked up about losing his daughter. God.
So lucky it was just a few stairs on the subway and Baby Bloody Coat. So lucky.