Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda, If Only…
MOM LIFE + MOM GUILT + SELF-LOVE + LESSONS LEARNED
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda, If Only…
10 July 2020
Do you ever have those moments of: I could have… I should have… I would have… or if I had only…? I do. Often. Especially this week. This week my worst nightmare came true. When you bring home your sweet babe, the perfect gift you created and that God gifted you, you want to do whatever you can within your power to love, protect and keep your sweet babe safe, no matter what. This week, the Mom guilt is real, because I feel like I somehow failed my son. I even contemplated not posting anything, because I was afraid of being judged, afraid of what people might say or think. But I also believe in being authentic, transparent, real and honest about mom life.
On Friday evening, I was feeling pretty great about myself. I had helped my Mom move all day, I had made sure Bairre had a fun day with my Mom’s animals and at the ranch up here and I had kissed my love goodbye before he left for base. I was actually “on time” with dinner and getting Bairre ready for his bath (we do things a little later in our household due to my crazy overnight shifts over the last 2 years, plus I’ve never been a strictly scheduled Mama). It’s crazy how everything can completely change in a matter of seconds and I do mean seconds. I had turned off the burner (unfortunately we have an electric stove that remains hot, even after being turned off) and I moved the pot (something I normally wouldn’t do, but was about to prep the noodles and then mix the sauce into them and didn’t want the delicious sauce I had just made to burn). Willow started alerting me that there was a potential bear (the animal) at the door (yes, that’s a real thing up here). It’s a particular sound and bark that she makes, so I immediately ran to the door to make sure there was no bear there and shut the sliding door and locked it. What happened next, is a sound and image I will never be able to erase from my mind. The sound that you never want to hear from your child. A blood-curdling scream and the image of my son crying and suffering and shaking with pain. While I ran to the door to shut it to protect him from what I thought may have been a bear, my Bairre climbed up on the counter (something he is constantly lectured about and I had just told him about 5 minutes before) and stepped on the burner I had just turned off.
In 30 seconds our world changed. I immediately went into action. I couldn’t cry or show fear, not because I believe that to be unhealthy or that emotions should be hidden from our children, but because my sweet boy was in a state of so much pain and terror, I did not want him to see my reaction and think the worst or be even more scared and afraid. I ran to the sink and immediately dunked his foot in cold water and I added ice to the water to ensure the burning stopped. He was rocking back in fourth in pain as I promised to find help. You see, this has been a fear of mine for some time… we are an hour away from any help (at best) and I was alone (which I am more times than not). I grabbed what I could for him on my way out the door and flew out of the house to the car with his foot on ice (which I learned can be tricky with burns… moments you wish you DID know it all). In my head I knew if anyone up here could help us it would be the firemen. I knew they would be equipped and they would know a thing or two about burns.
I had called Michael as I was dunking his foot and he instructed me to not place any oil on a burn, not even Neosporin. The pediatricians office took too long to answer and they always tell you to call 911 if it’s an emergency, as I started to dial 911, I remembered how long it had taken for them to get to us in a car accident. I didn’t have time. I could physically feel each passing second. My heart was breaking for my son and I needed to get him to someone who could help him and properly care for him. I knew my best plan of action was to get to that fire house. We arrived at the firehouse and I begged them to help my baby. They opened one of the massive firehouse doors and treated us next to one of their fire trucks. They did such an incredible job of helping to keep us calm and to help ease Bairre’s pain. They comforted us and treated Bairre until an ambulance arrived. It took two firefighters to get the IV in him and I truly feel sick to my stomach every single time I replay this and many of the following events in my head… which I have multiple times since this all happened. Michael, who was half-way to base, immediately turned around and came back to lock up the house, make sure all was off (because I ran out of the house so quickly), pack a bag and meet us at the hospital. I called my amazing neighbors Mary and Rocky and asked them to please come and take my car and Willow home. I forgot I would need the car seat for the ambulance ride, so they had to rush the seat back to me before we took off. I so blessed by and grateful to them.
When you are rushed by ambulance to the hospital and arrived as “child burn victim,” those are words you NEVER want to hear as a parent, that cemented the disbelief of it all, it was almost like an out of body experience. The EMT that took us to the hospital talked me through the entire ride and tried to soothe my fears, worries and mom guilt. He was amazing and so kind. Upon arrival at Henry Mayo, we were taken in immediately to room 3 (which Bairre noticed and acknowledged as we sat there waiting for the doctors to come in). He was treated by a wonderful PA and doctor (as luck would have it, it was the wife of the doctor who told me I was pregnant with Bairre). Unfortunately, due to COVID, Michael was not allowed to come into the hospital room with us. It was only one parent at a time and Bairre wasn’t willing to give me up. Michael did, however, do a wonderful job of occupying Bairre’s mind with his fire truck and doing a little fire truck show for him via FaceTime.
You guys, I prayed. I prayed to God. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so hard. I continue to pray and surrender to him and allow him to guide us to the best help, doctors, experts and healers. I pray he continues to shine his light over Bairre through this entire healing process for our family.
Bairre has 2nd degree burns on the entire bottom surface of his left foot. After they assessed him, they administered pain meds, applied topical numbing cream and after consulting the Grossman Burn Center made an incision into the massive blister that had formed and filled with fluid in the time it took to get to the hospital.
The next day I ran around trying to find similar bandages and dressings to the ones the ER used on him, while also picking up his prescriptions. That evening, as I was undressing the bandages, I noticed it had filled with fluid and it had turned to gel. They warned me that might happen, but have you ever felt helpless and really unprepared for something? Ya, that was this moment in a nutshell for me. I immediately called the ER again and the same doctor that treated Bairre was on call, she recommended I re-wrap the burn the way they showed me and apply the medication for the night. She then recommended that I go to the burn center ER (that I didn’t know existed), since no one was calling me back and they weren’t open until Monday.
All I can say is… trust your intuition and where you are being guided. If you are unsure, questioning something or if something doesn’t seem right, you’re probably correct. Also, ask a TON of questions and educate yourself. Luckily, I did just that and went with my gut and the ER doctor’s advice. She had said if they were unable to take me, she would see him again, but the West Hills hospital has burn specialists on hand. Once I arrived at the West Hills ER, they told me I was correct to bring him in because when it turns to gel it can cause more pain and it can lead to possible infection, which is a huge risk with burns. They then told me they had to remove the skin that was burnt, because that was already dead and could lead to complications.
What I didn’t know, is what would be involved. I knew this all wouldn’t be easy. I knew this would be a long process of healing. I knew a lot of things and was prepared for those, but I wasn’t prepared for the screaming pain he would be in when the procedure was performed. Bairre, like me and my Mom, seems to not respond well and not respond to certain meds at all. They had given him two shots of morphine and Motrin and nothing seemed to get him to relax or rest. To be honest, I was uneasy with it all, because we have been blessed and Bairre hasn’t ever needed to take anything and has only had colds once in a blue moon, if at all. I am so careful about what Bairre ingests and I monitor it all (Yup! I’m THAT Mama).
We waited for what felt like hours for the pain medication to kick in. I will say… I also wasn’t prepared for the lack of bedside manner, by one individual in particular, the PA assigned to us that day. He was insensitive, rude, pushy and he made me feel like a criminal, but there’s always one bad egg in the bunch. It’s crazy to me that we live in a world where they are required to inspect your child for other signs of abuse when they come in with an injury… but we do and I digress.
I started to pray again as Bairre and I laid in the hospital bed together. I tried to find ways to distract him, surround him with Michael and other family members on FaceTime, sing and lighten the mood a bit. My prayers were answered. A short while later, an amazing, sweet, compassionate, Scottish angel and burn specialist, named Allison, walked into our room. From the moment she entered the room I could feel a shift. She was kind, understanding, patient, detailed and so much more. She made sure I understood what was going on and why she was doing what she was doing. She spoke to Bairre softly and sweetly. She related to Michael and his service, because her son also served our country and told Bairre his Daddy is a hero. She is a Mom, so she not only understood the great deal of pain Bairre was in, but she understood my pain as well. She knew I was tortured over it all. She was my dream come true amidst the nightmare. She also knew how traumatizing it is to change bandages for a young child twice-a-day and how painful burns are, so she later gave me something that could stay on until the pediatric specialist could see him in the burn center office.
Something else I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that Bairre would feel everything, because the medicine didn’t take. He screamed in agony, fear and pain. I wasn’t prepared for (and nothing can prepare you for) the cries for help. It took an RN, the burn specialist and myself to hold him still so they could perform the procedure and remove all the dead skin off his foot. The cutting itself wasn’t hurting, but the newly exposed skin that was underneath the dead skin when exposed to air is extremely painful from what I was told. There is literally nothing that can prepare you for watching your baby suffer in pain and scream for help and you can’t do anything. It is the most helpless, awful and traumatic feeling. In all honesty, I’m still in shock, trauma and it has taken me days to stop feeling sick to my stomach (literally) from the entire event.
I know this is just the beginning of the journey for Bairre and I just pray our appointments here on forward are less traumatizing for him. I hope that he is not completely scarred from this. I’m sure you’re wondering why I would relive this event and share it? First, for me, it is cathartic to not hold onto it and to write about it. It started off as a writing exercise for me to forgive myself and to release the pain I feel. But, by sharing this, I hope I can help others who may be struggling. I hope I can alleviate the guilt that another mother or parent may be feeling. When I was in casting, I remember the suffering of mothers who had lost their children. I watched my own mother suffer, in all truth, she still does. The feelings of self hate, the punishing we do to ourselves, because you feel you failed your child somehow. I hope that I can alleviate someone else’s pain or maybe serve as a learning lesson. If you’re a boy Mama, not to generalize, but they are a whole different ball game. My son has always been advanced in all departments, but especially physicality. He started trying to stand and walk around 6 months, but I kept having him crawl to encourage brain development and delay other things that can happen when kiddos start walking too soon. He was determined. He started walking around with assistance. He was so close at 8 months and by 9 months he was off and walking. He has climbed things from day one. We tried baby-proofing, but most things didn’t work, so I made myself crazy watching him and not allowing him out on our balcony and well… all the things. I am the helicopter Mama I never thought I would be at birthday parties, because I don’t trust him… he’s too fearless and adventurous for his own good sometimes. He doesn’t know, but I do. I constantly tell him, lecture him on safety, explain it all and he still tests me. I have shared my story with a few Mama’s privately and I have heard so many tell me I am not a failure. That I am a wonderful Mom and that it has happened to them as well. I know I can’t keep my little man in a bubble, but it sure would be a lot easier if I could! As crazy as these words feel to type…. I am lucky. Others have not been so lucky. I realize that and I am grateful. By the grace of God, we will get through this and I will heal my son.
I am not perfect. I am an imperfect mother. We all are, we just don’t like to admit that to ourselves. We all do our best and try to be our best for our children. The best role model, example, cook, crafter… the list goes on and on. In all honesty, I have major separation anxiety and struggle being away from Bairre for a few hours, so this nearly broke me. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to never hear those screams again or see the look of suffering on Bairre’s face. Nothing I wouldn’t do to keep my perfectly formed and created babe, just that… perfectly formed the way he was made and handed to me in the delivery room. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to have grabbed him and brought him with me to close the door, or to have kept a pot on top of the burner or… or…the list goes on and on… this brings me back to coulda, shoulda, woulda, if only…
For any Mama or parent out there that needs to hear this. You’re not alone and you are doing great. Things happen beyond our control, but that does not make you a bad person, parent or mother. I cannot tell you the stories I have heard from other moms and friends of scary moments that have happened to them. Many are not honest about it, because we are SO afraid of being judged… ridiculed, told the obvious… Again, the list goes on and on.
The journey ahead may not be easy… There may be many uncomfortable or painful appointments. I am not sure what the future holds, but I do know that God has us. I do know that my son is incredible, resilient and the strongest three-year-old I’ve yet to meet… And I was a Nanny starting at the age of 12 (with no injuries to my littles I cared for). Like I said, we are blessed. As the EMT told me, as far as burns go, it could have been much worse. We laughed about how we used to watch our babies sleep and how we sometimes still do. Just to make sure they are breathing, well and safe. I will continue to pray for God’s healing over my son, I will continue to pray for God to guide us to the right people and experts. I will continue to allow our healer to work on him, bless and pray over him. I will stop at nothing to make sure our son is not just cared for, but whole again both physically and mentally. I will make sure this is all a bad memory one day. I will continue to see the good that God is bringing us in this terrible situation. I will choose to see how we can be a light to others suffering and allow God to work through us and walk with Him. I will be there through every painful exam, debriding and treatment. I will hold my son’s hand, even when I want to run and cry. I will care for him, wrap his wounds and do whatever is necessary so my little man can get back to being his VERY active, wild and funny self. I will continue to protect, serve and educate him, even when he doesn’t want to listen, hear me or when he fights me. I will also continue to be authentic, so other parents out there stop the shame game, the guilt, the judgement, the torturing of one another. I also hope that by being vulnerable, not hiding in my feelings and by putting myself out there, I can help someone who might need the permission to forgive themselves and allow them to know they are not alone. Mamahood is hard, challenging, rewarding and THE greatest gift… don’t allow your Mama guilt to stop you from being grateful, full of joy and celebrating life and your wins. You’ve got this.
To those, the small group that knew, that have prayed for us, supported us, lifted us up and been there, thank you from the bottom of my heart. We are so grateful and truly blessed.
With so much love, light, healing and prayer,
Update: Since first writing this, we have been to see the pediatric burn specialist at the Grossman Burn Center and he says his foot is already healing and he will not need surgery, which is such a HUGE relief. We will monitor it closely and take it a day at a time. Praying for you all and lifting you up in Mamahood!
I graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where I learned innovative coaching methods, practical lifestyle management techniques, and over 100 dietary theories – Ayurveda, gluten-free, Paleo, raw, vegan, macrobiotics, and everything in between. My specialty is vegan and gluten-free options and alternatives!
I studied with the world’s top health and wellness experts including:
- Joshua Rosenthal, founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition
- Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, chair of nutrition at Harvard University
- Andrew Weil, MD, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
- Gabrielle Bernstein, bestselling author and life coach
- Susan Blum, MD, MPH, assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine
- Mark Hyman, MD, founder of The UltraWellness Center
- Geneen Roth, bestselling author and expert on emotional eating
- David Wolfe, raw food leader and nutrition expert
- Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, professor at New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health
- Mark Bittman, food writer for The New York Times and bestselling author
- Joel Fuhrman, MD, family physician and leading expert on nutritional healing
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