The Absolutely, Positively, You-Think-YOU-Had-A-Bad-Day, Worst Day Of Motherhood Yet

I shared this last week when I spoke to our local Mothers of Preschoolers group, and figured it was high time I recorded it for posterity on my blog. This day, in all its glory, occurred back in 1996, when I was trying to run a word processing business from my home while raising two small children. It was a large part of the reason I gave up the business and decided to focus on the kids instead, trusting God to provide the income we would lose. And of course He did, and still does, but that’s another story.

January 30, 1996

The day started at 6 a.m., when 2-year-old Ian decided to crawl into bed with me. I tried to hiss “Get back into bed,” quietly but firmly, but only managed to wake up 8-month-old Emily, who then also wanted to get into the big bed. The two of them had been working together all night anyway, making sure that we didn’t get more than two hours sleep at a time, so I don’t know why I expected to be allowed to sleep to a decent hour.

After a good strong cup of tea, I felt a bit better and was ready to face the day. At breakfast, Ian only drank his milk, but I figured I could interest him in more food later on. His lip was swollen with a couple of cold sores, so he didn’t feel like eating. I made a mental note to call the doctor AGAIN as soon as they opened at 9 a.m. This cold-sore problem had been going on for a month, ever since Ian had had his Chicken Pox vaccine, although each time I called, the doctor’s receptionist was adamant that it could have nothing to do with the vaccine and told me that “cold sores were not a big deal.”

At any rate, the kids were playing happily after breakfast, so I started making beds and tidying up. Emily discovered the space heater in the bedroom and was banging happily on it with both hands, which resulted in a lovely metallic rattling sound. It was unplugged, so I wasn’t too concerned about it, but decided to take it away from her just so she didn’t get used to playing with it. Before I could, however, I heard Ian trying to brush his teeth, I dashed into the bathroom to do damage control. While I was extricating the toothpaste tube from Ian’s chubby fist, Emily crawled, chuckling with glee, into the room to see if she could join the fun. I picked her up so she could look in the mirror, and as I did, I noticed blood on the floor.

“Who’s bleeding?” I shrieked, quickly checking my feet and Ian’s while trying to hold onto a happily squirming Emily, but I couldn’t find any wounds on either of us. I then noticed blood on my hand, so I checked both my hands and all ten fingers, but still found no cut. It finally dawned on me that this must be my precious baby girl’s blood; since she’d never been wounded before, it hadn’t occurred to me that she could be. Okay, you try surviving on the amount of sleep I’d had over the past eight months and see if you can remember silly little details like “Even Babies Bleed.”

She was completely unimpressed by the whole affair, despite the blood that was now DRIPPING from BOTH hands all over the bathroom floor. She wasn’t too keen on me washing the blood off her hands, though, and the world as we know it simply ENDED when I put bandaids on her fingers. Eventually, though, I had her cleaned up, sucking on a pacifier and snuggling down in my arms, softly sobbing now and then and completely exhausted from her Bandaid Ordeal. I traced the blood trail back to the bedroom, where I discovered that there were some vents on the back of the space heater with unfinished edges, which were apparently just sharp enough to slice into a baby’s soft skin.

It was at this point that I realized I hadn’t seen Ian in a while. I put Emily in the crib and went Ian-hunting, only to find him still in the bathroom. He had now dragged a chair in there and was happily throwing Tums, two-by-two, into the sink, having already divested the entire box of Bandaids of their individual wrappers, strewing them on the floor. There were also two bottles of cough syrup lying suspiciously on the counter, but praise God, THEY had child-proof lids.

I struggled to keep a straight face and scolded him for playing with Mommy’s medicine, while rescuing about half the Tums and putting them back in the bottle. I chased him out of the bathroom so I could wash the blood off the floor, but before I got to it the phone rang. It was a client calling to say she was on her way over to update her resume. I abandoned the bathroom, hoping she wouldn’t need to use it, and rushed about clearing a path from the front door to the office.

In the middle of that, another client called. This one, an entrepreneur who had founded several successful companies, wanted to talk over a financial plan I had written up and asked him to look over as a favor. I sat down so I could pay attention to what he was saying, but just as he was making his third and most important point, Ian came trotting in from the kitchen, balancing a lemon meringue pie on one hand and gleefully shouting, “Cake!”

Between simultaneously trying to keep from bursting out laughing, look displeased with Ian and rescue the pie, I completely missed the third point. I sheepishly asked my client to repeat it as Ian trotted happily back to the kitchen. Carefully sliding the pie on top of the closest high, flat surface, I determined to pay closer attention. However, just as my client was expounding upon Point Number Three for the second time, Ian came back out, his little face quite earnest, carrying a medicine cup and medicine spoon. Which led me to believe he had been taking entirely too much medicine over the past few weeks, which then took me back to needing to call the doctor. Except I was using the phone right that second so I couldn’t.

Ian brought me out of my musings by somehow letting me know that he wanted me to fill the cup with pie so he could eat it with the spoon. Once again, I barely averted an explosion of laughter and bluffed my way through the rest of the conversation. To this day I haven’t found out what Point Number Three was. It became increasingly obvious that if I didn’t serve Ian a slice of pie immediately, he would begin screaming at the top of his lungs, so I gave him some, pushing aside the niggling thought that he hadn’t really had any breakfast yet.

While Ian ate his pie (which he was now calling “ice-cream”), I finished up the phone call and started tidying up the front room and office. Just as I was wiping the sticky evidence of Ian’s nutritionally bankrupt meal, my resume client arrived. I led her back to the office and Ian played shy for a good minute or two before he realized that I was preoccupied and that he had the run of the house.

Before long my client helpfully pointed out that Ian was disemboweling the toaster, so I told him to find his firetruck and play with it. He went off and actually played quietly for a few minutes. In the middle of consulting with the client, the phone rang. It was my mother-in-law, calling to tell me a long, involved story about how my sister-in-law’s purse had just been stolen. Before she got too far into the story, however, the call waiting beep went off, so I switched lines and found that it was an old friend offering me a job that was JUST PERFECT for me, just in case I was looking for one. In my free time, I suppose.

I finally told both callers I’d call them back and mentally added them to my list of calls, which reminded me I needed to call the doctor. But I didn’t think my client would appreciate another interruption, so I put it off again. Which was just as well, because Emily then woke up. On my way to get her out of the crib I discovered that Ian hadn’t been quietly playing with his firetruck after all – he had been quietly decorating the hallway with a pencil.

I somehow managed to finish up my client’s resume, despite the fact that Ian suddenly became fussy and whimpered his way to my lap, where he fell asleep. The client got up to leave, asking how much she owed me, and when I told her $10, she acted astonished that I would charge her so much. By this time I apparently had a “Don’t mess with me” look on my face, because she forked it over and left, muttering to herself all the way to the car. As much as I needed clients, I really didn’t care at that point that I would probably never see her again.

I put Ian down on his bed, fielded two or three more phone calls and finally sat down to feed Emily, removing the socks I had put on her hands to keep her from chewing on the Bandaids. She promptly picked up a Cheerio, popped it in her mouth and started to cough and gag. I then noticed one of the Bandaids was missing from her finger and frantically pulled her out of the highchair, flipping her upside-down and sticking my finger down her throat to dislodge whatever was in there. By that time she had stopped gagging and was looking at me as if to say, “Whatever are you DOING to me, Mother?”

I called the doctor, but by the time I actually got through to someone with medical training, Emily was happily eating strained carrots. The nurse said it sounded like she was fine and that I had been very lucky, and told me to watch Emily’s diapers to make sure the Bandaid came out the other end. I thanked her and hung up, and then realized I had forgotten to talk to her about Ian’s cold sores. It had taken so long to get through to the nurse on this call, however, I decided I would wait until things had calmed down a bit before I called back.

It was now noon.

I somehow ate half of my lunch between a few more phone calls, Emily falling asleep and Ian waking up. He helpfully finished my lunch for me. The afternoon started off quietly enough, the only casualty in the first couple of hours being a porcelain dish my mother had brought me from England. At 2 p.m. I even managed to call the doctor’s office about Ian’s cold sores. They told me AGAIN that cold sores were nothing to worry about. I felt like carting Ian down there, food in hand, and demanding that THEY try to get him to eat with cold sores all over his mouth, but I wasn’t up to any more “Look at the crazy lady” stares. When I got off the phone with the doctor, I discovered Ian in the bathroom again, flushing a handful of tampons down the toilet.

The phone stayed miraculously quiet for a few hours and I managed to get some housework done and feed Emily her dinner, but just as I was about to start cooking dinner for the rest of us, Ian let out a shriek and pulled off his diaper, pointing to himself and wailing. As I was quite fluent in toddler-speak, I ascertained that he was announcing that he couldn’t stand another minute of his diaper rash and needed a bath RIGHT NOW. So I pitched the dinner plans and gave both kids a lovely bubble bath, which they quite generously shared with me. It did, at least, give me an opportunity to wipe the blood off the bathroom floor. Ian enjoyed his bath so much that he did a happy-dance when it was draining, which caused him to slip and hit his head on the side of the tub.

At this point Alan came home. By the time I finished describing my day, he said he was exhausted just hearing about it and very wisely didn’t bat an eye when I served up sandwiches for dinner.

Epilogue: The Bandaid never did appear in Emily’s diaper, but a piece of tampon wrapper did.

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