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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Let It Go"

This week, our kids have learned the word "concussion" and what that means. Ella was playing at a friend's house, when a swing bashed her in the head. She had a HUGE HUGE bump on her forehead, a small bump on the side of her forehead, and a scrape on the bridge of her nose. She was inconsolable. I worried about a concussion. I put ice on her head and made her lay with me and be still. She wanted to play with friends again after she recovered a little bit. I invited her friends in to play with Ella, and made Ella lie down while they played. At dinner that night, I noticed Ella's pupils were very dilated. I wondered again about a concussion. But I had heard that if you have a concussion, the things to worry about are passing out, vomiting, or sleeping too much. And acting very weird. Ella wasn't doing any of those things, so I just watched her very closely, like I thought you were supposed to do. I checked on her frequently that night. She had a headache for a couple days, and was extremely emotional and anxious. She cried for like 3 days straight. She's always emotional, but wow, this was bad. The next day her pupils were still dilated, and she was a sobbing mess. But I thought since she was overall physically ok, I should make her go to school. It completely broke my heart to peel her body off of mine and stick her on the bus, tears rolling down her sweet little cheeks. I thought that was what I was supposed to do. 

I was totally eaten alive by guilt for the next week because of that decision. 

The teacher emailed me to let me know Ella was doing ok that day, although she was more emotional than ever. The social worker also checked on her.

Ella had OT for her reflex integration. The therapist made a comment that Ella's eyes were dilated. I said I know! Do you think that's a sign of a concussion? She said she would call the doctor to be sure. I called on my way out of her office, and by the time we got home, I had an appointment for Ella right away. We zipped over to the doctor's office. I was worried. The doctor did an extremely thorough check of Ella from head to toe, inside her eyeballs, how she moved, etc. He asked a million questions. And then confirmed that yes, she does have a concussion. He explained that the first 48 hours are the most critical after getting a concussion, and that you shouldn't do any physical or brain activity during that time in case you have hemorrhaging in your brain. I had sent Ella to swimming lessons and school, and her brain could have bled into her spinal column. Ohh, the Mommy Guilt.

The doctor said Ella couldn't go to school until she was doing better. No sports until she has had two headache-free days. Limited brain activity- not too much TV, electronics of any kind, reading, singing, art...pretty much she is supposed to lay down and just breathe until she feels better.

I now recognized that Ella's spike in emotionality and anxiety had been due to her brain being jiggled around in her skull. I felt terrible about how I had made her go to school. I know, I didn't know any better and thought I was doing the right thing, but that doesn't matter when you're in the midst of a Mommy Guilt Episode. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach and twisted my heart until I couldn't breathe. Our OT said that it was actually me who figured out Ella had a concussion, because if I hadn't noticed her pupils, I wouldn't have known this was something abnormal for Ella when the OT commented on them. She made me feel a little better. But not totally. Because Mommy Guilt is so overwhelmingly powerful. And when you could have caused harm to your child because of your own ignorance, ouch. It still stings.

There have been changes in Ella since her concussion last week. She is afraid to walk down the sidewalk to a friend's house. She used to do that all the time without giving it a second thought. She is even more afraid of going to school, of being away from me. She cries every night about having to go to school the next day. She can't make decisions. She says she wants to do something but she doesn't want to do something. She can't make up her mind about anything. 

But now that I know that this is all symptoms of a concussion, I'm much more prepared to deal with it, and much more patient. I know nothing I say will heal Ella's anxiety about school. So I just hug her and hold her tight and tell her that I promise everything will start to get better and be ok. 

Jonah is so intuitive. He said the other night that he thinks the reason Ella cries so much about leaving me is that she is afraid of being hurt. She feels like I can protect her from all the bad things in the world. She feels like she needs me in order to be safe. That's why she wants to be with me all the time.

Wow. This kid. He is amazing. So sensitive and brilliant. I said yes, I was thinking the same thing about Ella. I told Jonah how smart and intuitive he is. How much I love him and admire him for the person he is. He has such compassion for those around him who are hurting.

This week, Ella stayed home one day from school. Yesterday she went for a half day. Today she is there almost the whole day, and hopefully the entire day tomorrow. But no dance. No swimming lessons. No therapies. I'm obsessed with Ella's noggin. I make her wear her helmet every time she even puts a toe on something with wheels. I make her not jump. No cartwheels, please. No, no summersaults. Please run carefully. Can we just leave her helmet on 24 hours a day? She can sleep with it on, right? She's a little annoyed with me at this point. But she has learned how to use this whole thing to her advantage: "Well, technically, I have a concussion, so..." i need more toys, or i can't go to school, or i want ice cream, or i need a pet unicorn.

It's so frightening to me how fragile my children's lives are. In the past few weeks, Ella has had two major traumas- a dog bite and then a concussion. If anything had gone a tiny bit differently in either of those situations, she could have been a whole lot worse off. I could be writing a totally different kind of blog today. I didn't realize how easy it is to get a concussion. I didn't know you should always go to the doctor when you suspect a concussion, it's not just about watching closely. I didn't know last week, but I do this week, which is making my Mommy Guilt soar. Alex suggested I be like Elsa and "Let It Go." Our OT said she seconds that idea. I'm trying. It's just amazing to me how a split second can change the course of your minutes, days, life. I send my kiddos out into the world every day- well, most days; they're home sick so much that sometimes I think they'll never make it back to the world- praying for their safe return. My mom reminded me that I can't be everywhere my kids are all the time. I responded "Why not??" It's hard to be a parent and "Let It Go."

Just be careful with those little noggins out there in the great big world. I think I'm going to make Ella wear a helmet every time she leaves the house, not ever go to a friend's house that has a swing or a dog, and follow that child everywhere. Actually, she would enjoy that last part. So maybe I should rethink that. But the helmet idea is a keeper.

So if you see a tiny little blond girl running around the neighborhood, or walking down the hallway at school, or in the grocery store, and she is wrapped in bubble wrap from noggin to toe, and wearing a beautiful Elsa tiara bike helmet, that's my girl. No judgement, people. Just trying to protect my baby from the big, bad world that keeps hurting her. You'd be a little neurotic too if the world kept causing physical damage to your baby. 

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