By: Stacey Ellis
“She’s bleeding.” I heard the words and instantly jumped to my feet. “Where?” My husband was holding her as I scanned her face. Blood was pouring out of her mouth. Okay, it wasn’t pouring. It was trickling. Okay, it wasn’t trickling, it was smudged from the corner of her lip to her cheek. It felt like it was pouring. Our daughter is active. And I mean, ACTIVE. She’s just over 9 months old and about to walk on her own. I presume dancing, bouncing, and running will soon follow. I expected her first ‘accident’ to happen then. Not now.
We spent July 4th with friends at their block party. It was a beautiful day with tons of activities, from an egg toss to relay races to fingernail and toenail painting. Our daughter was having a blast watching everyone and everything. She rode in her first ever parade in a wagon next to all the kids on bikes. She held her pinwheel in one hand and occasionally tried to eat it. She tried her first snow cone. She took a nap in her stroller, right in the middle of the rock music and screaming kids. When it was time to change her, we went into our friends’ house. Business as usual. Then she wanted to roam around. She crawled around and pulled herself up on a glass table. There she was, doing her usual bouncy thing and then we heard a ‘conk.” Not a crash. Not a real bang. A conk. She started to cry and I scooped her up and comforted her. She seemed fine. My husband then took her and within seconds, he said, “She’s bleeding.” Her face was fine but she must have hit her chin and bit her lip or tongue or something inside her mouth. It was a nothing event, as she was smiling a second later. But it scared me out of my mind.
Ever since we had our daughter, I have been scared of losing her or my husband or all three of us. I think this fear is somewhat normal for most but exacerbated for me because of my background. I am a former TV news reporter who saw the worst of the worst. I regularly saw the random person die when the drunk driver hit him but the drunk driver survived. I watched two children be brought out of a house in body bags after a house fire in a home with no smoke detectors. I covered American Eagle 4184 which crashed into an Indiana field. I witnessed the F-5 tornado that ripped through Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999, killing dozens of people.
Before we adopted our daughter, when my husband used to leave town on business trips, I’d cry. I’d picture the worst happening. The plane going down. Me, alone in the house with our two dogs. His house. I don’t even know how to work the air conditioning or the heat. I’d literally obsess over the worst until he called and said he landed and was safe. Then I’d start to tear again when he was on his way home until I could hug him. Now, I am just as nervous, if not even more nervous, about my daughter.
I have covered the sex trafficking cases, the child abuse cases, the school shootings. How do I keep her safe? How do I prevent another “Elizabeth Smart” and teach her that if she’s every abducted, don’t believe that we are dead or the abductor will kill us if she tells while at the same time not scare her about the bad men out there? How do I teach her about protecting her private parts, without making her uncomfortable about sex. How do I make her feel good about her body no matter what shape it is when every day, every magazine and talk show talks about who lost weight, who is fit, and who looks great or horrible in a bikini? I think about how to pepper in positive messages in our natural conversations, just like I use the word adoption daily, “We are so lucky we were able to adopt you” and “We are so happy you are happy we adopted you.”
I know there isn’t a right answer on how to keep her safe so I will do the best I can. At the same time, I don’t think it’s weird that I sometimes tear up when my husband takes her for daddy daughter breakfast without me, because I fear a car accident. Notice, I said “sometimes”…I’m already getting better.