My mom is here in Riyadh for a visit, and I am thrilled. Obviously. I always miss my mom, but I was especially in need of a mom hug after the week we had before she arrived.
Shortly before Christmas, after my plans with a friend got cancelled, we decided to make an impromptu trip to Bahrain for a few days of relaxation and holiday cheer. We were enjoying our time, soaking up the Christmas music and decorations. And then disaster struck. (A pretty mild disaster, in the grand scheme of things, but it was still somewhat traumatic for all of us.)
Since we arrived in our hotel room, Lavender had been fascinated by the bidet. She loved to run into the bathroom and play with the bidet and call, “Wash hands! Wash hands, Mama!” See, the bidet was exactly Lavender’s height, so she just thought it was a cool sink that happened to be exactly her size. Needless to say, we weren’t super thrilled about the idea of her playing a hotel room bidet, you know? It didn’t seem super sanitary. Not to mention that she seemed to be fascinated by everything in general in the bathroom, and she kept trying to stand on the bidet and boost herself up onto the bathroom sink/countertop. And that didn’t seem super safe at all.
So our first day in our hotel room had been basically dedicated to making sure Lavender didn’t wreak havoc in the bathroom. It was pretty easy to prevent this–we just had to close the bathroom door. So that’s why, on our second day in Bahrain, when I saw Lavender toddle rapidly toward the open bathroom, I chased after her.
She was in pretty peak hyperactive form–running all over the place, making her adorable mischief anywhere she could reach. So when I gently turned her around and away from the door, I expected her to just keep going, like a little toy that turns the opposite way when it bumps into the wall. As soon as I steered her away, I gave the bathroom door a slight tug to close it–it was a heavy door, and I didn’t have to pull it completely closed in order to shut it.
Lavender screamed. I turned to make sure she was okay, expecting that the bottom of the door had pinched the side of her foot as she walked away or something. Instead, I saw that she couldn’t pull her hand away, because the ring finger on her right hand was trapped in the door. Apparently, when I steered her away, she hadn’t kept going like I anticipated–she had stopped and placed her little hand in the door frame.
I shoved the door open and snatched her up. My heart was somewhere around my appendix. There was blood everywhere. Her fingernail was completely torn from the nail bed; it dangled from the finger by a string of cuticle skin. She was terrified and she continued to scream. I tried to soothe her but was obviously unsuccessful. We packed her finger in as much Kleenex as we could find and we ran to the elevators, Lavender sobbing in my arms.
Instead of waiting for the valet to bring our car, we asked for a taxi, and the valet quickly got one for us. We asked to be taken to the nearest hospital, which, luckily, was only about a minute away.
While Mr. Mostafa paid the cab driver, I ran into the hospital. I was immediately sent into an exam area, where within a minute, a nurse was trying to help me calm Lavender down as she gently cleaned the finger.
Mr. Mostafa came up behind me a few seconds later, and shortly afterward, a doctor joined us in the exam area.
“What happened?” the doctor asked.
I rambled, “Well, she was going toward the bathroom and I went to move her away and the bathroom door–”
“She shut her finger in a door,” Saleh interjected succintly.
The fumes of panic which had been sustaining my forced calm suddenly evaporated, and I collapsed into sobbing. I was the worst mother ever. I had maimed my child. I didn’t deserve to her mother. I had failed her. Not only had I failed to protect her from others, I had actively harmed her. I wanted to die.
The dotor and the nurse both calmed me a bit, while continuing their work on Lavender. “Don’t cry, mommy!” the nurse exclaimed. “When you cry, baby cries!”
This is true. My child is a tremendously beautiful little empath, and she gets upset when I cry. If she is doing something she shouldn’t, like hitting or throwing toys, all I have to do to make her stop is crumple my face like I’m going to cry, and she stops, and sometimes she will start crying, too, and she will run to hug me, and she will tearfully inquire, “Mommy, what’s wrong?” And then I explain what upset me and she usually doesn’t do it again. I hate being manipulative like that, especially with my child. But when your kid is scrawling on the wall with a blue crayon and the only thing that will stop her is a few forced tears, you do what you gotta do…am I right, parents?
So now, as my child was thoroughly traumatized by the hospital setting and the blood and pain oozing out of her smashed finger and her mommy bursting into tears, I attempted to pull myself together. “It’s okay, baby,” I tried to say calmly. “It’s okay. We’re just going to clean your finger and wrap it up so it doesn’t hurt anymore.” I tried to explain things to her as calmly as I possibly could as the nurse coated the finger with ointment and gauze and medical tape.
About a half hour later, after paying around $80 for services rendered and prescribed ointments and pain relievers, we got a taxi back to our hotel and Lavi immediately fell into a nice long nap. (I know I’m always saying this, but I’m always amazed by how affordable medical care is in basically every country other than the United States…and how much less waiting is involved. Seriously, we walked right into an examining room, got treatment and saw a doctor right away, and were on our way out the door within a half hour…and only paid $80. Without insurance. Although the medical insurance we have through Mr. Mostafa’s company will reimburse us even for that small amount. “If we were in the States,” I thought out loud to Saleh in a whisper, as we laid in bed with Lavi conked out in between us, “we would have been in an emergency room waiting area for an hour. Then maybe another hour of waiting once we got into the emergency room. Then we’d get a bill of at least $1,000. If we had insurance, we’d end up paying somewhere around a couple hundred, I think.” Of course, at the time, money was no object; we would have paid whatever it took to make her better, even if we didn’t have it. But once it was all over and we were assured that she was safe and okay, we could talk about money and be grateful that we’d had it.)
Lavender was her spunky self after she woke up from her nap. She cried each time we had to change the dressings, but other than that, she didn’t seem to be in any discomfort. She proudly showed her “ouchie” to everyone and accepted kisses for the ouchie from anyone who offered one. She seemed fine, even after we returned home to Riyadh from Bahrain.
I, of course, was not fine. Aside from being sick with guilt, I was terrified. I didn’t want to overreact, but I made the mistake of Googling for information about finger smash injuries…as this didn’t seem to be a run-of-the-mill one. I mean, I knew that kids got their fingers shut in doors all the time. It happens. I knew that. But I was still scared. My stomach dropped every time I unwrapped her finger and saw the raw, bloody, vacant nail bed. I agonized over the formulas of the ointments I used, the brands of gauze I used, the quality of the medical tape I used. I was scared that her nail bed would be infected and she would lose her finger. I was scared that her fingernail would never grow back (although I totally recognized that in the grand scheme of things, that was insignificant). I feared every single negative outcome that could feasibly manifest itself as a result of this accident.
“I just keep thinking about her wedding day,” I said sadly to Mr. Mostafa one day. “And how she will have to get a manicure to make sure she has a fake nail because I mangled her finger when she was a baby.”
He just laughed. I mean, what else can you do in response to so much crazy?
Friends on social media also helped talk me down from the ledge of panic. And now Lavender’s finger is doing much better. She just wears a Band-Aid on her ouchie now, and sometimes not even that. Her nail bed has scabbed over, so it doesn’t look nearly so scary. We can’t tell if her fingernail is going to grow back yet, but we feel pretty confident that it will, inshallah.
But damn, no one ever warns you about this. I’ve long been worried about the possibility of verbally hurting my kid. That’s way too easy to do without realizing it. And of course, I worry incessantly about other people hurting my kid. But me physically hurting my kid? I never worried about that…until it happened. And I’ve never felt guilt like this in my life. I still feel guilty. The moment when I pulled her away from that bathroom door, her face screwed up in tears and blood rushing from her little hand…it’s fixed in my mind. And I just think…I did that to her. I didn’t mean to, but I did. I feel ill when I think about it. I’ll never truly forgive myself; I just pray she forgives me.
And if her fingernail doesn’t grow back, I’ll thank God that she’s otherwise healthy and I’ll pay for her manicures for the rest of my life. I hear they’re doing amazing things with gel nails these days.