There are many screams, also squeals, yelps, burps, boasts and shrieks. This scream was different, piercing in a way that made me drop the cheese I was grating and run down the hall. Kate met me, hand covered in blood.
Home from college on Christmas break I brought with me, on my left hand, an ugly blood blister. Painful and bothersome my dad decided that it required popping, and zap, it was gone, as was my balance, blood pressure and vertical stature. Blood and I just don't see eye to eye.
Motherhood has changed me in many ways: I'm more patient, more empathetic, more afraid of death, but in no way am I stronger in the face of horrid wounds. With one hand I reached for Kate, with the other, the phone. Impossible to console, we rinsed her hand to find what I did not at all expect, a tiny fingernail dangling from a tiny finger, attached only on the left side.
"Jack, I have no idea what to do".
Through sobs, my daughter screamed, "MOM! What do you mean you have no idea what to do?".
Kate and I went to the emergency room, her third trip this year.
"Well to begin with, my sister is just not very careful. We are not supposed to slam doors, ever, but she did and it landed right on my finger. And I screamed, and then Mom screamed, and then she called Dad. Mom and I dropped Mary off at our friend's house and then we met Dad here. This is my third time here you know, I was here twice when I fell, well I was playing with the dog, and I fell and hit my head. And that time, I got TWO Popsicles!", said Kate, when asked by the triage nurse what happened to her finger.
She repeated the same story, in greater detail, to the nurse who checked us in. When the doctor asked "can you tell me what happened?", Kate explained that she had already told the long story twice and hoped that he would be fine with the short version. He was.
"Well of course I was lucky that this happened to my left hand!"
The nail needed to be reinserted into the nail bed. Jack suggested I step out, I did not. The nurse assured me that I would not be the first mother to need to leave the room. Kate, who had been quite composed, began screaming, "Mommy, MOMMY, don't leave".
There were x-rays, then five shots in her hand, none of which was able to stop the pain. She screamed, I cried, Jack remained calm, and the doctor tried and tried again to repair the damage. After two hours they determined that this approach was not working and decided to knock her out, but not enough to actually make her sleep. Two more shots, her blue eyes started to bounce around in her head and she was out, just loopy enough to not know that someone was sewing her nail to her skin. Perhaps more horrid than looking at the finger, watching your incredible child become semi conscious, knowing that while she is looking at you, she can't really see you at all.
She woke up, she threw up, she fell asleep and finally, six hours and one Popsicle later, we went home.
It could have been worse, it might be worse someday, but this was just horrible enough. Motherhood has made me more patient, more empathetic, perhaps actually less tolerant of blood and gore but much better equipped to control my vertical stature. That there is an amazingly brave person counting on me helps, one who needs to learn that Popsicles can be found in places far less exciting than the emergency room.