You give birth to this tiny, perfect, beautiful human being, and into your throat leaps the war cry of every parent.
“I will kill anyone who tries to hurt this little person. KILL.”
You might not be thinking those exact words (or maybe you are, you creep) but the sentiment buries deep in your heart and really, honestly, that’s how it should be. We have to be their protectors, their advocates, their champions. It’s how families are designed. Not in a crazy way, of course. You don’t want to be the guy calling your son’s college professor, or blaming your daughter’s friends for all her poor decisions. But you do want to be their safe place. You should be their safe place.
Then you break your baby’s leg and really, how much worse CAN YOU GET?
A few weeks ago, Sam and I had dinner with our friends. We wanted to stay late, so we tried to put Clara down for bed in their pack and play up in the bonus room. She wasn’t having it, and Sam went up to rescue her. On the way back down, he slipped and tumbled down the last few stairs. He fell hard, but held on tight to Clara, and she didn’t leave his arms. I felt sick when I saw them laying at the bottom of the staircase, but so thankful that Sam had protected her and not dropped her, or let her head hit anything. He absorbed the impact and kept her close. She cried hard for a while, and we thought she must have been scared from the fall. She had a hard time staying asleep that night, too, but again, we just thought it was because we got home late and she was still shook up.
The next morning, Sam and I packed for our trip to Washington. We were headed to Seattle for Labor Day weekend, to watch a football game and see our family and friends. I propped Clara up to the wall in our bedroom while I folded clothes, ready for her to race off. But she wouldn’t move. This was weird, because just the night before she had taken the most steps ever by herself, and we thought she’d be excited to try again. But she wouldn’t move. I tried to lead her down the wall, but she sat down and stared at me. I called for Sam.
“She won’t walk. Isn’t that weird?”
“I don’t know. Maybe she just wants help?”
He held her hands and helped her walk across the room. Her right leg dragged behind her, and when she tried to use it, it collapsed under her weight. We looked at each other, then back at her.
“Should we call a doctor? What if she hurt it when you guys fell?” I asked.
Sam picked Clara up and kissed her head.
“Yeah. Call them, babe. Might as well check, right?”
I called the doctor’s office and described Clara’s behaviour to the nurse. She asked me a few questions, then said to bring the baby in right away. Nothing better to assuage some parental fear than a doctor clearing their schedule to see you. I was supposed to be in class that afternoon before we left on our trip, but we decided it would be best for both of us to go to the doctor. Sam was nervous that they would file a report with CPS if something really was wrong with Clara’s leg, and we had no idea if they would even let him take her home if they found something serious. This might sound paranoid, but we just weren’t sure, so I e-mailed my professor and we drove to the doctor together, assuring ourselves that it was nothing, probably just a bruise, and we would feel silly after all of this was over.
Our doctor was out of the office that day, so we saw a nurse practitioner we had never met before. She was incredibly kind and understanding, and gentle with Clara. She took one look at her leg and told us that we needed to go to the hospital for x-rays.
This is when Sam and I both started crying. Neither of us could choke out our questions about where to go or what to do, because the thought that there might be something wrong with our little daughter was too much to bear. Sam was holding Clara, and he buried his face in her back, kissing her over and over with tears brimming his eyes. I took a deep breath and asked if we should cancel our trip that weekend, apologizing for our crying. The nurse hugged both of us (so sweet) and told us that crying just made us good parents, and that accidents happen, and that everything would be fine.
“You guys are going to make me cry, goodness gracious!” she said, handing us tissues and telling us where to go in the hospital. We got into the x-rays quickly, but I couldn’t help hold Clara because I’m pregnant, so Sam had to be with her while she screamed and tried to get away. Horrible moments. The x-ray tech sent us home and said the doctor would call us after they went over the pictures. We took our tired baby and anxious selves home to finish packing and wait for the phone call. Clara napped and we loaded up the car, hoping nothing would be wrong and we could take our baby on a trip and not worry about her leg.
A few hours later, the nurse practitioner called to tell us that it appeared Clara had a buckle fracture in her right tibia. It was minor, she said, it happens to kids all the time, but we needed to bring her back to the office to get a splint. We said yes, of course, we’ll be right there. But before we could leave, she called again. She had spoken with an orthopedic surgeon to get advice about doing a proper splint, and he said to just leave the leg alone. She was too little to cast, it would heal in 2 to 3 weeks, and we just shouldn’t encourage any walking.
A few days later, our baby with a broken leg wanted to get up and walk. We tried hard for about 24 hours to keep her immobile, but FOR PETE’S SAKE, HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO KEEP A ONE-YEAR OLD IMMOBILE? It was impossible. We decided to trust her, that she wouldn’t walk if it hurt, and we made an appointment to see a pediatric orthopedic surgeon when we got home, just to make sure her bone was healing properly. Due to some crazy circumstances, we didn’t get in to see the pediatriac surgeon until two weeks after the accident. He took new x-rays, and this is what he showed us:
Clara had, apparently, broken both of the bones in her lower right leg. The tibia and the fibula both had buckle fractures across the same line, probably a result of the way Sam held her tight against him when he fell. The surgeon said if he’d seen her after it happened, he would have cast her leg up to her hip, but it looked like her bones were healing perfectly even without any help, so he wasn’t going to give her a cast at all. It had only been two weeks, and her leg was almost completely healed. She hadn’t broken her growth plate (thank you Lord, that girl is already short enough) and he said she’ll be 100% in no time.
SO. Clara broke her leg. Sam wallowed in guilt for a few days. I did too, because our parenting is so intricately connected, and it seems that whatever he does is what I would do, and what I do is what he would do. We broke our baby’s leg, we like to say, because it sounds awful, and it is awful. But we know that she is an amazing testament to God’s creation, the intelligent work of bones and cells that replace themselves so rapidly it cannot be explained. The human body is a miracle unto its own, and our little Smooch is living proof.
We are thankful that she is healed. We are thankful that she did not get a cast. We are thankful that she is ours. And we are thankful beyond words for Sam’s job, for our health insurance, because we did not have to, for even one minute, debate the risks and rewards of any doctor visits, x-rays, or hospital stays. That is a blessing without equal for a worried parent, and we do not ever ever ever want to take it for granted.
Whew! There you go, the long version of how these adorable x-rays came to be, and of our dramatic introduction to worrying about our children’s health and safety. But I mean seriously, have you ever seen an x-ray that is so damn cute?? Her leg chub, the miniature length of her calf… I melt.
3 thoughts on “Clara’s broken leg”
We had something like this happen with Daphne when she was a baby but in her case nothing broke (it involved a johnny jump up). I think this happens at least once to every parent. We felt so terrible and sick with guilt (it was our mistake that got her hurt). Yes, accidents happen and I hate it when they happen to my babies…it never gets easier! I'm so glad to hear Clara is healing so quickly.
I'm so sorry you guys went through this, but I love the way you pour out your heart in your posts. I'm an easy cry and couldn't help tearing up during this post.
I could eat that little drumstick leg of hers…