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My life has always felt like a combination of a juggling and trapeze act, swinging wildly from unstable situation to equally unstable situation, all while keeping three chainsaws precariously in the air, and somehow not killing myself. This has never been easy, but since my son was born, I’m now doing this act in a sleep-deprived haze. It was really only a matter of time before I hit the floor.

This very literal fall which seemed a metaphor for my whole life right now happened the other day. My husband was travelling for work, a required two day overnight in Washington D.C., so it was just me and my son for two nights alone. He’s still getting back to his routine, but we still have many a night where he wakes screaming, unable to be consoled.

(Sidenote:I think this is one of the cruelest parts of raising a young child, the sudden unexplainable midnight screaming, the rushing from your bed to find he’s managed to soothe himself back down by the time you get your hand on the door. So, the routine has become to wake to the scream and lay there in the night, trying to determine if he’ll go back down on his own, or if you need to intervene. It boggles the mind that this is normal, but unfortunately, it is.)

At any rate, I picked my son up from school so I have him balanced on one hip. As I’m putting his bottles away in the fridge our kitty, who has been getting bolder about demanding attention, particularly when you are getting something from the fridge, gets tangled underfoot. As you can probably imagine, we all begin to fall together, and it’s all happening in slow motion.

I watch in horror as my foot lands squarely across the cat’s torso, unable to stop it, and realize that I’m falling. I try to contain the baby too, but there’s no way to do protect all three of us. I gladly give up my own well being to preserve the others, but the universe laughs and we all three go down. Fortunately, the bump was more a scare than an actual injury, but my son’s uncontrolled wailing, followed by the blur of the cat tearing from the room, and the twisting of my own leg from the weight, I become aware that things may have gone very, very wrong.

For what seems like an eternity, I am unable to calm the baby. I grab a pack of frozen vegetables from the freezer with shaking hands, placing it where I think he may have bonked his little head. But the cold sensation only infuriates him more, so I relent. I clutch him close to me and try to speak in a soothing voice, checking for bumps, bleeding or bruising. After a few minutes, he calms and I cautiously determine that he was mostly scared from the fall.

Then my mind turns to the poor cat. I’m still shaking when I realize that I may have really hurt her. She could be hiding under the furniture in the living room, bleeding internally or dead. But the baby is still too shaken up to really let me search. Without my husband home to hold him, there’s no way for me to turn the couch over to find her. I call for her with a quiet, shaky voice. I get close to the couch, and try to move it with one hand. A blur of black fur tears from the room, and I hear her pound up the stairs to the bedroom. I figure she must be okay enough to run, so she’s not dead.

It would be another two hours before she would let me get near her, and even then, the resentment and betrayal was still obvious in her expression and demeanor. I try to bribe her with treats, but she wouldn’t budge. I try to feed the baby dinner, but he won’t be placed in his high chair, so we have to share food in my lap. The night progresses slowly, each passing minute filled with worry about what I’m going to do if the cat isn’t okay, how on earth I can get her to the vet at this hour, if that’s what needs to happen, and how I can manage to wrangle the baby into the carseat if he won’t let me put him down.

By bedtime, though, kitty resurfaces, no worse for the wear. I get the baby to sleep for the night not long after. Only after everyone’s settled, I check myself for damage. The shoes I wore had a huge tuft of black fur under the arch of the heel where I landed on the poor, yet miraculously unscathed animal. I wince thinking how it could have been much worse. Then I wince feeling the sprain in my foot from twisting under to avoid killing her, my left knee blossoming into a giant bruise where I landed.

The lesson here, I think, is that I can’t keep doing the same things over and over again and expecting the game not to change on me. The entire fall could have been predicted, if I had been more aware of the way the cats have been behaving lately. It could have been mitigated if I was paying more attention, and if I would just put the baby down for a second instead of insisting on multitasking. Of course, accidents happen, and I try not to beat myself up for them, especially ones where everyone, for the most part, comes out okay. Still, accidents, like mistakes, have things to teach us, even if they are unavoidable. And, in this case, I really need to watch where I’m going.