Father Of The Blog

A Journey Through Fatherhood and Parenting

Father of the Blog

Olivia Falls

Originally posted on BabyCenter.com 05/18/07 

Leopards of Botswana
Flipping through the April issue of National Geographic I came across an interesting photo journal of a baby leopard and her mother. In short, a journalist followed the mama and cub for thirteen months until the baby grew into adolescence and foraged off to live on her own. What captured my attention in this article was a two page photo spread of the mama saving her cub from a sixty foot fall. The two leopards were playing high in a tree, the cub slipped and the mama instinctively clutched the babe using her paws and jaws to save her baby. I like to believe that I have that same instinctive reflex. A fatherly-sixth-sense, I call it ‘daddar’ which comforts me, assuring me that no harm will come to my girls as long as I’m around to protect them.

Black and Blues
Kim bruises easily, a flick to her thigh easily turns into a deep tissue contusion. She is also somewhat clumsy and constantly bumping into things, she gets a lot of black-and-blue marks. She has talked to her doctor about the bruising problem and was told to take a one-a-day multivitamin which as far as we can tell hasn’t helped. My suggestion was for Kim to stop crashing into things. Unfortunately this genetic trait of bruising easily has been past down to Olivia and frequently new boo-boos mysteriously appear on her legs.

I’m no stranger to bumps and bruises and I’ve had my share of emergency room visits. Starting from as far back as memory serves to the present: A few stitches in my forehead when I was three caused by my older brothers who sent me down a flight of stairs while I was coasting on a riding toy. A concussion when I was seven or eight from slipping on driveway ice. At age eleven, a broken left ankle, results of an aggressive game of king-of-the-hill. At fourteen, while horseback riding, a broken right elbow, a fractured left ankle and a lot of scar tissue from being thrown off a falling horse (the horse slid on top of me pinning me between itself and a cinder-packed road; that was a messy one). Then I started playing hockey. Ten stitches above my left eye from a high-stick split me open. The receiving end of a vicious cross-check ejected two bottom teeth, one tooth I was able to save by jamming it back into my jaw and the other I had replaced with bridge. That happened a few months before my wedding. Lastly, a deflected puck almost completely removed the top third of my right ear which was sewn back on with close to forty stitches and yes I had a helmet on. The point here is I know my way around the ER.

Father Figures
Logging hundreds of hours, I’ve researched treatments for countless ailments that have afflicted Kim, Olivia, Hailey and I. A couple recent illnesses come to mind; strep throat and the stomach flu. I may not be able to prescribe antibiotics but I know plenty of soothing home remedies. Right after Olivia was born, Kim thought I was delusional when I bought a Medi-Scope to check eyes, ears, noses and throats, “Do you even know how to use that?” She questioned. Maybe not at the time but I’ve learned how to use it and what to look for.

I’m an expert at mending cuts, scrapes and abrasions. A month ago Kim frantically surprised me with this one while I was in the shower. “Hailey ripped her toe nail off!” The nail on her big toe was torn down the middle to the cuticle, (she likes to chew her toes). Half of the nail was hinged off exposing the matrix above the bone. I calmly cleaned Hailey’s big toe with warm soapy water, a dash of peroxide, and wrapped a Dora band-aid around the nail and toe. We repeated that regimen for several days checking for signs of infection and her nail healed fine.

I’ve studied anatomy for a decade and a half through anatomical drawing. For two years in college I drew nothing but skeletal, muscular, circulatory and nervous systems covering four semesters. After college, for several years, up until the day Olivia was born I frequented a figure drawing group twice a week at a local artist guild.

This journal entry is all over the place, I know. One more piece of back story to go, stick with me.

Olivia is a few months shy of completing her first year of dance lessons. Ballet, tap and gymnastics all rolled into one hour. Nana (Kim’s mom) takes her to class every Saturday morning. In the past year Olivia has evolved from klutzy to graceful. She glides through physical activities with presence of mind and body. Smoothly she reacts to obstacles conscience of the space around her.

Olivia’s Fall
A couple weeks ago Olivia, Hailey and I met my sister Rachel and her two kids Sadie and Louis at one of our favorite parks, Stacey Park. Recently all of the park’s rusting thirty-year-old playground equipment was removed in favor of a monstrous handicap accessible play compound with wide-grated ramps, towering platforms, a dozen static generating plastic slides, climbing walls, monkey bars, fireman poles, hands on musical toys, a vendor window and several bridges that connect it all together. This play structure has it all and it’s set on top of a soft shock absorbing rubber safety surface. The park also has an infant/toddler playground about twenty yards from the new play fortress.

We had been at the park for an hour and a half. Storm clouds filled the sky. Rach and Louis were treading on a walking path. Olivia and Sadie had just dashed away from the toddler area over to the new play fortress. Hailey and I were having an argument over a squatty plastic water bottle left on one of the benches fringed near the toddler playground. The dispute lasted for maybe five minutes and this is an excerpt from the conversation’s ending.
Hailey wanted the abandoned water bottle. “I want dis, now! now! now!” emphasizing each ‘now’ by stomping her foot.

“I understand, you want the bottle, but I’m sorry sweetie that is not our water bottle. If you are thirsty we can get a drink at the water fountain” My tenth plea. “Let’s go find Sissy and Sadie.”

“No! Dis! Dis! I want dis!” Obviously she wanted to inspect the midget bottle, maybe take it home as a memento.

“Put it down Hailey, that is not our…”

“No! I want dis!” She snapped back interrupting me while possessively holding the bottle at her side.

I was about to go Alec Baldwin on her when Rach strolled up. “Oh she can have that.”

“This! Is your bottle!?” I wanted to grab it from Hailey and spike it.

“Yea, she can have it. Go ahead Hailey.” And then Rach said, “Uh Oh! I hear Olivia, she must of fallen or something.”

Temporarily stunned, I couldn’t see Olivia, I could only hear her crying for me. Impulsively I followed the sound of her cries.

After the Fall
A kind-hearted mother witnessed Olivia fall, picked her up and was bringing her over to me. “She fell from that platform,” pointing to a four foot platform. “She landed on her back.”

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” Is all I could say as I gingerly transferred Olivia from the mom to me. Her body was convulsing and she was crying so loudly that I couldn’t think.

“She stepped off backwards.” The considerate mom informed.

“How did she land?” I asked even though she just told me but I needed more details.

“She landed on her bottom and then her back.” Wincing as she explained the landing.

I thanked the sympathetic mother again, held Olivia tight while I skimmed the back of her head for any tender spots and slowly walked her back to the bench where Hailey was drinking from the fat little water bottle. I placed Olivia on the bench laying flat on her tummy, lifted up her shirt and looked for damage on her back. Not one bump, not one blotch, not even a scratch. I pulled her pants down to look at her tooshie. Nothing, no soreness, no lacerations, no redness. I sat down with her and she curled up in my lap. I smoothed her head, one for her comfort, two I was still checking for wounds. Her whimpering subsided. I asked her if anything was hurting inside. She said “no.” I shielded her eyes from the sun which was barley visible through the thick green storm clouds. It was enough light to check her eyes for dilation and her eyes adjusted to the sunlight. I had her stand up, raise her arms and close her eyes. She stood firm. I turned her around, pulled her shirt up and put my ear on her back. Her heart rate was probably half what mine was and her breathing sounded normal. I poked around at her lower back then spun her around, I pressed at her abdomen ribs and chest. Nothing felt tender.  At this point I started thinking we may not need to go to the emergency room. Last test, I walked to the other side of the toddler playground and had her run to me. She ran fine. We walked back to the bench where Hailey was still sipping on her prize and I asked Olivia again if anything was hurting her. She said “no.”

I turned to Rach, “I think she is ok. What do you think?”

“She’ll live” Rach said nonchalantly.

The smell of rain filled the air. It was time to go. I had to decide if we should go get some x-rays taken or head home. I chose home. We said bye to Rach, Lou and Sadie, then plodded into the car just as rain started to fall. Big heavy drops. Leaving the park I started thinking about Olivia’s fall and my negligence to be there when she needed me most. Where was my daddar? Why didn’t it sound an alert? Is it broken? Do I even have a daddar? My cell phone rang, it was Kim, and she sensed something was wrong, her mommy intuition was working.

“Olivia fell…” I stammered on for a few minutes about what happened ending with, “should I take her to the ER?”

“Take her home; give her an ice pack and keep you eye on her.” Kim assured me.

Over the next few days we watched Olivia closely. She showed no signs of injury, not one bruise, her body and ego intact. She was lucky. I was lucky. Even though everything turned out ok, the whole incident troubles me. Where was my fatherly intuition? How could I have been so easily distracted? Should I have taken Olivia to the emergency room? What if her landing was not as fortunate? The scenario haunts me. My parental confidence has been shattered.

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4 Responses to “Olivia Falls”

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