Motherhood & Words

How annoyingly ironic it was to spend the evening in the emergency room mere hours after posting about my dare-devil girl and my I’m-so-proud-of-myself lack of hovering. I mean, really?

This is what happened: I was in the kitchen washing dishes. Stella and D. were in the other room playing “scary monster,” which ranks second only to “let’s hide under a blanket and pretend no one can see us.”

Suddenly, there’s a crash, then screaming. I yell, “What happened?” but continue to wash the dishes because this is almost a daily occurrence.

D. yells Towels! Now!

I dry my hands and grab some paper towels, because now I know it’s not the usual bump. In the living room, Stella is in D.’s lap, screaming, trying to cover her mouth. There’s blood all over her face and hands, on D.’s shirt. There’s so much blood, in fact, that it’s impossible to find its source.

“She ran into the chair,” D. says. I run back to the kitchen for a wash cloth, ice.

Stella is screaming, her face wet. Blood dripping down her chin and neck.

D. and I are trying to talk her down, our voices quiet, but we may as well be screaming at her in Chinese for all the effect it has. And then I see it, the gap. It’s as if someone took a triangle puncher and punched a piece right out of her lip. Yikes. But I’m still pretty calm: “I’ll call the doctor,” I say.

Then we’re in the car. Stella holds a bloody washcloth to her face, still crying. I try, unsuccessfully, to distract her with stories of Princess Stella. I mostly make these up, though I’ll admit that occasionally they resemble episodes of Dora (sans Swiper, of course).

In the emergency room, we wait. The first nurse says she’s not sure we need stitches. The doctor thinks yes, but calls for another opinion. The second nurse says yes. But then she says, just one stitch. It won’t take long at all.

Why I believed this, I don’t know.

Stella doesn’t get one stitch, she gets three. Three stitches doesn’t sound like much either, but they end up taking forever. Seriously, time stops. The suture nurse whips her arm up and down in slow motion. Stella screams, bucks. I’m sitting under her, holding one arm. D. holds the other arm and her legs, after she begins kicking. She’s panting, crying, hyperventilating.

So why, now, would the suture nurse ask what I do? Is she trying to calm me? Does she sense that any moment I’m going to crack and start screaming, as well?

“I’m a writer,” I say quickly. End of discussion. Stella’s body tenses against mine.

“What do you write about?”

“I just finished a book, about Stella, her premature birth.” Why am I talking to her?

“Oh, wonderful!” She smiles at me. Arm up, down, needle into my daughter’s lip.

What else does she ask? Where do we live? What’s my degree in? Oh, that’s wonderful! Wonderful!

Finally, it’s over. The nurse leaves. Stella’s shaking, weeping. D. holds her in his arms. I try to stand, then sit again. I feel as if I’m going to throw up.

“What the hell was that?” D. asks.

I shake my head. Stella won’t stop crying. Does she think we did this to her on purpose? One stitch, my ass.

On the way home we stop for raspberry popsicles and two flavors of ice-cream. At home, she gets to stay up until nine and watch Curious George, the movie. I cut up the popsicle into tiny pieces for her. “I can’t talk,” she mumbles. “I can’t talk.” It looks like she was in a bar fight.

I pour myself a glass of wine and institute a new rule: no running in the house. I also try to convince Stella that scary monsters are much scarier when they creep slowly. Yeah, right.

So much for not hovering.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Toby's Mom on May 22, 2007 at 9:44 am

    Oh no! I hope Stella’s lip is back to regular size soon.

  2. Sheri on May 22, 2007 at 10:51 am

    poor, poor baby. and poor stella too. awful.

  3. Mardougrrl on May 22, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Oh, poor Stella and poor you! I hope you ALL feel better soon. 🙁

  4. kate on May 24, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Thank you for your thoughts. She’s actually much better now. The stitches haven’t dissolved completely, but you can hardly see them!

  5. on May 25, 2007 at 7:37 am

    OH NO!!!! i was clutching my throat the whole time! why oh WHY don’t they say, “it’s going to be three stitches and it’s going to be bad”, just SAY IT so we can all prepare. geez.

    we love the curious george movie. and icy pops.

    sending our healing thoughts for dear stella.

    p.s. we LOVE the hiding under the blanket game. only second to fighting the bad guy, endlessly fighting the bad guy to background star wars music.