I sat in the lounge room with my husband and a friend who had come to meet my ten-day old daughter, Milla. We talked as Milla lay on a baby play mat looking at the musical sea creatures dangling above her and my eldest daughter, Addi (one-and-a-half-years-old) was toddling around in that busy toddler way.
It was a combination of adult conversation, content children and being able to just relax a little bit that probably should have set alarm bells off in my brain. When does this scene ever occur without something going wrong? Well, it doesn’t.
From the small lungs of a newborn came a cry that could have been confused with an adult being tortured. I turned to see Addi sitting on Milla’s outstretched arm. “She fell straight on it,” my husband said in a tone I hadn’t heard before but one that together with Milla’s scream penetrated my soul.
After lifting my daughter off the arm of my other, we picked baby Milla up. Her arm just hung by her side, lifelessly. Her crying continued consistently which was unusual for her, as for the previous ten days of her life she hadn’t really cried about much. So, with a call to 000, we soon had two paramedics join us in our lounge room. This was the moment where the situation hit me, I had a newborn baby who had been injured while in my supervision, in both her parents' care.
At that moment, I felt like I had failed as a mother.
As Milla was only ten-days-old, I had to lay on the ambulance bed holding her in my arms. As they shut the door behind us, I started to cry and I don’t think I stopped for hours. The paramedics were lovely and understanding but I all I could feel was mortified and ashamed about how I let this happen to my newborn daughter.
As we were unloaded form the ambulance and wheeled into the emergency room, I felt all the eyes looking at us. I saw critical looks and staff shaking their heads at me disapprovingly. I saw them whisper to each other, judging me.
“How could she let this happen to a newborn baby?”
“I bet you this happens all the time in their house.”
“She isn’t fit to be a mother.”
None of this actually happened, but in my head that was the reality and I felt devastated. I felt like I had failed at my most important job and I felt like they were right.
I know that this probably sounds exceptionally melodramatic but the feeling of horror and anxiety it created within me, I can still feel today when I think back on it. That pressure and judgement you put on yourself is the harshest of any and can overpower your whole being if given the opportunity.
After explaining what had happened to the doctors, we were taken to the X-ray department so they could scan Milla’s arm. I had to carefully unbutton her pink and white striped onesie to slip her arm out, trying my hardest to not move or knock her injured limb too much. The last thing I wanted to do was subject her to more unnecessary pain. I then had to leave the room as they performed the X-ray.
Seeing my baby lying on that bed as they scanned her was torturous to watch. This is the last place we should've been and the last thing we should've been doing and I felt like it was all my fault. I was barely one metre away from her and I couldn’t protect her. What hope did I have for the rest of her life?
The results confirmed a small, hairline fracture in her left forearm. Because she and the fracture were so tiny they could only place a gauze, taped around her arm to act as a cast. Once we were given the go ahead to leave the hospital (without a call to DHS), Addi, my husband and I took Milla to our car, strapped her in the car seat with the most care and attention we’d ever given anyone or anything and then we went home.
For the next week while the bandage remained on her arm, we often had to explain what happened. This conversation always filled me with anxiety and embarrassment. When we finally could remove it and the visibility of what had occurred was gone and her arm was healing, my anxiety started to fall away.
In hindsight, I know there is much worse that could have gone wrong but in the moment, that logic doesn’t seem to work. Witnessing my newborn baby hurt in an avoidable way overwhelmed me with shame and a feeling of failure.
The story of ‘when Addi broke Milla’s arm’ is already one of ‘those’ stories. We often talk about it in our home and it will be a definite for the 21st birthday speeches - with slightly different accounts for each daughter, of course.
Our accident prone Milla has now been in an ambulance twice at the tender age of four and is forever hurting herself. She is a fearless, cheeky larrikin who will probably do more than fracture her arm in her lifetime.
I know now that this won’t be my fault, just as the accident that happened when she was a baby wasn’t.