Ever since I had my first child I've been afraid of heights, but only when my little ones are around. Before children, I could tower over the Grand Canyon looking down on the expanse, and know for certain I was not in danger. I know I'm not in danger, but suddenly I worry about my kids. I know they know their own limits, which is why I'm not so worried about them jumping from too high, it's more the fear of a friend holding my baby on a high deck, you never know if the baby is going to spring free of their grasp. I also thought my mom rather crazy for shouting, "don't get so close to the edge" the second she spotted a high drop. Her fear continued even if we were all in the car on a high winding road.
Once I had kids I suddenly gained the same freaky irrational fear that my mom carried through life. My husband constantly reminds me that worrying doesn't do any good, so just let it go. Fine. I'll try.
Today I took my three girls and three dogs on our typical nature hike in the woods that we frequent, on the path that we always walk on. The nice thing about living in Cincinnati is that we almost always have the trail to ourselves. (Not a hiking population in Cincinnati)Today we came across another dog, a German Shepard to be exact. He was barking at our crowd the second he spotted the dogs and he started running for our leashed set of three. My dogs get a little defensive when they are the only dogs on a leash, so I grabbed the two biggest dogs and let my oldest daughter deal with the smallest and loudest barker. The German Shepard continued past our largest dog Max (see November post) and Max had just had enough of being taunted while on a leash by another huge dog, so he got up from his sit position and decided to take control of the situation by barking at the visiting dog. When he got up to bark, he lurched back and sent my two year old daughter flying through the air, on the only section of the high path that was missing about 3 feet of guard rail. She sailed through the air to a landing of a rock filled dried up stream bed about 10 feet below. It was all slow motion. I saw her sailing through the air for what seemed like 5 minutes.
I screamed. I screamed to the owner of the dog, "my baby, my baby is down there". When he finally realized that I wasn't saying, "my Puppy is down there", he flew down the steep slope to retrieve my stunned but alive child. I truly couldn't believe she was alive. She started crying, which even in my total state of panic, I knew it was a good sign- if there was to be a good sign. It was a straight fall down into the rocks, she didn't hit much on her way down, if anything and all day, after the trauma, I've kept saying to myself that I can't believe she is still alive. I just can't believe we still have our youngest. I saw her life pass before my eyes today and I haven't really been able to stop crying about the incident.
I carried my crying child, with my shaking legs up the path to our cars. The dogs were confused since they have never had such a short hike before that they hesitated to get into the car. I called my husband Michael, took the older kids home and drove the baby to Children's hospital. Michael and the girls met us there shortly after we were admitted (amazing when you tell them your baby fell from about 8-10 feet, you get treated immediately. While we waited for our second check-up of the 3 hour visit, my daughter was playing with some toys in the exam room, and was making the people fall from high places, so I know she grasped the concept of exactly what had happened. Now I'm wondering if she too will carry the gene of being afraid of heights, or will she now embrace them knowing you can survive from a high altitude fall.
And to think I was telling some friends this summer that parenthood just keeps getting easier. Really, I need to take that back. I'm questioning my qualifications altogether.