"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."

~Robert Frost

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Long and Bloody Tale...

Warning: slightly graphic. If blood makes you queasy, reconsider reading this!

Do you ever experience something terrible, and afterwards find yourself thinking of all the tiny "fork in the road" type decisions that led you to the point of it happening? Not bad decisions necessarily, just "If I had decided to take the other route to work this morning, I wouldn't have missed seeing that bag on the road in the dark, and driven over it, rupturing my tire on the broken bottle inside...." That sort of thing. Yesterday I found myself lying on a table with a thin paper sheet on it, trembling all over while a doctor worked on my mangled toe. It was unbelievably painful, and to divert my attention I kept obsessing over all the stupid little forks in the road that got me to that point. (Well, that and squeezing my nurse's hand until all the carpals and metacarpals and whatever all those bones are in there were all bunched together in the middle of her hand and she didn't look like she was enjoying the procedure much more than I was!)

All three girls and I had been shopping that morning. As we left the house I started to slip on my sandals, then glanced out at the chilly, drizzly morning and reconsidered. Cue fork in the road #1: Be sensible and wear something warmer and close-toed to stay warm and dry? Or wear the sandals anyway because...well, because they're cute! *sigh* Let's not linger here and consider the stupidity of my decision, but sandals it was.

A couple hours later we'd gotten some missions accomplished -- diapers, shampoo, sewing supplies for a new project -- but what was the highest priority on my list, and what was proving most elusive, was a dancing dress for the show starting in (eek!) just 6 days. It's hard to go from store to store...to store...with three little girls in tow, trying dresses on over and over. We made slow progress and I finally decided in frustration that I would need to come back without my entourage sometime this weekend. Cue fork in the road #2: it was nearing lunchtime and we were all burnt out, but also high on my list was a gift I needed to purchase from Target. Put it off along with the dress, or make one last stop on our way home?? As we drove toward Target my sense of efficiency kicked in, and we turned into the parking lot. (Dratted sense of efficiency!!)

We executed our well-practiced, smooth and quick out-of-the-car-and-into-the-store manuever (seriously, people stop and smile and have even commented on how cute and cooperative the girls are with this, we do it in probably two minutes, which is impressive considering I only have two hands and they're all so little!) and found to Ashley's great dismay that there were no "fun" carts. You know, the ones with a little car on the front that little ones can ride in, or extra plastic seats in the back. (They're a bear to steer, but once you get the technique it's a lot easier than pushing two carts, which I used to do all the time when the girls were younger.) Cue fork in the road #3: take two carts, squish Ashley and Hannah together in the body of one cart while Bethany sits in the baby seat in front, or put Bethany in the baby seat, Hannah in the body of the cart, and let Ashley enjoy her recently granted privilege of standing on the outside of the cart while I push it, holding on to the top of the cart and chatting over it with her sisters? It seemed like a no-brainer, but how I wished later that I'd sprung for two carts! Ashley hopped up on the cart in front of me and held on to the handle, leaning back into me as I pushed it through the store. It was fun, a nice end to our shopping excursion. For about three minutes.

Suddenly there were no more forks in the road. Without warning, Ashley stepped back and down, off the cart. I have no idea why -- she knows she's not supposed to try to get down while the cart is moving, but if children always did what they're supposed to they wouldn't need parents. I was stepping forward as she came down, and she somehow landed, sliding backwards, onto my big toe. We could probably never recreate it if we tried. But that split second manuever taught me what people mean when they describe "blinding pain"! Everything went bright, hot white for a moment and I couldn't breathe. As the world came back, I looked down at my foot and my stomach lurched. My toenail was standing straight up, while blood gushed out all around it, down onto my cute sandals that I'd just had to wear that morning. I forced myself to look closer and found the nail was ripped off about 80% of its bed, but as I tentatively touched it to see if I could move it, I discovered it was still securely attached the rest of the 20% and I couldn't move it either up or down. Meanwhile Ashley was horrified, trying not to cry, and gasping out apology after apology while rubbing my back as I crouched on the floor, Hannah and Bethany were craning to see what all the fuss was about, and I realized that we were still in the middle of Target. Ladies and gentlemen, of all the times in my mothering career so far that I have not had enough hands, or been at a loss as to how to approach the situation, this was probably the worst.

So of course I called my knight in shining armor! Lamont said if I could meet him at the urgent care clinic, he'd take the girls to lunch while I was in there. Have I mentioned lately how much I love that man??? I hobbled back out to the car, using kleenex from my purse to try not to leave a trail of blood behind (no, I'm not exaggerating! It was dripping steadily down my toe at this point) and my poor girls were very subdued and worried as we headed to the clinic. (It's the most disturbing looking injury any of them have seen so far.) Of course it was my right foot -- driving foot! The silly toe was just steadily throbbing at this point, and I peered down at it while stopped at a red light to find that it was swelling quickly.

Thus we arrive back to the beginning of this story, at the table with a thin paper sheet, bright light shining on my toe, doctor bent over it with a needle poised to enter. I will not describe this part in detail. It hurts when I even remember. Suffice it to say that he numbed the toe, which took five tries with the needle going in at different angles, including directly into the bed of the toenail, and cut the nail the rest of the way out of my toe. In the last eventful four years of my life I have experienced considerably too many medical procedures, including three surgeries and two natural childbirths. This one ranks right up at the top with the most painful things I have ever experienced.

Right now my toe is cozily bandaged, no longer bleeding, and much less swollen. It has subsided to a quiet ache and I don't think I'll need to take any more ibuprofen. The doctor told me while it will take a while (goodbye, pretty polished nails in sandals for summer!), the nail will eventually grow back. My last remaining concern is how painful it will be to fit into my dance shoes and cavort onstage in six days! I guess it's one of those "the show must go on" situations. I am so glad that experience is over...but I can't help wishing I could go back in time and take just one different fork in the road!


  1. It's so hard to be the big, brave mummy when all you want to do is curl up in someone's lap and cry. What a traumatic time!!

    But that's some nice lemonade you made from that lemon, Jennifer! :-)

  2. Thank you! :-) Writing about it can make anything feel better!!