Last Valentine’s Day was a bloody mess.

I’m not trying to pretend I’m British. Last year there was actual blood, and lots of it.

And crying.

And a trip to the ER.

And, ultimately, an anxiety/exhaustion-induced chocolate binge that would put Night-Before-the-Diet-Starts-Oprah to shame. To shame.

The story, published previously on this blog, is below. Spoiler Alert: Although the blood was plentiful, the wound itself ended up being fairly tame. But… the whole thing still bothers me.

It bothers me that no matter what I do to keep my kids safe, they can still be in danger.

It really bothers me that danger lurks at my own dining room table, of all places.

It bothers me that ever since “the incident,” when you say Valentine’s Day, I say blergh. Not because it’s a ridiculous holiday (it kind of is), but because forever more I will equate the day with a trip to the ER, and with the terrifying worry known to mothers around the world.

But. Even though there’s no undoing the association, I have to admit these things:

  • It all ended up just fine. In the grand scheme, our Valentine’s Day ER Adventure was but a flesh wound. (Not dead yet! Anyone want to name the film?)
  • My kids are of the age when any reason to eat candy is most excellent. Therefore, Valentine’s Day rules.
  • Who am I kidding? I love to eat candy. Therefore, Valentine’s Day rules.

Therefore… I’m going to enjoy the class parties with my kids, and make them heart-shaped toast on Tuesday, and give them boxes of chocolate. Because I love them, dearly, and as we’ve established more than once (today and previously), I love candy.

As for you, I wish for you a Happy Valentine’s Day 2012. I wish you love. At the very least, I wish you chocolate. The good stuff, not that creepy pink sugary filling crap.

For the new people around here, last year’s story follows.*

*Modified slightly from it’s original version. The facts and the characters remain the same, though.

***

I was feeling a bit behind on life. I felt like I was moving at warp speed, focusing on all of it – family, work, writing, blogging, all that other stuff we have to do every day – and none of it, simultaneously.

Then, around 6:15 on Monday night, Valentine’s Day 2011, my world stopped momentarily. The blog, the writing, my life and everything in between disappeared.

We were sitting at dinner, about to give the boys their little Valentine’s treats. P, who is 21 months old, was strapped into his booster seat. The seat was, of course, strapped to the dining chair. In his excitement over presents (“Prays!” he says), P pushed his feet against the table and launched straight back, like a tree falling in the forest.

And let me tell you, it does make a sound when a tree falls. It sounds like a clap of lightning followed by screaming. So much screaming.

I launched out of my own chair, Mark later noting that I looked like a cartoon version of myself, feet spinning, the air moving like a tornado around me. I bashed my arm on another chair, my hip on the table, nearly slipped, and narrowly missed falling on top of my wailing child, who was still strapped in his chair.

Mark and I reached P simultaneously. Mark undid the buckles while I scooped P, his mouth wide with a scream, into my arms. Instinctively I put my hand on the back of his head. I registered warmth and wetness.

Blood. And lots of it.

According to witnesses (okay, just Mark), my face went from Mom-Fear-Thinly-Veiled-as-Mom-Comfort to Blank to Panic in a sort of slow motion montage. No question, an ER trip was imminent.

As only parents can do, we put on our grown up pants, made our faces calm and our voices even. We rallied older brother, H, into the car and gently loaded P into his own seat.

I had this brief, bizarre internal debate with myself over strapping him into his car seat. I wanted to hold him, but I knew that I couldn’t. What if we had an accident on the way to the ER? The debate didn’t last long, but deciding to put him in a car seat made me ache, deep in my chest, down through my gut. Down into the mom soul.

My little debate with myself was another reminder that there is no end to a mother’s ability to feel… what?

To feel pain, guilt, fear, doubt.

To feel strength, courage, faith.

I wonder if I’ll ever know where to put all of these feelings, how to manage them. It’s as if they’re all careening around my heart and my mind, jockeying for my attention. Be proud! Be worried! Be joyous! Be pissed off!

P cried as I strapped him in the seat. He wanted to be held as much as I wanted to hold him. So the feelings jostled about, forcing me to use my brain and my heart together, ultimately putting his safety first and figuring out how to comfort him (and a worried big brother) in the process.

The rest of the story is standard fare, thank God.

P calmed down as soon as the car started rolling. He talked about the lights and cars we saw on the way, and I was reassured. A mother’s mind automatically goes to brain injury when her child’s head splits open. It was comforting to hear him chatter, to see him coherently take in his surroundings.

In the end, P got two staples in his head. He took them like a champ, sat up and said, “Home. Night-night.” Mark and I looked at him and said, “Yes, sir. That is exactly what we have in mind.”

And then I choked back a sob of grateful relief.

This was not our first trip to the ER. It was not even our first trip with P. Twice before – before this Valentine’s Day fiasco – I’ve felt time freeze and had fear render me temporarily blind, numb, breathless.

Twice, and now a third time, we’ve been abundantly blessed. The accidents, while scary in the moment, have been mild. Things often look way worse than they are. Yet another lesson motherhood hands us.

In my life with this little daredevil, danger magnet, I’m sure there will be more scary moments. And I will never be prepared for any of it. How could I be?

My prayer, though, is that it’s never scarier than this. That when it’s all said and done, we’ll be laughing, joking about our little Massive Headwound Harry, and saying prayers of thanksgiving that the world only stopped for a moment. And once that world started turning again, we were all whole, healthy, and together.