Jo Jo and Teddy's Excellent ER Adventure

On Thursday, Jo Jo fell out of her booster seat and cut her chin wide open, requiring a trip to the Tully Health Center where she got six stitches. It was pretty traumatic for everyone in our household when it happened. I was loading the dishwasher when I heard a loud thump and then screaming and realized my daughter was face down on the floor. There’s nothing quite like being eight months pregnant and seeing your child covered in blood. Jo Jo was shaking and screaming, and I, totally hormonal, of course started crying and screaming. Jamie tore out of our bedroom screaming “what the hell is going on?”, and then the cleaning ladies started screaming because he was only in his underwear. And Teddy was screaming because he was left strapped in his booster seat while everyone crowded around Jo Jo.

The only one who wasn’t screaming was Ivry, who was excitedly licking up remnants of oatmeal and waffles that had crashed onto the floor.

We went straight to the pediatrician, who confirmed that yes, Jo Jo needed stitches, and we needed to go to the Tully Health Center. I had told Jamie to go ahead to work, but once we realized stitches were involved he turned around to meet us there. In the meantime, once we arrived and the receptionist saw Jo Jo’s blood stained face we got shepherded into an examination room right away. A nurse and physician assistant tried to get Jo Jo to lift her chin so they could survey the damage, but she refused. “Look Jo Jo, Elmo,” I cajoled, pointing up to the ceiling. “Elmo. Elmo’s up on the ceiling.”

That got Teddy’s attention. Somehow he’d managed to open the Sesame Street cookies I had stashed into my diaper bag and was shoving handfuls of them into his mouth. “Elmo?” he echoed, wandering around the examination room. “Where Elmo?” He opened up a cabinet and started rifling through the drawers. A second later he was holding a surgical blade. “Where Elmo?” I grabbed him and snatched the blade away.

“Wow, you have your hands full,” the nurse said brightly. “And a third on the way!” I wasn’t sure if she was being sincere or that was her way of chiding me for letting my daughter tumble out of her booster seat.

“We’ll have to cocoon her, mom,” the nurse sang. “That means wrapping her arms and legs very tightly so she can’t move while we do her stitches.” It sounded benign enough, but five minutes later she and the PA were back with a huge canvas sack and what looked like a giant roll of masking tape. “Um,” I said as they hoisted my daughter back onto the table and started to tape her, straitjacket style, onto the table. Jo Jo writhed and screamed hysterically. I was feeling incredibly uncomfortable, and then I realized why: it reminded me of those horrific photos of children with Down Syndrome locked up in institutions in Eastern Europe that circulate around the Internet. There are nightmare inducing pictures of children who look a lot like my daughter chained to cribs; I was pretty sure I’d also seen ones where they were strapped down as well. “Are you sure you need to do this?” I asked hesitantly.

“Oh yes,” Florence Nightingale said brightly. “We have to do this for all our little ones.” She had what looked like a canvas mask covering my daughter’s face; all I could see was Jo Jo’s chin. She snuffled forlornly as the PA began stitching her up.

Teddy was pointing to Jo Jo and cackling. “Jo Jo!” he squealed. He didn’t seem phased at all that his sister was strapped down screaming on an exam table, and then I realized that his little toddler mind thinks this is completely normal. He’s used to being schlepped along on doctor’s appointments, where Jo Jo is always shrieking and a team of office staffers are holding her down to check her eyes or her ears or her teeth. He doesn’t seem to get that it’s traumatic for everyone else involved; to him it’s great fun. He was also clearly on a massive sugar high. “Elmo?” he queried, tugging at the PA’s coat. “Where Elmo?”

The PA didn’t bat an eyelash. “Next door napping,” he said.

Teddy stared at him for a minute and then turned to the vital signs monitor across the room. “Elmo on TV?” he said hopefully, pointing. “Elmo!” he called, diving under the exam table, right beneath his yowling sister. “Elmo! Where Elmo!” He popped back up, holding some sort of electric wire. “Elmo!” he yelped, clearly distressed.

“Mom?” the nurse said warningly.

Thankfully just then Jamie walked into the room and distracted Teddy from his mission of tearing apart the surgical room in search of a certain red furry monster. A couple minutes later, Jo Jo was stitched up, the nurse was unwrapping her, and she was shoving fistfuls of cookies into her mouth. A half hour later, we were home watching Elmo on TV, the only way I could distract Jo Jo enough to prevent her from pulling her bandages off.

Both kids crashed early for their nap, but I was still pretty wound up. But when you’re eight months pregnant, there’s only so much you can do—you can’t sneak a shot of vodka, you can’t pop a Xanax, and you can’t go out for a long stress reducing run. So when our nanny arrived I got into my car and headed to Cold Stone Creamery, where I consumed about 1,000 calories worth of chocolate ice cream, hot fudge and brownies.

Since then, Jo Jo's been in good spirits, although she did walk around for another day or so with her tongue hanging out (she bit it when she fell, and it was swollen for about 24 hours). She may end up with a slight scar under her chin, where the stitches were, but other than that no permament physical or emotional damage.

But hopefully this will be our last time visiting a hospital until baby number three arrives. I’m just not sure I can handle any more excitement.