Tonight, I had one of the most eye-opening and scary experiences of my adulthood happen, and I didn’t know how it started, let alone how to make it stop. As a preface, my two oldest girls have their ears pierced. Caelan has had them done forever; Ellery got them done in March of this year. Caelan was a baby, so caring for them was a breeze. Ellery was two, but caring for them was easy. We made it through the original period of continuous washing, twisting, disinfecting, and praying for healing. I used to pierce ears, so I know the protocol and followed it to the letter. And we came out on the other side unscathed, and she loves her little pink flower earrings. So, it was a win-win.
She has been complaining of her ears hurting for a few weeks off and on, but nothing consistent. It mainly happens when we take off her shirts. She has relatively large ears that stick out from her head, and I always assumed it was because the shirts got stuck on her also relatively big head. Her earrings never pulled or bled from the front, which is the part that would get stuck on a shirt, so I never considered anything to be a problem with them. What I found out tonight will stick with me for a while….
I was taking off her clothes for bedtime, and her hoodie got stuck on her head. So I knelt down and peeled it off slowly, and she grabbed her right ear, shrieking. I looked, and bright red blood was dripping down her neck from the back of her ear. I freaked a bit inside; I thought maybe I had torn her ear! I didn’t know how, since I was super gentle, but it was the only explanation I could come up with given the blood and screams of bloody murder. I looked again at her ear, and I saw it. Her entire earring back was nothing but a big, brown/red, ugly scab. At first, I thought it was hair wrapped around her post, but upon inspection, I realized it was a scab. And it was bleeding. Like crazy. And she was screaming. Like a crazy person.
I immediately went into medic mommy mode, using a soft and gentle voice to explain to her what I was going to do, and I got a warm wash cloth to wash the back off. She was crying, and grabbing at me, as I gently picked the scab off of her ear while dripping saline solution onto the earring. The back of her ear was bloody, and I saw that the scab continued to the crook of her ear where it meets her head. I was so scared; I thought she had a wicked infection, until I realized it was all dried blood coated on her ear from, what I can only imagine, her earring bleeding and scabbing. Now, how my husband and I (or our families) never saw this before, I don’t know. It’s not like I don’t look at her; most days, I can’t stop looking at her. But, I never looked at her earrings after the period of healing. I’ve never changed them, and she never messed with them, so I never considered it an issue. Big mistake.
“How long have they hurt, baby?” I whispered to her.
“A long time, Mommy. I’m sorry I’m crying…”
“No. It hurts. Do not ever apologize for how you feel, baby. It’s ok. It’s not your fault, Honey. This happened because Mommy stopped looking…”
“Okay, Mommy. I love you. I know you will make me feel better.”
*this is when I almost started crying alongside her*
I kept at it, slowly rubbing her head and back while whispering sweet words of strength to her while she cried, and I got the scab off. It took some time, tears, and saline solution, but I eventually was the victor. I checked the left ear and saw a scab, not as big as the other, but a scab nonetheless. So, in a little less time with a lot less tears, I got that off as well. My poor baby was breaking my heart. She was sniffling and snorting and couldn’t catch her breath. I don’t think I have ever heard her cry that hard before. And I felt terrible. I wanted to cry so bad; my baby was in pain because I stopped looking. I stopped checking her earrings.
I can’t understand how it happened. It’s not like she ever had blood on her skin, pillows, shirts, anything. She is a strong kid, but when she hurts, we know it. I don’t even know how her earrings got this bad, but with patience, saline solution, and a boatload of Neosporin, I am going to do all I can to heal them. I don’t want to have to take them out, and she doesn’t want me to, so we agreed to work together so this never happens again.
This incident made me think of other things I have missed because I wasn’t looking. I’m a cell phone addict. I admit it. If I am sitting still, I am looking at my phone in some way. I answer emails, I text with friends, I check Facebook, I browse Zulily. I definitely have told my kids more than once to hold on while I check something on my phone. I know this. And it has to stop. No, obviously being on my phone didn’t cause Ellery’s ears to become the hot mess they were tonight, but it’s the wake up call I needed to turn this ship around. What else have I missed? Laughter, smiles, discoveries, giggles, learning experiences, teaching opportunities. And it ends tonight.
From now on, the cell phone stays out of sight. I will check it intermittently (think once every few hours), not constantly, throughout the day. It will not be on my person. If I am home, people have my home number if they need me. If it’s important, they will call my cell phone instead of texting me. I do not have to be a slave to email; 99% of the time, they are junk. So, I will only check them and respond when I actually get to my phone, not when they come through. It won’t be easy to complete, but I feel like I will feel so much freer. I want to feel untethered, and until tonight, I didn’t have the self discipline to do so. Be proud of me. As I am writing this, I am not answering whatever text came through half an hour ago. See? Discipline. Focus. Presence. I want to be a more present mom. I know that I am not all the time, and my kids deserve, and demand, better. I will be a better wife, a better mother, and a better person. And I will do it all while my cell phone does what it does while I am not looking at it: sits there, like the device it is, holding my messages, until I am free and able to respond.
Sometimes all it takes is one little reminder to give you a reality whiplash.
Tonight, I was reminded of the dangers of not looking hard enough. Or often enough.
And I promise to never stop looking again…
I want them to remember my face…
Not the sight of my face with a phone in front of it…
And they will. It’s never too late to start looking again…