How Can I Ever Relax Again After My Child’s Accident — and Brain Surgery?

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This sfahytizbe
week sort of turns out to have a theme: Dealing with life’s vast unpredictability, and all the fear, guilt and blame that tag along with this daunting fact. So here’s a note from a mom who requests our help:
Dear Free-Range Kids: 

I consider myself a fairly laid back mama, and I’m always of the opinion that bumps and bruises (and maybe broken bones) are part of growing up. But a few days ago I was holding my third child, a 9 month-old baby, as I was climbing some stairs, and I tripped and fell and she hit her head very hard- enough to fracture her skull and require immediate brain surgery.

The good news: she’s doing really well and they expect a full recovery. I’m beyond thankful and cannot believe she appears to be free of brain damage, given the injury.

But now that we’re back home I am following her around like a crazy person, so scared she’ll fall or bump her head. My heart stops every time she tries to pull up on a chair or climb something. She’s a typical active 9 month old who wants to explore everything. The surgeon who fixed her told me, in no uncertain terms, that she CANNOT get another head injury. Like, ever. He reminded me that damage from this stuff is “cumulative” and a second injury could be devastating.

How have other parents dealt with this kind of concern, post-accident? How can I feel like I’m being vigilant and keeping her away from harm without hovering 3 inches away from her for the next 18 years? I feel like all my relaxed attitudes about parenting I’ve established in the past 5 years have flown out the window, and I am going to be a nervous wreck with her forever. God forbid she wants to play sports or rock climb or something like that in the future.

Thank you so much. — Anna

I replied: Anna — first of all, so glad about the recovery. What you and your family have been through — wow. But secondly — and I think you know this– being “right there” didn’t prevent the first injury. So…so…we have a lot less control, and fate has a lot more, than we imagine.

I wonder if, after some time has passed — like even a year, perhaps — you can talk to a different surgeon about whether your child can do anything again ever. The doctor’s decree sounds both draconian and a little punitive, just seeing it here. Anyway, I can put this on my site and I’m sure we’ll both gain some new insight. Meantime, good luck on all fronts – L. 
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Life seems terrifying, after a child's accident.

Life seems terrifying, after a child’s accident.

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65 Responses to How Can I Ever Relax Again After My Child’s Accident — and Brain Surgery?

  1. Kim July 31, 2015 at 6:58 am #

    Two years ago I put my just turns two year old in the back yard while I made dinner. A minute or so later I looked out and the gate was open and he and the dog were gone. No one had told me that he had learned to open the gate while I was in the hospital having his sister 5 wks earlier and that there was now supposed to be a carabiner on it, which the yard guy had left off. I looked up and down the alley, all around the streets, banged on doors and screamed, and finally called 911. The police found him in a pond 3blocks away and behind 3 strands of barbed wire. He was waist deep in the water giggling and splashing. It took 12 mins from the time I called until they rescued him, and much of that was getting through the barbed wire. I got a stern lecture on leaving my child alone to roam and was threatened if I did not take him myself to he ER (where I was treated for shock…he was fine). I was on antidepressants until just a few months ago and could not even walk past the pond without getting hysterical. But I made myself let him play in the backyard alone, even though people would say, “I can’t believe you leave him!” Time really will heal you. It’s finally a haha moment for me. Ok, not really, but at least I don’t cry anymore. God bless!

  2. Erika July 31, 2015 at 8:07 am #

    My son got into an ant bait last week while I wasn’t home and he was with his Dad. He’s fine and did not even require an ER visit. Now I’m fighting the irrational fear of leaving him with his Dad (who I truly do not blame, he turned his back for an instant and well, we didn’t know he knew how to get into the place where it was stored) as well as letting him play in the kitchen while I cook or clean. If some small scale incident like mine can make me feel this way, I can’t imagine how this mom must feel. I agree with getting a second opinion on the “can’t let her do anything” and I wish her the best with her daughter.

  3. Dhewco July 31, 2015 at 8:26 am #

    Two the two posters who “didn’t know they could do that,” some kids are cleverer than others. I wouldn’t allow yourselves to feel any blame. It honestly could have been the first time they figured it out. You can’t predict what they’ll learn and when. Every kid is different.

  4. Elizabeth July 31, 2015 at 8:27 am #

    I would definitely get a second opinion. I’m not sure how skulls vary from other bones, but my daughter has broke a bone twice – once in her ankle and once on her leg. Both times I was told that when bones heal, they actually become stronger than they were before the break. So definitely try to limit her risk for the next few months to a year but after that, get a second opinion. It may not be as dire as the surgeon led you to believe.

  5. E July 31, 2015 at 8:31 am #

    I think the Mom needs to turn to professionals about this. Both in her own coping mechanisms and the medical concerns for her child. It’s completely appropriate to be concerned about the child at this point because they had brain surgery just days ago. All medical procedures have post procedure care that would include special precautions, both short and long term.

    There’s no way for concerned readers here to comment on the medical risks of this child. That’s something to be discussed with the child’s neurologists and pediatricians.

  6. Laura July 31, 2015 at 9:13 am #

    It’s normal and natural to be hyperviligant and worried, esp so soon after an injury- and an injury to the head! Did the doctor give the child a helmet of some sort to protect her from the normal bumps and bruises? Any advice on how to keep her safe while she explores?

    As she grows up, she will need to be mad aware of her injury and how to take care of herself. As far as sport, she may need to wear a helmet or participate in something that doesn’t have a high risk of head injuries, like swimming.

    Also, you have been through a super traumatic time. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to talk to a professional about your experience and fears.

  7. Amy July 31, 2015 at 9:35 am #

    A dear friend of mine has a daughter who suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I’ve sent this link to her and asked her to comment to try to help this mom.

    Meanwhile, here is some info about repetitive head injury syndrome (or second impact syndrome), which is what the doctor is trying to prevent:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/29/kids-concussions-advice/2424919/

    http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/92189-overview

    As a former special ed teacher, who worked with children who had TBI, I would urge this mom to listen to the doctors, and I would avoid contact sports with this child until she is given a pass from her neurologist to participate.

    The good news, though, is that the normal activities of a 9 month old rarely result in a concussion, so it’s ok to let her crawl or toddle around on her own, so long as she can’t fall from a height. If humans suffered devastating effects from every head bump and bruise, we never would have evolved to create the internet that we’re talking on now. 🙂

  8. marie July 31, 2015 at 9:40 am #

    Anna,
    Remember that your baby won’t always be 9 months old. As she gets older, you will teach her what to watch for, how to protect herself. You won’t be the only one responsible. Parents of children with severe allergies or diabetes or any of a bunch of serious health concerns deal with this concern all the time. If they can do it, you can. If their kids can learn to take care of themselves, your daughter can, too.

    I can only imagine how frightened you must have been. Glad you have a happy ending.

  9. lollipoplover July 31, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    My son was 3 months old when I fell down the stairs holding him and watched helplessly as he flew out of my arms in the air and fell on the landing below hitting his head (we had just moved in and put thick plush carpet on the stairs, thankfully).

    He cried loudly and we were fortunate that our doctor friend was over (who talked me down from my hysterics) but I still remember the fear, guilt, and overprotectiveness I felt after it happened. He was fine. I wasn’t.

    The boy is now 14. My husband still makes jokes about the time I dropped him on his head as the reason for some of his actions, but he’s an excellent student, great athlete, and loves adventure. He’s turned our backyard into an American ninja warrior training ground and is going rock climbing later this afternoon with friends. He also plays soccer, baseball, wrestling, and golf on club and school teams.

    Kids are amazingly resilient.
    Get a second opinion from another doctor and good luck!

  10. Emily Morris July 31, 2015 at 10:09 am #

    From my limited understanding of brain injuries I’d tend to agree with the doctor. But… even crazy sporting activities aren’t going to guarantee a brain injury. Your girl had a bad unlucky accident, but this doesn’t mean she’s cursed. Don’t worry about the far future and I’m sure time will help you relax.

  11. NB July 31, 2015 at 10:23 am #

    I have a child with a brain injury, a stroke leading to CP in utero. First, get an opinion from someone who is not a surgeon, but a neurologist specializing in TBI. Plus, find a doctor who doesn’t give edicts – good ones never do – but talks about risk management with you intelligently, explains the potential harms, and helps you mitigate them. It took the folks at Kennedy Krieger in Baltimore to give us that – both Children’s in DC and Hopkins itself (KKI is affiliated) were beyond useless in helping our daughter actually live up to her full potential. Places that specialize in helping kids with TBI live full lives have strategies to help you cope and help kids be kids.

    Second, there is sometimes a very real risk for a period of time. The magic number I was given for my now 3 year old is 5.

    Third, you have to be able to manage risk, and it is going to be different. Right now, my husband and I are arguing with ourselves about whether to start tennis for the 3 year old (she wants to play with her brother). That risk is probably manageable, but yeah, I’m terrified about a ball hitting her head. She’s not going to play t-ball until she’s 5 and gets an all clear.

    Fourth, you need a plan. When my daughter gets a head bump, we have a protocol. All caregivers and preschool knows this. It empowers everyone, and helps us keep her safe.

    Fifth, you need to forgive yourself. For years I have been wondering what I did wrong, what I could have done to prevent my daughter’s injury. The experience – the intense therapy that nearly bankrupted us so she could be close to normal, my essentially giving up my career, the logistics – nearly tore our family apart, and I thought it was all my fault. But sometimes bad things happen, and it’s no one’s fault. It just *is* and accepting that is so incredibly hard.

    Sixth, free range is going to look different for different kids. And that’s okay. You can still be an empowering, laid back parent.

  12. sarah July 31, 2015 at 10:30 am #

    Following the advice of your daughter’s brain surgeon is COMPLETELY appropriate and has nothing to do with free-range or not. Please ignore anyone here who is telling you to be cavalier about another future head injury. She had a skull fracture and you are being a good mom to be extra careful about bumps and falls — especially while she is healing!! Some of these other posters are absolutely ridiculous and clearly are thinking more about their agenda than her well being.

    Meanwhile just because you couldn’t prevent the first injury does not mean that you just throw all caution to the wind about the future. You should consult the surgeon or her pediatrician about what precautions make sense during the toddler years when kids are unstable and especially prone to falls onto their heads! For example they might recommend that she wear one of those padded helmets for a period of time while she is healing. Then in the future I think it is absolutely appropriate that you limit certain sports —- she has a MEDICAL CONDITION that requires it! But this just means careful choices — not locking in a padded room. For example, no to football, yes to tennis! No to rock climbing, yes to swimming. It’s just about finding a reasonable balance.

    If you find your anxiety is through the roof, by all means get counseling! But that should not keep you from feeling very entitled to make prudent choices for her well-being just like you would if she had any illness or health condition that needed special care.

  13. Derek M July 31, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    This was a traumatic experience for more than just the baby. There is no shame in talking to someone about it. Kudos for reaching out here and I’m very glad that your child is ok.

  14. Emily Morris July 31, 2015 at 10:57 am #

    I’m with sarah and others: no shame in considering her medical situation. That only becomes a problem when you prevent activities that just don’t sensibly apply to her medical condition.

    I’m sure you’ll find the right balance in time.

  15. Anna July 31, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    This is a tough one. I agree with those who suggest checking back with the neurosurgeon/neurologist (or a second one) in a year or two, to see whether she remains as fragile then. My husband was told to wear a back brace and do pretty much nothing active when his spinal tumors were first detected – they said his vertebrae were “like eggshells” and a fall could cause paralysis and incontinence – but when we followed up a couple of months later with the back expert, he advised resuming normal activity up to and including biking, saying, “You know, I don’t really think there was any good reason to make you wear that back brace except that we doctors feel like we’re on the safe side when we do something.”

    In the meantime, I don’t see why you can let her do normal baby stuff. Babies and toddlers doing their normal things just aren’t that likely to give themselves head trauma. After all, the injury was caused by an adult carrying her, not by the baby crawling or toddling on her own.

    Both with my son and friends’ kids anecdotally, a lot of the more serious falls and injuries young children suffer happen with an adult right there, often carrying or helping the child, not a child crawling/walking/playing on his own.

  16. Anna July 31, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    Oops – I meant “I don’t see why you CAN’T let her do normal baby stuff.”

  17. meg July 31, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    I also think following your surgeon’s advice is good – but also that the advice needs to be put into its proper perspective. The surgeon isn’t saying that if the child ever bumps her head again she’s going to have a traumatic damage, just that proper precautions need to be taken to prevent another serious head injury. Generally, taking the same precautions the rest of us take – wearing a helmet when riding a bike, etc. – are going to do the trick. There will be some activities you’ll have to discourage or forbid, but it doesn’t mean she’ll never be able to do anything ever again.

    When we were visiting a friend’s backyard pool when my brother was 5 years old, he thought it was funny to put an eye mask over a pair of goggles and was walking over to show my mother when he walked right off the edge of the deck. (About 5 feet high; the friends hadn’t finished putting the railing up yet but it didn’t seem like a big deal until that moment.) The goggles & mask obstructed his vision & he couldn’t see “down” and had no idea the deck was ending where it was. He didn’t hit his head at all – landed on his feet – but the fall caused a subdural hematoma and he needed brain surgery. My mother was given the same cautions you were, and she wouldn’t allow him to play contact sports because of the higher risk of head injury. Otherwise, he grew up just like any other kid – riding bikes, climbing trees, playing Little League, rollerblading. For the last 15 years or so he & a bunch of his high school buddies have gotten together the day after Thanksgiving for a game of touch football.

    The point of my story is that yes, you will have to take precautions, and you’ll probably have to be more vigilant than other parents (no giving in to the kid who is complaining that she doesn’t like wearing a helmet while biking, for example). We all teach our children how to make good decisions to keep themselves safe; your lessons will have the added dimension of urgency, and she will need to understand that for her it’s more than a hypothetical “If you got a concussion it could cause problems.” But you’re not going to have to trail her for the rest of her life to make sure she doesn’t get hurt. You’ll just have to teach her well, be vigilant until she is old enough to understand the need to protect herself, and then cross your fingers and hope the lessons take. (Which, now that I think of it, is pretty much like everything else in parenting, isn’t it?)

  18. Tamara July 31, 2015 at 11:32 am #

    Anna: I agree as well with the advice to check back with the doctor – or perhaps a different doctor – in a few years. “Ever” sounds like a rash statement- how could they know now.

    I had a similar incident when by babe was a few months old. I was carrying her in a sling facing me and I fell forward onto the cement, her head the first thing to reach the ground. One of the most intense fear filled moments of my life. My child was fortunately fine and even so I hovered and was extra vigilant for a very long time afterwards. Time and seeing how she really really is ok is the only thing that made it easier. I

  19. Foundations In Nature July 31, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    I can’t imagine how you must be feeling. Never getting another head injury because they are cumulative in effect is true in many regards, however, new science is demonstrating more and more that the brain is an amazingly plastic and unpredictable thing. Check out this great resource: “The Brain That Changes Itself”by Norman Doidge. Help your child’s proprioceptive and vestibular development become highly developed and she will have the best chance at protecting herself.

  20. anonymous mom July 31, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    I agree that being extra cautious right now is NOT “anti-free range” or anything to be cavalier about. It does seem that talking to a neurologist who can give you some specifics would be very helpful in figuring out safe and appropriate limits, so that you aren’t constantly wondering whether something she’s doing could or could not lead to a brain injury.

    And it seems like it would also help you make choices about the future. If you get a second opinion and they agree that she can never get another head injury, then that probably will limit things like the sports she can participate in, but that’s not the end of the world. If the second opinion indicates that once this is healed up, she can go on with normal activities and never think about it again, then that’s good to know, too. What’s important, I think, is that you make decisions based on knowledge, not fear. Limiting your child’s activities or supervising them closely because you have been directly told by a doctor that doing so is necessary for your child’s safety is VERY different than limiting what your child does based on fear.

    This close after the accident, which sounds incredibly scary, I’d cut yourself some slack about being anxious. If you find that in a couple of months the anxiety hasn’t lessened, it might be worth it to talk to a professional who can help you separate healthy concern given the situation from unhelpful and unhealthy anxiety.

  21. anonymous mom July 31, 2015 at 12:31 pm #

    Just to add, I think meg’s advice is wise. It sounds like you want to avoid another serious head injury, not every bump. That’s where I think talking to the surgeon or another neurologist would be really helpful for you, because they could probably give you some peace of mind about accidents that are not at all likely to cause problems (her falling while learning to walk) and accidents that could (falling off a bike without a helmet).

    Babies fall a lot! Any decent doctor will understand your concerns and have time to sit down with you and discuss what situations to avoid and how to make her environment safer.

  22. Kimberly July 31, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    My advice is going to be different then the rest, not because I or one of my kids have experienced a traumatic incident but for another reason.

    Up until 3 years ago I was a kick ass girl. Very competitive and stubborn. I hung out with mostly guys so I did a lot of what they did. If it was hard, or scary, I was game for it. I joined the army as a medic and became even more “hard core” given the atmosphere. I was determined to be just as good as the guys. I volunteered for most duties, started taking martial arts, and was a better shot than many. It worked. Even as a girl, I was one of the few that the guys felt comfortable watching their six.

    As a result, I’ve raised both of my kids in the same way.

    Then I went to the ER because I had hurt my ribs while out drinking. It was an old injury from basic training that would be exacerbated from time to time. The doctor took the obligatory x-ray and confirmed my suspicion, then dropped the hammer.

    I had a large mass in my chest. A few days later I was officially diagnosed with lymphoma. They were surprised that I had no symptoms, and one doctor basically said that I had been ignoring the symptoms.

    I thought they’d made a mistake and told them so. I was a person who didn’t get sick. No flu, a few colds, I didn’t even have allergies. But I started treatment and six months later I was in remission. Everyone was surprised that not only did I respond super well but aside from the hair loss, I didn’t suffer any of the known side effects to the treatment.

    The odds of the cancer coming back is small. Very small. But every time I go in for checks, I’m a nervous wreck. Everyone I know says all of the things that people say: how strong, how fortunate, how proud. I see it as my body failing me.

    If the cancer were to come back, I don’t know if I would tell anyone this time around. I hated, and still do hate, the looks and the sympathy and the concern. I hated having one or both of my parents coming with me to Doctor appointments and treatment.

    Yes, I’m different than a lot of girls out there, and even the boys. But the point I’m trying to make is that not only does life throw shitty things your way, it shouldn’t change who you are. I’ve struggled trying to get back to who I was before – the person who did what she wanted when she wanted, the tougher the better. When something happens its important to try to get past it and go back to what is normal, whatever that may be. Having people watching your every move in concern is extremely detrimental and can have even longer lasting effects. It changes who you are.

    My parents keep telling me that it’s not weakness having cancer, it’s proof of how strong I really am. And while I’m working at trying to see it their way, I’m not there yet. The fact that children are young and resilient is a good thing. They will forget and parents shouldn’t make the mistake of reminding them of their close call if it’s not warranted because it will change who they are.

  23. Belinda Goldman July 31, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    I’m no doctor but it sounds to me as if your doctor was being judgmental and unhelpful. If she’s suffered no long lasting damage then I don’t see how she can be any more susceptible to future brain injury than anyone else. However I’m sure any brain surgeons on here will put me right if I’m wrong. I agree completely with Lenore though. Accidents happen and even extreme vigilance can’t always prevent them as you’ve found yourself. I feel for you though and know how terrifying it must be to let your daughter out of your sight at the moment. Hopefully your anxiety will decrease over time. Good luck!

  24. Beth July 31, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

    I don’t think ANYONE was being cavalier in any way.

  25. Steve July 31, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    Talk to several doctors about your child’s condition. But remember, doctors are often fearmongers. Also, patients internalize negative statements made by doctors and then later suffer the effects of The Nocebo effect.

    Read about The Starfield Report, so you won’t trust the medical establishment more than they deserve to be trusted.

    https://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2009/12/09/an-exclusive-interview-with-dr-barbara-starfield-medically-caused-death-in-america/

  26. Richard July 31, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    I’ve worked in a rehab center specializing in traumatic brain injuries. Please tell the woman with the child who suffered the brain injury to consult a Neuropsychologist that understands brain injuries. Neurosurgeons are not trained nor necessarily aware of the effects of TBI’s. They are great at the repair business but not so much the aftermath. If she seems to have a full recovery and no signs of brain damage she should not have to have any extraordinary vigilance. Consult the proper professional.

  27. Alanna July 31, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

    This mom might consider putting a helmet on her child until she gets through the toddling stage. Once through that stage she would be less likely to fall and hit her head. Mom could then make a decision about whether or not the child should continue to wear it.

  28. MomOf8 July 31, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

    My 7 month old baby got a skull fracture. The doctor said that she MUST NOT get another head bump of any sort for at least a year. Two days later, my toddler ran past where she was sitting on the floor and knocked her over and she hit her head. She almost passed out from the pain, had a hard time catching her breath. But that was the only side affect. She’s now 10 years old and completely fine. And by the way, I was within a few feet of her both times. So. Take a deep breath, ask God for strength and get more details regarding how much risk there really is to her. I don’t want to downplay it but we all know that doctors can make sweeping statements to make absolutely sure there’s no risk. They get sued all the time.

  29. Kelly Valenzuela July 31, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    I feel Anna’s pain, in a bit of a different way though. Back in 2007, I fell on ice and broke my leg in two places. It took over a year to heal and to this day, if I have to walk over ice, I have anxiety. It’s much less so now than it was after my accident though, and each year, I become more brave.

    I think it’s completely normal to have anxiety after trauma. If you feel that your trauma is getting the better of you, see a family therapist or read a book about coping techniques. Sometimes just taking deep breaths and knowing that this too shall pass is all it takes.

    I’m so glad your daughter is recovering, and I hope you both have many happy, healthy years together! =)

  30. Tamara July 31, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    Kimberly,
    I love your attitude. I hope you are back to doing what you want, when you want, without worry.

    We must remember that life is to be enjoyed. We just can’t live in fear every day.

  31. SOA July 31, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    I would keep her in the baby helmet for falls honestly. I know that normally those things are overkill but in her case, its needed and a good idea. She still needs to learn to walk and pull up etc and will fall but with the helmet you can relax a bit and she is protected.

    I don’t think anyone would blame you since she can’t have another head injury.
    I am sorry that happened to you guys. How awful. Bless her heart.

  32. Anna July 31, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    “Please tell the woman with the child who suffered the brain injury to consult a Neuropsychologist that understands brain injuries. Neurosurgeons are not trained nor necessarily aware of the effects of TBI’s. They are great at the repair business but not so much the aftermath.”

    This is a very good point – physicians generally have more perspective and experience than surgeons. Surgeons tend to be overly focused on the minutes the patient is under the knife and too little on long-term health – after all, they seldom see the patient again for more than a brief follow-up visit. (And, dare I say it? An awful lot of them have a touch of god-complex.)

  33. A reader July 31, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    Concussions are serious, and yes, damage can absolutely be cumulative, though only within a certain time frame. I would ask the doctor (or maybe a different doctor) to clarify. I can imagine the need to be cautious for a year, maybe two if it was a really bad injury, but it shouldn’t require life-long vigilance. Definitely talk to the doctor again and ask for specifics. Your baby may in fact need one of those helmets that we all like to make fun of for awhile (I guess I will try not to judge anymore next time I see a kid with one of those. Maybe they’re recovering from TBI! On second thought, I can’t imagine that every single kid I see with them is recovering from a major TBI…)

  34. theresa hall July 31, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    one get another doc take on this and two until further notice she has to wear a helmet. hopefully that will keep her in one piece.

  35. Kevin July 31, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    My cousin fell from a barn loft onto concrete as a small child and split his head open and spent a long time in the hospital. A few years later he smashed his head into the wall running through the house. He is now in his twenties, works for me as a computer programmer, and leads a healthy active lifestyle. Kids bounce back. My uncle was right with him when he fell and felt terrible, but he never held him back from riding his bike, being a wrestler in high school, wrestling a bull in college, water skiing, or any other activity he wanted to do. It may be hard, but while you can be careful and do things like make her wear a helmet while biking in a few years, you can’t stop her from being a kid and living a full, active lifestyle. And don’t be too hard on yourself for it.

  36. fedupwith it July 31, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    I am glad the baby is doing well but I am also surprised that this mom didn’t have CPS grilling her in the hospital and implying that this was done on purpose. You know that in their eyes there is no such thing as an accident. Don’t be surprised if they show up at the door sometime soon. Be prepared with a lawyer on retainer and don’t talk to them with out that lawyer present.

  37. The Other Mandy July 31, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    Oh, and by the way, when my cousin was about 8 months, he jumped over his dad’s shoulder and whacked his head on the handle of the oven drawer (so, most of the way down). ER visit, skull fracture, and a helmet definitely made it a Christmas to remember. We joke about it now– he’s a chef running a successful restaurant. He turned out just fine– and he definitely was NOT bubble-wrapped growing up.

  38. JR July 31, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

    While brain injuries ARE cumulative, they are only seriously cumulative within a certain time frame – basically when your body’s cleanup crew can’t take care of the damage fast enough before the second one comes along.

    That’s why high school athletes with a concussion are required to sit out a couple games, but aren’t required to stop playing sports for life. I speak from experience – if head injuries lead to cumulative brain trauma over a lifetime, I’d be in the remedial classes, but I’m not. Especially little kids. Their brains are so plastic that she’ll probably just bounce back, good as new

    In fact, my mom says that when I was little, I fell down the escalator at a department store. I didn’t require surgery or anything, but my mom was more scared than I was. I loved escalators as a kid, and still do, but she freaked out every time I got on one until I was like 10.
    .
    Anyway, a couple other posters made the good point that the fall was from a height quite a bit taller than the baby would normally be at, especially at nine months. Scooting around at child speed and face-planting the couch cushion or the dog doesn’t quit have the same effect as falling from chest-height on an adult.

    So while you’d certainly want to supervise her when she’s at a significant height (for a bay), I don’t think there’s any need to supervise her every scoot and crawl. Get a second opinion regarding when the acute danger will pass, and then, as much as possible, let your kid be a kid.

  39. JR July 31, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    *for a baby
    not “bay”

  40. James Pollock July 31, 2015 at 7:50 pm #

    “I am also surprised that this mom didn’t have CPS grilling her in the hospital and implying that this was done on purpose. You know that in their eyes there is no such thing as an accident. Don’t be surprised if they show up at the door sometime soon. Be prepared with a lawyer on retainer and don’t talk to them with out that lawyer present.”

    Worst-first.

  41. Jenny Islander July 31, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

    OT: So I’m a little nervous. I asked my son whether he wanted to come in to the credit union with me today or stay in the car with the window open and the engine off. He decided to stay in the car. I could walk half a dozen steps from the teller window to see him out there, and I was in and out in 5 to 7 minutes. When I came out, a guy in a car that had parked next to ours was looking at his smart phone–which had a camera on the back, which was pointed directly at me. He looked up, then down at the phone, then up, then down again. My son had moved to the front passenger seat, which he never gets to sit in because he’s too little. He thought it was hilarious that I had found him there. He asked me why he never gets to sit there “for real,” and I explained about air bags while he moved back to his booster seat and buckled himself in. The guy in the car next to me got out and went into the credit union.

    It’s been hours, and so far nobody has contacted me. But if a cop does show up at my doorstep this afternoon, I’ll ask him if the reporting party drives a red, white, and blue Dodge Neon.

  42. olympia July 31, 2015 at 9:11 pm #

    I agree with the suggestions to consult a neuropsychologist- I have to say, as pure and evidence-based as his words may have been, I am irked by your surgeon’s delivery. Also agree that stuff that is laughable with kids who haven’t required brain surgery makes sense for you; a helmet could give you some invaluable piece of mind, while the wound is fresh. Also wondering: just how common IS a concussion in childhood? I know I, despite going helmetless while bike riding, tree climbing, etc., never had a head injury. It’s true I went without contact sports, though. Are childhood concussions that common?

  43. James Pollock July 31, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    “Are childhood concussions that common?”
    It’s hard to tell. It’s quite possible that they are, and many or even most go undiagnosed. I had one in my mid-teens, and another in my late-teens, but never sought medical treatment for either one. My mom wouldn’t let me play on the school’s football team, so we played pickup games (unpadded), but I was never injured while playing football. I hyperextended a knee playing soccer, and sprained a foot running track.

  44. Shauna July 31, 2015 at 11:58 pm #

    Dear Worried Mom,

    I had brain surgery when I was 16. It was not from all the sports I played or my rock climbing or the stunts I did skateboarding and biking. I had a cyst grow in my head out of no where. I spent almost a year with 24/7 migraines, tactile issues (I still cannot walk on hardwood floors or touch certain things), and fatigue among other ailments from the cyst. In short, after about 20 doctors and hundreds of meds, my parents and I were given the option of brain surgery or if we didn’t it would likely grow, hit my brain stem and I would die.

    My parents were so conflicted, but I was not. I told them that I would rather die trying to get my life back than die after months of pain and just existing. I had the surgery and was told I could never get hit on the quarter sized spot at the top back of my head. It is now like a baby’s fontenel (sp?). No major activities and no PE for a year.

    My mom was like you. She was worried if I did anything active I would do irreparable damage or die. I often had to repeat myself: I WOULD RATHER DIE TRYING TO LIVE THAN JUST EXIST!

    Yes I was 16. I had my own mind then and despite my moms hovering and rules…very active. I realize your child is small and young. But having lived in nearly the same circumstances with the same doctors advice, I can tell you that caging me with her fears only made me more determined to live my life.

    And 10 years later, I’m glad I did. I fought with my mom to take karate lessons exactly 1yr after surgery. I spared with my classmates with head gear an all. Bc I learned to defend myself, I was able to fend off the senior ,who had raped me not long after my surgery when I was weak, from doing it again and from hurting my younger brother. I took his knife from him an disabled him while I sent my brother to get help. Had I stayed in my moms fearful wishes, I may have been raped again or dead.

    I also ended up having knee surgery the next year Cuz a kid was running in the hall and hit me too hard, by accident, that it tore my meniscus. I’ve had two more to fix it since. No luck. I am disabled with a service dog that I trained myself.

    I can’t play the sports I once loved bc of my knee. But I can walk again. I have defended myself from a guy trying to get me in a parking lot on a bad side of town. I played sports for one more year after brain surgery b4 the knee surgery and I don’t regret in in the least.

    I am a happily married dog trainer helping pet owners train their dogs and training service dogs for the disabled. I love my life and I miss my sports. I need my husbands help and my service dog, but I live life to the fullest I can. I even went zip lining through trees with my husband last year.

    I know this is a long letter…and I can’t tell you if you’ll have an active kid or a game boy like my younger brother. But I hope I’ve let you know from a child to now an adult, that if my knee gives out tomorrow and I fall down the stairs (again) and hit my head and die. I died happy bc I LIVED. yes I wore helmets and even had to buy more expensive or less popular ones to protect my scar, but that was being safe while doing things I loved. I hope you can find it in your heart to teach your child about her injury and how to protect it, even when kids make fun of her helmet, but to realize that your fear may prevent her from learning life lessons and being able to support herself, if you can’t rein it in. I hope my experience helps you and your child. My mom was too fearful and I rebelled. My rebellion could have cost me my life bc I was too busy trying to break free of her chains to wear helmets when I should have. Thankfully I didn’t die and I have better judgement now. No matter what you do your child will still love u like I love my mom. I hope you can find the strength to trust your child (age appropriately) bc you will never be able to trust the world.

  45. MichelleB August 1, 2015 at 12:41 am #

    That has to be SO scary! I agree with everyone else who said to talk to the doctor again. I’d go in with “I know that she won’t be able to play contact sports, but what do I do while she’s learning to walk.” Maybe a helmet of some sort is the right choice — ask the doctor. And take it one step at a time. While she’s still a toddler, you don’t have to worry about what happens years later on the playground.

    I would take a look around the house and see what’s likely to cause bumps and bruises. We had a coffee table and a toybox that box resulted in emergency room visits after little ones fell into them. They’re gone now, but probably should have been gone sooner. (I’m NOT recommending that everyone ditch their furniture, but in this case it might be something to consider.)

  46. Colleen August 1, 2015 at 2:48 am #

    A friend read your blog post and suggested I reply, giving you some encouragement to help get you through this trying time. I have 7 children ranging from 1 month to 14 years old. When my now 8 year old daughter was 4 years old, she was knocked down by a store employee (within arms reach of me and the store shopping cart), hit her head and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Though she didn’t require surgery, she received the same dreadful diagnosis of avoiding a second head injury at all cost. It can be tough, especially with a physically adept child who loves to run, play, try new things (gymnastics, softball, etc.). We’re wading our way through these new experiences with balanced caution. At times I wish I could bubble wrap her and let go explore and experience without worry, as I loved growing up free range. However, considering the importance of balancing her safety and personal development, I’ve found ways to make safety fun (more tolerable). She wears a stylish helmet (that has several different hat coverings that make it look less like a helmet) when needed (sometimes at school and sports as need was demonstrated). She’s learning her own safety limits and is rewarded with more personal choices and freedoms as she demonstrates her own safety skills/choices as she matures. She understands and has internalized the importance of avoiding a second injury. The schools have been great in educating her peers and students throughout the school about head injuries, removing the stigma associated with why my daughter needs to be safe and modify some activities accordingly. It’s been an enlightening experience for all who know her. You’ll get through this and find ways of balancing safety with free-range parenting. It will be different, for sure. Sometimes difficulties can be challenging, but the best advice I can give you is to challenge others to find ways to make everyday experiences safe for your child to experience. Not everything has to be as risky to be experienced. Life can be just as rewarding and creativity grows from challenges such as these. Best of luck! If I can ever help or even just lend an ear, let me know.

  47. Similo August 1, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    I have no experience with this or real medical advice, but I want to say 1- don’t beat yourself up, you’re entitled to your feelings of guilt, but this kind of thing happens; 2- what about those little helmets for babies with flat heads? Can you try one of those for a while.

  48. Mari August 1, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    I can only speak for myself, but I think the surgeon may be over-egging it a bit. I had two serious head injuries from falling down the steps (crashing through a gate basically and climbing over it on another occasion) under aged 2. I also got thrown from a bike at age 6 and had a seizure, which was mischaracterised at the time as an asthma attack. I’m in my early forties and have had no adverse consequences many years on, except that I got dq’ed from military flight training and am mildly face-blind (though that could be from being born very prematurely in the 1970s). I know three people with plates in their skulls from being kicked by horses, hitting their heads hard on canoes, etc. and they were fine too. One guy who was kicked by the horse claims it gave him learning difficulties (attention deficit disorder) but since we met at an Ivy League school as undergrads, I don’t really rate that. For myself, I have a PhD and teach at a globally elite university, so I can’t really say I suffered from my own experiences with this, though they scared the hell out of my parents at the time.

  49. Julie August 1, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

    My middle child fell out of a first floor window when he was 22 months old (combination of contributing circumstances – friends staying who opened their bedroom window, not realising safety catch was broken, toddler who loved to climb being left to play in room with friends daughter for 5 minutes). He had four hairline fractures and a fractured wrist and I was instructed not to “let him” fall over – I’m still not sure how you stop a toddler falling over and have to say I wasn’t very successful at stopping him. I did hover over him for a few weeks, but over time I learned to relax. Since then he’s had a concussion from falling from a bouncy castle and brings at least one bumped head slip home from school every week. He’s 7 now and jokes that he has the strongest head in the world because it’s had so many bumps. It took a while but I eventually learned to realise that if he could survive such a big fall, the little trips and falls wouldn’t hurt him (but I do remind him to be nice to his head as he only has one).

  50. Joan August 1, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    There are the people who think everyone is overreacting, “helicopter” patents and there are the free range parents. The free range parents are those who have been lucky to avoid accidents and the more aware parents are the ones who realize just how delicate life actually is.

  51. olympia August 1, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

    Mari- “Over egging” is a great way to put it. Although, as you said, it’s just a suspicion that’s the case, in my experience doctors can be pretty one-sided in their thinking, not to mention just plain bad with communication (how can people that smart not know how to discuss?!). Brain injuries are dead serious- your brain is who you are; the rest of our bodies are just accessories. But obsessive worry is immensely damaging as well.

  52. Sara A. August 2, 2015 at 12:25 am #

    When my daughter was 10 months old I was heating up lunch and put her serving of chili on the table to cool while I got mine ready. I had my back turned for a second and she pulled it onto her lap. She started screaming and crying in a way that I’d never heard before. I got her into the kitchen sink and ran cold water over her until she calmed down a bit and then rushed her into the bedroom to get her cleaned up and in dry clothes. I gave her a dose of baby tylenol and got her ready to go. Then I rushed her off to the doctor’s office. I didn’t know much about burns at the time, but knowing then what I know now I still would choose the doctor over the hospital. It took us about 45 minutes to get there and then it took us another 45 minutes to be seen. In that time her burns had developed blisters, but miraculously she wasn’t too upset. Honestly, the recovery was worse than the initial burns. They were on her upper thighs so the diaper brushed against them when we changed her. She fought hard against dressing changes and diaper changes. Somehow we made it through though it took a few months for her to stop fighting diaper changes and she’s still got a scar on her inner thigh.

    When something happens to your baby it’s really easy to blame yourself and get hyper-vigilant. The only thing I could really do was make sure that hot things are out of reach and to impress on her that the stove is a “no zone.” I haven’t made that chili recipe since, though, even though it was pretty good. We had a ton of leftovers that we just had to throw out because no one could bear to eat it. I think what you’re feeling right now is really normal… we went through a period where the only things I’d give my daughter were room temperature or colder. That doctor sounds like a real dick– as if you weren’t upset enough! I’d follow up with another doctor about that dire prediction because it’s pretty impossible to keep babies/kids from hitting their heads.

  53. Barry Lederman August 2, 2015 at 1:06 am #

    In 1991 our 3 month old baby boy died of SIDS. We eventually had more children and our pediatrician asked us if we wanted to get a baby monitor. We declined. We felt that it would make us more crazy and did not want the fear to consume our lives. This doesn’t mean that to this day I whenever I see one of my kids asleep I don’t pause to see if he/she is breathing. It doesn’t mean our lives were not profoundly changed forever. It means that we did not want the immensity of emotion to overwhelm and destroy our lives.

    Our case is very different than yours Anna in that having a SIDS baby does not make it more likely to have another SIDS baby. My point to you is; yes you need to be smart, safe and vigilant, but you do not want the fear/grief/guilt to turn you into a basket case.

  54. hineata August 2, 2015 at 1:31 am #

    @Joan – no doubt you’re just trolling, but I did have to laugh at your comment. As a free ranger, which by the way is just what thousands of years and most cultures have simply called parent, my children have certainly had their share of accidents. One has a semi-serious and rather bizarre medical condition, and another had his kidneys pack up at Christmas (only temporarily, thank the good Lord). I know how precious life is, thank you all the same. I also know it has to be LIVED.

    What a silly, silly thing to imply…that only helicopter parents understand how precious life is.

  55. hineata August 2, 2015 at 1:36 am #

    @Anna – you poor thing! It is scary when something like this happens to your baby. You do need to follow the advice of doctors, which of course we here are not, but I agree with others that 2nd opinions are a good idea, even just to get a more balanced view of what the future holds. In our many years of ins and outs of doctors, I have certainly met some that were better at ‘the big picture’ than others. Some simply have a better bedside manner.

    And a helmet might be a great idea….. :-).

  56. James Pollock August 2, 2015 at 1:47 am #

    Once upon a time, when soda still came from the grocery store in glass bottles, one got loose from the grocery bags piled in the back of the car. It rolled around a lot as the car went around curves and accelerated and decelerated. In the driveway at home, as soon as the hatch door was opened, the bottle rolled out, dropped to the driveway, and exploded into shards, one of which embedded itself in my 3-year-old sister’s leg. When she started screaming, at first everyone thought that she’d been scared by the loud noise; it took a moment to notice that she had a triangular piece of glass, about 2 inches on a side, stuck in her leg just below the knee. I got left at home with a pile of groceries to put away while mom took her to the doctor’s (or maybe the emergency room… this was 40 years ago, which seems odd since my sister is 29.)

    The kicker? My mom was holding my sister the whole time.

  57. What, even? August 2, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    “Getting your bell rung” is technically a concussion. I know that much soooo….

  58. Mari August 2, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

    One thing I would definitely do in your shoes though is to enrol your child as soon as possible in tumbling or judo. My parents did that, and judo taught me how to fall and to tuck my head. It ended up being protective against head injuries later and made me much more confident.

  59. Amy August 2, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

    My situation is not exactly the same but I wanted to share because now I understand how our experiences can cause doubt in our parenting decisions where they did not exist before. I have always been free range and I always thought it silly to constantly worry about rarities. The problem came in when things that are unlikely to happen do. Everybody knows that anything can happen, but you don’t think they can happen to you. I’ve never had an issue giving my children independence. Sure I had that natural worry about what could happen, but that was always overruled by the knowledge that those things probably wouldn’t happen and the need to raise children that are healthy.

    Earlier this year though, my husband was murdered in a robbery gone bad. I do live in a high crime city, but never feared that anything so tragic would happen to us as we do not put ourselves in what I would consider to be dangerous situations (not talking about the imagined dangers that many people have), and I genuinely believe that most people are good and that the likelihood that these things would happen was rare. Of course, however unlikely, anything could happen to anybody at any time and this time it happened to my family.

    Now, even though I still believe in the free range movement and that it is a healthy way to raise a family, it is harder to apply it to mine. Since this happened, I am afraid that something bad will happen to my children if I were to let them walk alone or leave them at home for a brief time. It is a daily struggle between whether I am putting them at risk by letting them be independent or whether they are suffering more damage from hovering.

    I don’t know the answer, but wanted to share because I understand how the unexpected can throw us for a loop and the battle that goes on in our heads when it comes to making the right parenting decisions. I am hoping, for both of us, the nervousness will ease and we can feel confident in our decisions.

  60. MI Dawn August 2, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

    As a nurse (though not neurosurgical), I wanted to comment.

    First, Mom – accidents happen. And they can take a LONG time to recover from, mentally. You will worry about your baby for a long time.

    Second, I agree with the comments that recommend you see a neurologist – preferably a pediatric one – who can give you guidelines, based on the operative report and findings (which the MD can interpret for you) as to how to deal with a growing, happily active baby.

    A helmet may not be a bad idea, but, as has been pointed out before, most infants and toddlers, when they fall, don’t strike their heads hard. They tend to land on their (well-diaper-padded) butts. While I’m not a huge “baby-proofer” fan, in your case, it might make sense, for a while, to pad any hard edges of furniture (more to give everyone peace of mind, than anything else!)

    Babies are very resilient, but guidelines will give everyone some peace of mind. The surgeon sounds like he was over-reacting.

  61. hineata August 3, 2015 at 3:23 am #

    @Amy – good heavens, that’s awful! My heart goes out to you. Being thrown for a loop may be the understatement of the century. ..

    Nothing else to say, except bless you as you take the time you need to work back to a new ‘normal’.

  62. Papilio August 3, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    It gets boring, but I agree with the rest about seeing a second doctor, who’s specialized in the aftermath of this kind of injury in young children. I imagine the brain will need a while to recover from this, like any part of the body needs time to heal, but after that…? Your child is only 9 months old, and babies’ brains are incredibly flexibel. There are so many brain cells, so many connections between them – so many possible alternatives if the brain is injured – that a full recovery wouldn’t surprise me at all. Keep breathing! 🙂

  63. Joan August 3, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    @hineata, no, I’m a survivor of horrific things that happened to me as a free range child. Parents that mock at other peoples misfortunes because some parents keep a shorter leash are the ones “trolling” and harassing them is my point.

    @Amy, I’m sorry that you went through that. I have a good friend who lost her husband in a robbery, one who lost brother hit by car, a friend who was murdered in domestic violence, friends who’s kids drowned, countless friends who were raped or molested as children, friend who was badly burned in fire camping with other teens. It is absolutely horrible to know so many astonishing and terrible scenarios and trust that everything is going to be okay. To have people like on this page laugh and belittle your concerns is immature and ignorant. Sure, all these things are “not common”, yet look around and we realize yes they are common they happen every single day. Of course people who never experience tragedy are flippant with us – they’ve had no skin in the game. This is why Ignorance Is Bliss. Once we’ve been gutted, we don’t regain that trust ever again. I send you much empathy and compassion.

  64. hineata August 4, 2015 at 12:39 am #

    @Joan – your assertion that those of us who do not cling to our children in a paranoid fashion do not value life is disgusting. I assume you didn’t actually read what I wrote.

    How unfortunate that you have had bad things happen to you. So has every person who ever lived. Leave poor Amy alone….she has suffered a recent dreadful trauma and will need time to return to her new normal.

  65. Elin August 4, 2015 at 3:35 am #

    It seems normal to be extra careful and watchful the first time but as you get used to and know what if any restrictions your daughter I think that you will be able to provide her with a normal life and childhood. I do however think there is one thing you will have to accept: You are not going to be able to do away will all potentially dangerous situations for your daughter. I mean, the time it happened you fell, how were you going to know you would fall?