A Burden Of Guilt

It’s true. I fell over while wearing my daughter in the baby carrier.

I should probably begin at the end of this story, just to say that she is safe and healthy. But the marks on her face still send pangs of horror and mortification through me every time I look at her helpless little face.
We were walking merrily to a baby singing group on a bright morning when it happened.
As she has been able to confidently support her own head for a while now, I put her facing forwards for the very first time.
Looking back, as I rake over the steps leading up to the horrific event in my mind for the millionth time, I wonder if that decision could have been one that saved her from a far worse fate.
Revisiting the spot (with caution, and the pram) I can see where my foot caught on a trench worn across the pavement.
They say time slows down in these terrible moments, and I certainly found that to be the case.
As I tripped and felt myself flung forward, visions of my bloodied, screaming baby flashed into my mind before I hit the ground, like a gruesome premonition.
I thought to myself, “I must cover her face to protect her!” But some overriding instinct told me to put my hands down in front of me to take my weight and keep her from being crushed beneath me.
My knees and palms took the brunt of the fall, and then; bang! I felt her face fall forward and hit the hard, rough surface.
My hand cradled her face and I craned my neck to see her, as her screams began to ring out.
Somehow her crying was a reassurance to me. It let me know she was at least alive. Even though the harsh, howls of pain, so removed from her usual cry, tore into my heart with every syllable.
While the fall had been in slow motion, the time it took me to undo the carrier and clutch her to my chest seemed non-existent.
We both sat sobbing in a pool of blood and tears for what seemed like forever while I gasped, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Again and again.
Blood and tears and gravel covered her face. Her lip was swollen and bleeding and more blood oozed from the scrapes on her nose, while a huge red egg began to swell above her left eye.
Time now leapt forward by several years in my mind, and I dreaded what lasting damage had been done.
My leggings were shredded and both knees bleeding and ingrained with grit, but I didn’t notice that until some time after.
The kindness of strangers came to our rescue. People seemed to come to our aid from all different directions, leaving me throwing thanks and apologies in bewildered abundance.
We were taken to a first aid room in an office. An ambulance was called. We headed to A&E.
By the time the nurse was assessing her, she managed a smile through her tears and scars, and after hours of being observed she was diagnosed with a minor head injury and we were sent home.
Only a few scabs on her nose and a faint bruise on her forehead now remain. And she appears to bear none of the trauma and emotional scars that I have been left with.
She loved gadding about in the baby carrier but I doubt I will ever have the confidence to use it again.
The regret, the guilt, the terror, they are burdens I will carry forever.
“Don’t blame yourself”, everyone kept saying to me. But I do.
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