Like I Need A Hole In The Head

I just realized that I never even told you about a terrible thing that happened! I mean, it wasn't a terrible terrible thing, but it sure wasn't an afternoon in a dive bar with Mark Ruffalo or anything. (Hey, did I say the number one thing I wanted for Christmas was sleep? Changed my mind! New plan!) 

Sometime in late October, I put Hugo down to sleep in his bassinet—a major victory, involving much sssshhing and patting and investment of time—and then just before I tiptoed out of the room to go start a dance party with hookers and blow, or whatever it is that you do to celebrate the baby going to sleep for the night, I doubled back on myself and bent over his crib one more time just to see his sweet little face and confirm, once and for all, that air was going in and out of his nostrils. 

(Side note: is everyone as paranoid as I am that their baby is simply going to.....stop breathing? Maybe I've just read too many Baby Center message boards or watched too many episodes of Call the Midwife—are you watching it? You should watch it! Nuns and babies!—but I live in continual fear that this will happen. I am constantly panning the beam of my lit-up iPhone screen over him in the dark to check that his little chest is still rising and falling, a behavior that my friend Jen has joked is going to result in him having an irrational fear of lighthouses when he grows up.) 

(Side note to the side note, just while I think of it: My sister warned me not to watch Call the Midwife while I was pregnant, due to the various unpleasantnesses that often befall both mother and child, but I think the more important caveat may be not to watch it while you have a sleeping baby in the house because the soundtrack of this show is full of crying babies and every five minutes you will turn in alarm to the person with whom you are watching it and say "Wait, was that ours? Or on the TV?" and then you will have to pause it and both of you will freeze for a couple of seconds, ears cocked in the direction of the sleeping baby's room, before sighing in relief and saying "okay, phew, it was on the TV." You know how sometimes you're driving and a song comes on the radio that features a siren in the background and your heart starts hammering in your chest because you think you're about to be pulled over by the police? It's like that.) 

Anyway, back to the terrible thing. So I'd put Hugo down in his bassinet and then backtracked over to make sure he was still breathing, and it was as I was straightening up from bending over his face that I caught my foot on one of the bassinet's legs and pitched straight forward—arse over teakettle, if you'll pardon the expression—into his bookshelf. 

There was an almighty crack—which I realized in hindsight was my head hitting not only the wooden bookshelf, but also this vintage metal truck I'd found at an estate sale the week before; serves me right for being so pretentious and not just buying him some plastic crap, which would not only have been a little softer but also presumably have lessened my tetanus risk—and I am pretty sure that I did, for a few seconds, see stars. (Not the Mark Ruffalo kind. Sadly.) I also exclaimed in pain—loudly, which woke him right up—and then, when I staggered out of the room, wailing and keening, I caught sight of myself in the hall mirror and realized that the side of my head was POURING BLOOD. 

Hugo, I apologize in advance for the huge bill you are going to get when this comes up one day in therapy. And did you have a good relationship with your mother? Well, my first memory of her is her standing over my crib, screaming and bleeding from the head. 

I stumbled into the bedroom to find my phone and tried to hold it against my ear to call Sean, but the copious amounts of blood meant it kept slipping out of my hand, and when I finally got hold of him, he was all "Hey! I'm just on my way ho---" and I was all "I FELL AND HIT MY HEAD I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO THERE'S SO MUCH BLOOD"—no punctuation, just like that—which is clearly just what you want your wife to say on the other end of the phone when she's home alone with your 12-week-old baby and you're still half an hour away and it's raining and you've only got 2% battery left on your phone. 

After he'd ascertained that Hugo was okay and that I was basically okay—albeit rather shaken up and in quite a lot of pain—he said he was going to abandon the MUNI and jump in a cab to race home, and that I should call my mother and stay on the phone with her until he got there, just in case I passed out, which did, at that point, feel like it could be a real possibility. After another "Hello, darling! How nice to hear fro—"/"I FELL AND HIT MY HEAD AND I'M BLEEDING AND I DON'T WANT TO WORRY YOU BUT CAN YOU STAY ON THE PHONE WITH ME SO I REMAIN LUCID" conversation—my mother says the initial five seconds of it took five years off her life—I calmed down a little bit and managed to chat quite reasonably (with Hugo in a death grip on my lap) until Sean walked in the door and did a double-take at the (incredibly attractive, I am sure) dried blood caking my face and neck and décolletage. I mean, forget feeling gross because you didn't have time to brush your hair and every shirt you own has spitup stains on the left shoulder; this is really letting yourself go. 

Long story short, Sean took Hugo and got him back to sleep, cleaned up my face, asked me what year it was and who was president, ascertained that we probably didn't need to go to the ER, agreed with my weak joke that yeah, it could be kind of funny to take a picture of my blood-covered face and blow it up and print it out to make a Halloween mask but on second thought eh maybe not, canceled the dinner plans we'd had with friends, and got me settled in bed with some Motrin and some deep cleansing breaths. The next day, when my pounding headache still hadn't gone away and I'd read one too many articles about Natasha Richardson, we did end up making a quick trip to Urgent Care, where a very nice Canadian doctor did some quick tests on me and ruled out a brain injury, then sewed up my cut—thank goodness for swoopy bangs!—but I have, by and large, been totally fine since, with the added bonus of having a fairly badass little scar by my left eyebrow. 

(The explanation, however, is not quite so badass. Ah, that's my vintage toy car injury! Exactly like your scar from jumping over three burning buildings in your motorcycle, yes.) 

But here is the best part of the entire story, and the one that has introduced a very useful phase into our everyday lives. After Sean had hung up the phone with me after I'd called him, he ran back up the stairs of the MUNI station—he'd been about to get onto the train—and out into the street to find a cab so he could get home more quickly. After a few minutes of fruitless searching, he finally managed to hail one, but another couple ran towards him at the same time and tried to climb in. "Do you mind if I take this one?" begged Sean. "My wife hit her head and it's bleeding and she's home alone with our 3-month-old son. It's an emergency!" 

"Well," said the woman, continuing to clamber into the cab. "We have an emergency too! We have to get to the Cow Palace!" 

Now, in case you don't know, the Cow Palace is an indoor arena here in the Bay Area, and that night—I looked it up the next day—they were hosting the Grand National Rodeo. The Grand National Rodeo! And while I have spent many minutes since that night fuming at what awful human behavior it was to filch a cab from a man who needed to get home to his bleeding wife and infant son, I have spent even more wondering what sort of rodeo emergency they could possibly have been on their way towards. Perhaps one of the bulls had a terrible case of stage fright and this couple were experienced animal whisperers whose services were needed urgently? Maybe there was some sort of escaped livestock situation?

Either way, the whole experience has at least given us a wonderful new phrase to add to that couples' shorthand one ends up accruing in any long-term relationship. Now whenever either of us needs the other to understand that something is of the utmost urgency, all we have to do is turn to the other, look them in the eye, and say "No, seriously. I have to get to the Cow Palace." 

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Dec 11, 2013

I want to add that line to my repertoire too. The Cow Palace! Of course it was an emergency!

Also, I spent most of my children's first years sneaking into their rooms and lightly laying my hand on their bodies to make sure they were breathing. I thought I was morbid, so it's nice to know I'm not alone.

Margie K
Dec 11, 2013

Rodeo is pretty dangerous; people can get seriously injured.

There used to be a club/dance hall on the outskirts of town called "The Cow Palace," featuring country music I presume.

Dec 11, 2013

This was a harrowing story up to and including The Cow Palace! Cow Palace!!

Dec 11, 2013


Ok, sorry. But I was reading this on my phone as I finished nursing my 3 month old and I flung him into his buzzy chair the second he finished so I could leap to my computer & comment. Because I love you. (In a non-stalkery way.)

Yes, I totally worry that both my kids will stop breathing as soon as I'm not paying attention--the older is 3 and typically rises early, so if it's gone 7 am and he's not up? I'm totally tiptoeing down the hall with my heart in my throat so I can peek in his room, all the while wondering if *this* is the day. And with my younger one, we got a monitor that uses your smart phone as the video monitor, which is both good and bad, as I got a night out and spent most of the time at the bar with my girlfriends shoving my phone in their faces and demanding to know if it looked like he was still breathing, his father sleeping in the next room notwithstanding.

And I too have a chic little scar on my eyebrow from an ill-advised trip to the hair salon when I was 5 months pregnant. Trust me--don't take the advice of a 60-some year old man who has *clearly* never had children to "get up and walk around" when you start feeling woozy from the heat & product smells. You'll only end up with your hairs half did and that will be ALL you can think about as the hot paramedics pick you up off the floor (after you bounced off the wall on your way down) and wheel you out the door to the ambulance.

Motherhood is so magical.

Dec 11, 2013

I'm glad you're okay, and that this turned into nothing more serious than a delightfully funny blog post. The Cow Palace is gold!

Dec 11, 2013

This made me laugh so hard (in the most sympathetic way, of course :)! Glad everyone is ok...and facial scars are the coolest scars, regardless of harmless means of attaining them :)


I have missed your writing so much. Please keep doing it - even if it's just between sporadic head injuries and Hugo's birthdays. The Incident of the Vintage Truck is funny in retrospect, but it must have been immensely terrifying at the time. Glad you are okay! And a badass scar is a badass scar. You're a writer. No reason not to use a little creative leeway with the story behind it.

P.S. Is there a new season of Call the Midwife or just two?? Love that show! And the main girl looks just like my grandmother when she was young.


P.P.S. I will now have that cracker song stuck in my head for at least three days.

Dec 11, 2013

This might be my favorite post of yours ever! Conveying the tenor of how frightening the accident was! Call the Midwife-so glad to hear from someone else is watching! I love it and was surprised how much I enjoyed the story threads. There's enough levity and intrigue to balance. And leaves me wondering how some of the mamas are doing. Sooo good!

And the Cow Palace-my friend is on the board and I've attended the GNR a few times. I cannot imagine it being an emergency, BUT I can imagine some of the crowd thinking it that way. It's such an trip to be there in and know you are in San Francisco. Nothing trumps an emergency with a newborn like the smell of hay and livestock...

Dec 11, 2013

Oh, Holly, you are such a gifted writer. How I missed this type of posts! You had me laughing and crying at the same time.
I checked my son's breathing every few minutes when he was an infant too. Forget about sleep when the baby is sleeping. I needed to make sure he is breathing, how could I sleep? Even during the nights if he slept longer than usual I would get up to check on him.
I am glad you are okay.

Dec 11, 2013

Sorry to hear about your grievous injury! That sucks, but glad it all worked out in the end.

I check my baby's breathing constantly. I also have an irrational fear of tripping with her in my arms and throwing her over the stair railing. And every time the dog moves under the covers during the night I wake up in a cold sweat, fearing that I've fallen asleep with the baby in bed and that she's falling off the bed. This, despite the fact the baby has NEVER slept in the bed with us. (The fact that the dog does is maybe a bigger problem).

I don't watch Call the Midwife for the reasons you outline. Also because my viewing of Downton Abbey while pregnant maybe gave my husband more panic than necessary when I had [SPOILER ALERT!>) a seizure and was diagnosed with eclampsia and had to have an emergency delivery at 36 weeks. Visions of Lady Sybil loomed large. All was fine, obviously, but moms or babies in peril now really hit home. Basically having a kid opened a deep fissure of fear and impossible depth of feeling I never knew I possessed. Good when your heart swells with love at every giggle. Bad when your heart is in your throat for every silence on the monitor. Also bad when you're the only person weeping at stupid previews for crappy movies or car commercials.

Dec 12, 2013

My son is four (years, not months) and I still check his breathing once in a while!
Nothing says sexy like caked blood on the face and hair ;) Glad to know this story ended well.


Ok so I check to make sure my husband is breathing sometimes because well I do not want him to die and also I think that being in bed next to someone who had died would be horrifying and is one of my big weird fears in life!

mary w.
Dec 12, 2013

I think the shorthand for explaining the scar will be, "Ah, yes, the Cow Palace Incident."

Dec 12, 2013

I have a 7 month old and a 2 year old, and I got anxious just reading your post cause something happening to me while I'm home alone with the babies is always a background fear. I think it is from watching Steel Magnolias too early in life :)

Anyways I have this monitor for my baby and it gives me such peace of mind:

It is a little thingy that clips on the diaper and beeps if the baby stops breathing for 7 seconds. love it.

Dec 12, 2013

Any time the baby (8 months old) sleeps longer than normal, I worry. He doesn't sleep well so on the nights he does sleep well, I am usually tiptoeing in there at 4 a.m. because I wake up and I think I would never forgive myself if I had just gone back to sleep. The older one (5 years old) is always up early so when he sleeps later than 7 a.m. I start worrying too. But I don't worry about him randomly in the night anymore. So the worrying lessens as they age, at least in my experience.

Dec 12, 2013

Have you seen Terms on Endearment? I always think of the beginning when Shirley Maclaine goes in to check on the sleeping baby,shakes the crib until the baby cries, and then leaves satisfied.

Dec 12, 2013

I read this last night and I just read it again and I'm still laughing about the Cow Palace.

Dec 12, 2013

When you described pausing the TV every time a baby cried during "Call the Midwife", I pictured you doing this:

"How 'bout I say be quiet! That means there's a firework coming".

So sweet.

Sorry about your head. That really is awful!

Dec 12, 2013

Maybe they were late to ride the bulls or something? My "baby" is 14, and often sleeps late on the weekends. Teenager late, if you know what I mean. I still go check to see if she is breathing.

Dec 12, 2013

My favorite-ever injury explanation from a patient came when I was sewing up a guy's badly lacerated knee one Halloween. "So," says I, stitching away, "how'd you do this exactly?"

And, completely serious, the guy says, "I fell off my stilts onto a lawn gnome."

Dec 12, 2013

Ahhh I have so much to say so bear with me...
After I finished reading your post, I was laughing at myself at how ridiculous I must've looked as I was reading it. I was nodding along, smiling, making weird faces about the gory details and laughing hysterically at the end. Loved the post!
My baby bumped his head on a chair last week. Of course I checked on him a hundred million times. And then at night I wanted to wake him up to make sure he was okay. (I'm not sure how I was going to check because he is 7 months so I cant exactly ask him his name or the president...) My husband told me that the baby is fine and I shouldn't wake him up. I told him that he does not watch all the crazy shows and read all the horrifying articles online about what could possibly go wrong to know that the baby is fine!!!
Even on a regular night every single time I go upstairs for anything I feel a magnetic pull to each of my childrens rooms to check on them. And sometimes when I go upstairs multiple times a night and decide that there is no need to check on the them for the 4th time, I always stop myself on the stairs on the way down and go right back up because maybe this time I will regret it...
The perils of being a mom!

Dec 12, 2013

strangely enough, i also have an eyebrow scar from an encounter with a metal toy vehicle. when i was three, i ran in front of my sister while she was on a giant metal horse swing, got hit in the head and had to get stitches.

metal toys, the silent...err eyebrow buster?

Dec 12, 2013

haha what a cute inside joke from a terrible experience. the best medicine??

Dec 13, 2013

Awww, Holly, so glad you and Hugo are okay!! Your writing is absolutely gorgeous. I so look forward to reading your blog posts! :)

Megan @ Pink O'Clock
Dec 13, 2013

Is it weird to say that I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks of that awful Natasha Richardson accident after I fall/bump my head?

I'm even more glad you're OK, though!

Dec 14, 2013


This story is even funnier to me (not the head wound part - the Cow Palace part) because here on Long Island, "Cow Palace" is the name of a chain of butcher stores.

Mooo-ving right along... glad your kruller wasn't cracked! That would have been an udder shame.

Dec 16, 2013

Some years ago I was in NYC on a break from school. A few days before my visit I had gone to see "Just Like Heaven"--a terrible movie--by myself for the sole purpose of mooning over Mark Ruffalo. My friend proposed we meet at a fairly fancy bistro in the meatpacking district. Who should sit down RIGHT NEXT TO US and proceed to write in his journal for over an hour while I glanced sideways every .4 seconds and carried on a pathetic excuse for a conversation but you know who!!! It was awesome.

Franca Bollo
Dec 18, 2013

Oh, man, now I hate rodeos more than ever.

Dec 20, 2013

This makes me realize how ludicrous "Cow Palace" must sound to those not living or raised in N. California. Glad you're OK. My children are teenagers and I still check on them when they're asleep. But I also have the added joy of sitting up worrying when they're out with friends (or -gasp- a boy!) on a Saturday night in a *car*. I'm always convinced something terrible is going to happen, and relieved when I see the headlights come up the lane. Sweet girls, they are taller than I am, but will ever be babies to me.

Dec 21, 2013

If there is ever a question as to why all young mothers should blog, this post is the answer.

So glad you are OK, Holly. But this story? Pure gold!

Dec 27, 2013


Jan 05, 2014

I'm totally stealing that line. So enjoy your writing, random as it may be just now!

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