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When you walk into our house you have to go up a short flight up stairs to go into our main living space. We have a gate at the top. A gate that is always closed and the dangers of an open gate have been drilled into Owen’s head, so much so that if it’s even a little ajar, he will walk away from it as far as he can while saying, “no, no, no.”

You know where this is going, right?

Two days ago we had his new bedroom furniture delivered, so we took the gate down to make more room. And…we got lazy, I guess, and complacent in the idea that Owen knew not to go near the stairs so it was fine for a day.

Yesterday afternoon I was finishing up some stuff in the kitchen while Owen road around the house on his little John Deer tractor. I could hear him going up and down the hallway and around the living room. I was listening, but I wasn’t really paying attention. All of the sudden I heard the sound of wheels speeding down the stairs. It happened so quickly, and as soon as my brain registered what I was hearing I started to run the 10 or so feet to the top of the stairs.

I was too late. I made it just in time to hear his first scream and when I came around the corner he was lying on his back on the bottom (tile!) landing, the wheels of his little tractor spinning next to him. As I flew down the stairs a million thoughts were racing through my head (Broken bones! Head injury!), but when I reached him the only thing I could see was red.

There was so.much.blood. I scooped him up and while he howled and buried his head into me, I tried to decipher where it was all coming from. With all that screaming it wasn’t hard to figure out that it was his mouth. The entire thing was filled with dark red, his teeth hidden beneath a pool of it and it ran down his chin and down my shirt. I ran into the bathroom, wet a washcloth and tried to wipe as much away as I could, all the while comforting him and trying to stay calm for him.

My brain was not calm. My baby was hurt, there was blood everywhere and it just kept coming.

I managed to get him to stick out his tongue and do a quick sweep of his teeth, and discovered that he had bit into both his top and bottom lips, but I didn’t know how badly. I grabbed my phone and called Michael, who thankfully picked up and said he would come right home. I couldn’t decide if I needed to take Owen to the hospital or not. He was still sobbing and the blood was still flowing. I just couldn’t tell how bad the injury was. And I started to cry. Luckily, being away from the mess and having a straight head, Michael texted me right then and suggested I call our pediatrician first before heading the ER. I did, and they told me to bring him in.

I grabbed a bag of ice and tried to get him to hold it to his mouth (ha) as I gathered up our things. In my rush, I didn’t even put shoes on the poor kid, although I did at least remember to throw them in my bag. As I peeled out of the garage, I put on a brave face and waved at the neighbors who were talking next to the basketball hoop on our street. (We think this may actually be why he fell down the stairs — I think he was driving by the top when he noticed them playing ball through the screen door and leaned forward to get a better view.)

It was only then I noticed my entire shirt was soaked with blood and it was streaked across my cheek. I probably looked like a pregnant serial killer.

The ride was less than 10 minutes, but it felt endless. The bleeding had slowed, but he still looked like a vampire after a good meal. I tried to make him feel better by telling him that our doctor would make it better soon and Daddy was going to meet us there. He had stopped screaming, but the whimpering was just as sad.He also kept repeating, “I know…I know….” in a sad little voice. I must have been saying that to him as I tried to calm him before, “I know, baby, it hurts. I know.”

I bustled him into the waiting room at the pediatrician’s and as soon as he saw the plethora of trucks and trains to play with, he was off and happy as a clam. Of course. When Michael walked in a few minutes later, had he not seen me covered in blood, I’m not sure he would have believed anything had really happened.

Long story short, he’s fine. He split his top lip, bit into the bottom lip but not enough to cause major damage, and split that ridge of gum between his front two teeth, which was the source of most of the blood. According to his doctor, mouth wounds bleed A LOT, but usually heal up quickly and nicely. He has a bruise on his cheek and his lips are puffy, but that’s the worst of it. He gets to skip a day or two or tooth brushing and eat soft and cold things, like the Popsicle he had last night. Basically, any kid’s dream.

Today he’s in great spirits and actually looks pretty good, considering. I think we can even go to Target today without getting suspicious looks. (Negligent mother, aisle five.)

We are so lucky. This could have been a million times worse. But I can’t erase the vision of him lying there spewing blood, or the guilt that is nagging at the back of my mind.

The gate should have been there. I should have been paying more attention. This could have been prevented.

I guess it’s a lesson learned for all, one I hope to never repeat. And I KNOW this is just the beginning. There will be more injuries. Probably a broken bone, a trip to the ER, some stitches. He is a boy, after all, and we’re having another one.

But still. My heart. My baby.

Gah, parenthood.