There are moments that bring your heart to a still, catch your breath. Thursday afternoon, running into the house to the cries of the dog and Nathan - to the sight of an overturned, empty car seat - was that moment.
I make at least a hundred decisions a day, most of them small, determined by variables such as mood, weather, time of day, or simply habit. Today, reading this situation as I write, the decisions I made seem like none that a logical mother would make (not that I've ever admitted to being a logical mother), but on that particular day, I was just going about a busy Thursday.
I had a group of friends due to arrive at seven. Things were clean enough, but there were a few more things I was hoping to accomplish before everyone arrived. Nathan had just fallen asleep in my arms. His car seat was on the floor. I plopped him in it and went about cleaning up the kitchen from the baking Audrey and I had finished earlier. Audrey came into the room. Being completely taken with her little brother, Audrey likes nothing better than to find him unattended on the floor while my hands are in a sink of dishes. Within two minutes he was awake, smothered in her big sister hug as she attempted to lift him from the seat. I grabbed the car seat and moved it to the kitchen island, thinking he'd be safer up there. I told Audrey she could play in the backyard. Soon, she was yelling for me from the fence gate. Two of her friends wanted her to join them at the playground. I couldn't see their mother. I wanted to make sure she was there and it was alright if I sent Audrey out. I should have brought Nathan with me. I should have moved the car seat to the floor and strapped him in it. But I didn't. He seemed moments from falling back to sleep and so out I quickly ran, gone only minutes.
I knew by the cries before I entered the house. I found the car seat overturned on one side of the kitchen island and Nathan, belly-down on the other. We spent the next long four hours in the emergency room. Nathan squirmed through a CT scan and neck x-ray. I rocked him in my arms as we waited, apologizing repeatedly. I studied this sweet boy, so perfect just as he was given to us, and knew I'd never forgive myself if the tests showed I had hurt him or changed who he would become in some way. I texted Jason, stuck in a week-long meeting in San Francisco (which until Wednesday, Audrey kept referring to as SAMS and asking why Daddy was spending the night there. I kept wondering how I would quell her disappointment on Friday when he didn't come riding in on a U-haul of bulk groceries) as I got news. Luckily, the news was good. Nathan was fine. Both tests showed no real damage, and I've yet to find a bump or bruise on him.
We spent the rest of the week moving a bit slower. I took my time going out to get the mail on Friday. I know that the world continues to move after events such as these, but I was not yet ready to rejoin it. Ironically, when I did finally get the mail, it was void of the usual handful of junk mail and bills. Just a food magazine and a couple of Mother's Day cards. It seems that this time, I was given a free pass, and for that I am grateful.
Friday night, after a five-hour delay, Jason made his way home with a cold, but safe. Early this morning, Audrey crawled into our bed, snuggled against me and fell asleep. A couple hours later we woke to sounds of Nathan talking so cheerfully it created a song. There are moments that bring your heart to a still, catch your breath.