The Milestones No One Can Prepare You For: Accidents and Anxiety


milestonesEvery parent documents their baby’s first word, first smile, first steps, the first day of school, and all the firsts after that. Smiling and glowing with pride, we can’t capture enough pictures or videos of our little ones as they grow. We share these milestones with our inner circle and ooh and ah together.

I never imagined how it would feel to experience those other firsts. The kind that makes you gasp and literally freeze in terror. The first time one of those moments happened was about thirteen months into parenthood. It was a warm March day, and little Blake had just learned to walk. We couldn’t wait to take a stroll along the Butler towpath. My mother-in-law came to meet my husband, our little guy, and me. The afternoon sun and trees beckoned. We waved to my mother-in-law, eager for her to see Blake’s walking abilities. He was sporting some new memory foam sneakers for the occasion. We took two steps toward her and bam, he slipped, slamming headfirst onto the newly poured blacktop.

I picked Blake up and stared at him, frozen in terror. A few drops of blood spilled from a small cut on his forehead. My baby was bleeding! He had never bled in his young life. Here came the panic. “No Bandaids. How can you not have Bandaids?! Those shoes are too light! He just started walking; why didn’t you hold his hand?” And on and on, the negative thoughts attacked.

These moments remind me that I’m not the “chill mom” I always envisioned myself being. Instead, anxiety seizes every piece of my soul, and it takes me a minute to steady myself and move forward.

Mercifully, my mother-in-law gently stepped in. “Here, how about we dab his head with my sleeve.” And we continued walking. The bleeding from Blake’s teeny tiny cut dried within minutes, and he was all smiles as he toddled along the path to Holcomb gardens. I was by far the more shaken one.

As we walked, my mother-in-law shared that her first E.R. visit with one of her (four) kids was also gut-wrenching. She reassured me that I was a good mom. My anxiety quieted in her presence, and I felt my confidence restored by her kindness. She had been there too.

Today, I got a call that would soon make my mind freeze up. “No caller ID,” my screen flashed. I answered without pause, thinking it was my Lolo (Filipino word for grandpa).

“Hello, is this Catherine Jackson?” “Yes, this is she.” Instant panic. “Hi, this is the school nurse. I just wanted to let you know that Blake fell while playing in the gym a few minutes ago. He was crying for a while, so we did a check-up in my office. No signs of concussion, pupils look good, and he’s very aware. I wanted you to know so you can keep an eye on him after school. He’s happy now and back to playing.”

Relieved at the sweet nurse’s calm delivery, I asked her some follow-up questions, thanked her, and texted my husband to fill him in. I summoned all my courage from the first time he ever seriously fell on the towpath two years ago, and I comforted myself that he was happy at school. Let him play.

Did I have to talk myself down from racing over to pick him up from school, showering him with goodies and kisses? Yes! But somehow, these awful firsts do get easier. We all made it through the first Urgent Care visit when his finger was slammed in a door and a doctor’s visit for a scary high fever. Together, we braved other firsts that some previous generations didn’t have to, like when our little family all had Omicron after Christmas.

Somehow, with prayer and gentle words from family and friends, I’m getting better at the scary firsts. I have numerous bandaids and triple antibiotic cream in the diaper bags at all times now. I have an endless supply of Motrin, Zyrtec, and other first-aid medicines. I have medicine to help my own anxiety as well. But I know there will be heartache that bandaids won’t cover someday. My child will have accidents, and I will have to be strong for him in the moment or from afar.

With each of these milestones no one wants to remember, I force myself to pause and file the lessons learned away. I know looking back on them will give me strength when I need it later. We can make it, together or alone, as today is teaching me. As Blake returned to the gym from the nurse’s office without me and began playing again, he was ok. He will be ok, and so will his mama.


  1. I appreciate your article, Cathy, as I’m sure this will be an encouragement to young moms alike!

    Cheryl Littlejohn

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