We’ve all had them. Those terrible moments. The ones we hope no one ever finds out about becuase if they did… Those moments that fill us with mom guilt and make us feel like the worst mom on the planet can be awful to bear. For me, it feels even worse becuase, well, I’m the Cautious freaking Mom and I should not be making stupid mistakes like this. I’m supposed to be the example of safe, positive, nonviolent, attachment parenting – not the one making idiot mistakes becuase I didn’t read something carefully enough. But here we are and as I held my sleeping four year old sobbing over my stupid mistake with my tears falling upon her soft, silent cheeks, I realized… much to my own horror… I was going to share this. I had to share this. This is one of those moments that could happen to anyone – and it probably has – but no one wants to admit it. It’s important to share these stories. Moms have a right to know that not all is rainbows and craft time, right? Of course right. So, here’s the story.
Both of the kids have had slight, annoying allergy/cold-like symptoms. I’ve been assisting their healing through the use of essential oils consistently both topically and aromatically, but these symptoms kept lingering! Each morning in spite of the running humidifier and diffusor with eucalyptus, Breathe blend, oregano, melaleuca and thyme over their heads each night, they both woke stuffy-headed, draining substantially and coughing deeply. After about 7 days of this, I called the doctor and made a phone appointment to discuss their symptoms and figure out what to do.
The doctor said exactly what I had already suspected; lingering sinus drainage due to a slight virus or allergies. (Glad the phone appointments are free!) He suggested the use of Benadryl before bed to help dry out excess mucus in the night, thus cutting down on the drainage and coughing in the morning. The recommended dosage for both kids was 5ML at bedtime. No sweat, right?
The day had been a rough one. Neither of them felt great, neither did I for that matter… I’d been fighting migraine symptoms all day and I was exhausted. My brain was loopy, scattered and erratic. My vision is always a little weird that first few days before the migraine actually hits hard, so I was doing my best just to get through the day. We had our homeschool lessons, cleaning house time, a movie after dinner and I was looking forward to bed because my eyes wouldn’t focus very well on much of anything.
So, 8:30pm rolls around and I decide it’s time to dose them up and get them to bed. I go into the kitchen and pull down the bottle of children’s Benadryl which had the measuring cup it was purchased with still on top. I don’t prefer using the cups, so I never use them. Even though both are old enough NOT to use the syringes becuase I feel like I can get a better handle on making them drink it when I can shove the thing in and force them to swallow. This night for some reason, I could not for the life of me find a single other measuring device to put the medication in so I was forced to use the cup I’d never used. I wasn’t super thrilled with that because I know how awful this stuff tastes and I felt terrible for making them drink it. I should also mention, my kids haven’t been sick enough to require medication of any kind in almost a year, so even giving them meds was something I felt a bit out of practice at. I expected a gross, sticky mess as both of them were likely to resist me while I pressed the tiny cup to their curled lips, but I didn’t have a choice so I did it anyway.
I looked at the cup and all the measurements as best I could with my foggy brain and I couldn’t see a single line that said 5ml. I did find what I thought said 4ml, and thought, “well that’s weird, but that’s ok- they can have a bit less of a dose than suggested, it won’t hurt them to get too little.”
It seemed like a lot to me – 5ml’s would have gone all the way to the top if the line was at 4ml’s… but, it’s been a year since either of them have had any medicine and I kind of remembered the last time I gave them Tylenol it went to the top of the cup, too, so I guess it’s fine… (rationalizing internal dialogue that aught to have made me stop right there and double check, but my hazy brain said “nah, it’s probably fine)
Probably fine. I should have known it wasn’t. I clearly did know… somewhere in me, I knew it was too much but I second guessed my intuition which was clearly trying desperately to make me look again. I passed it off as nothing. I shoo’d the angel from my shoulder and gave the full cup of “4ml’s” to them anyway.
Poor Punkin hated it.. it took almost a full minute to get her to do it but she did… I told her it would help her. I told her it would make her feel better in the morning. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “okay, mommy”.
So much faith. Such undying, unquestioning trust.
She finished her cup of medicine and I gave her a big hug, told her she did great and gave her a popsicle. She excitedly shouted “YAY!” and ran off to the living room telling her brother to come get his medicine so he could have a popsicle, too.
The Padawan walked in with hesitation and as soon as he saw the bottle, he started crying and whining and turned the other way to leave the kitchen. He was ushered back in and I told him to trust me.
I told him to trust me. Ugh.
So, again just like his sister, he did. He took a tiny sip and almost gagged, so I gave him a minute to catch his breath and take a drink of water. Then, I held the rest to his lips and as I did so, I noticed almost out of the corner of my eye that at the top of the cup, there was the fill line and it read 4tsp. At first my brain didn’t register what had happened and then the screaming truth of it welled up like a volcano and I snatched the cup back and away from him, told him he was done, good job, and tossed the remaining pink goo into the sink to wash down and away…
FOUR TEASPOONS. I was frantic. “Four teaspoons” I thought, how many ml’s is in a teaspoon? Oh God I just overdosed my kids on a sedative.
I OD’d MY KIDS – BOTH OF THEM.
I looked at the cup again, completely confused and now full of adrenaline, my hands shaking. How could this have happened?? How did I mistake “4 tsp” for “5ml”??
Can you see what I did? I read it backwards. I have no idea how or why, but my brain saw it this way and read “mL ____4”.
I could feel the terror tears welling up and I swallowed them. I didn’t have time for that. I became frantic for the phone… I had to call poison control, I had no idea what to do! My husband tossed me his phone because mine was, of course, annoyingly nowhere.
I called the number on the magnate that has been in the same place on my fridge since the week my son was born. I took a deep breath, and waited for them to pick up. A lady with a kind-sounding voice answered and I gave her the information in as calm a voice as I could. I could hear her smiling. She told me it hadn’t been enough to send us to the ER. She said it was 4x the dosage recommendation, but it was not a toxic dosage and there was no need to consider this an emergency.
Just as I was about to sigh with relief, she said; “that being said, there are a few things you are going to need to do”.
My heart stopped and I held my breath. Here we go.
“You’ll want to closely monitor them through the night to make sure they are able to breathe.” She went on; “Because they have been given such a high dosage of a medication that is a sedative, they will need to be kept awake for the next hour. This will be difficult… do it anyway, any way you can. After about an hour has passed, you can go ahead and let them sleep but you will need to ensure they are not sleeping too deeply.” She let me know I would need to wake them every hour for the first four hours after they were allowed to sleep to ensure they didn’t fall into a dangerous sleep that could “hurt them, cause them to stop breathing or possibly worse.”
“POSSIBLY WORSE?!” I exclaimed. I mean, What could possibly be worse than not breathing!? (I didn’t say that bit out loud, though. I already knew I sounded like a nutcase, so I let that one go and just listened to her directions.)
If they cannot be revived, go to the ER. If they stop breathing, go to the ER. If they wake but seem disoriented, have difficulties breathing, seem to gasp for air or can’t see across the room, stumble as though drunk and cannot seem to right themselves or if they begin to vomit for longer than an hour, go to the ER.
I’m certain she said some other things, but my mind was racing and I was doing all I could to pay attention to her. I told her I would do all those things and she told me it was all going to be okay, that they would sleep well through the night and could possibly be a bit groggy the next day, but otherwise fine. I nodded and said “that makes sense” or some automatic response like that, told her thank you and she hung up.
I put the phone down and just stood there a moment holding my breath. I watched them from across the room… completely oblivious and running around happy, laughing and teasing each other like nothing had happened. So much innocent trust… and I’d failed them over something as easy as reading a label backwards.
I tried to sit down with them and couldn’t relax. I put some oils on me for calming the nerves and mental clarity hoping I could just decompress and quiet my mind enough to think rationally instead of reactionarily (I don’t think that’s a word, but you get it).
I told the husband we needed to keep them awake for an hour. By that time, it was almost 9pm. I told the Padawan he could play his video games – something he rarely gets to do after dinner. I knew this would keep him excited and engaged and there wasn’t much a chance of him passing out while playing. Also, I had realized my error as I was administering it to him, so he only got about 2 1/2 tsp instead of the full cup.
The Punkin was much harder. She had gotten the full dose of 20ml’s and within about five minutes, she was crying saying she wanted to sleep. I offered her a bowl of ice cream and she perked right up excited at this late-night surprise treat.
After that, all I could do was wait for it to kick in. She finished her ice cream, he continued to play his racing game with daddy and everything seemed like it might just be fine, no issues at all, but I was still in a heightened state of panic. See, since before my son was born, I carried a secret fear of harming my children through some stupid mistake. After my first child was born, I developed severe postpartum anxiety – all focusing around the fears of what terrible thing might happen to them. So, when I say I was anxious, I don’t just mean things like this affect me like any normal mom who can drink a glass of wine and realize that everything really is okay. Things like this deeply, profoundly hurdle my spirit to the floor and stomp on it with steel-toed New Rock boots until I can’t breathe.
I was far from okay.
I went to the back room where I could hide in my fear and grief and I thought… I need help. I need prayer. I need to calm the #$%^& down before I lose my mind. I started crying because I was ashamed. Too ashamed to tell anyone what an idiot I’d been. I couldn’t post it on my own mother’s support page or I’d look like a fraud. The Cautious Mom wasn’t very cautious and she almost killed her kids, please support her and try to hide your rising eyebrow of judgement. Ugh.. No. So, I went to Facebook and I posted it in a secret mother’s group for moms in the church mom/toddler playdate group I’m in. I asked for prayers.. something I rarely do. I felt guilty for doing it, (do I deserve prayer?) but I did it anyway.
As I posted, Punkin walked in the bedroom crying. She didn’t know why she was crying, she said. She just felt weird and scared and had to go potty. So I helped her do that and when she got up, she almost fell down. She tried to walk across the room and seemed disoriented, like the room was spinning and she couldn’t get a handle on where she was or which way to go. I took her hand and she fell into my lap crying and saying, “mama I’m just so tired and I feel terrible”.
I lost it at that point. I grabbed my phone again and called the advice line at the hospital. While waiting on hold, I let her nurse and she quickly fell into a deep sleep with her whole body somehow feeling heavier than normal… even heavier than when sleeping, somehow it seemed different with a new level of weight to her tiny body that pressed down upon me with the gravity of my mistake.
Nurse advice picked up. I told them what happened. She wasn’t nice. She sighed heavily when I told her how it had happened, as though all my self-deprecating guilt was 100% valid and deserved. I agreed, so I didn’t try to stick up for myself when she made me feel small and stupid. She told me the Poison Control folks were the highest level of authority so she couldn’t give me any different information, that she wasn’t allowed to contradict them. I explained I wan’t really looking to contradict them, but it’s been an hour since then and this just happened and I want to make sure this isn’t the kind of “disoriented” they were talking about that needed to be seen in the ER. She sighed irritated again. “Well, I don’t know what you want me to tell you”. I tried to get a bit more stern through my shaking voice and said, “I just want to know if you think it’s safe to leave them at home or if you think I should take them in tonight. Is it worth the drive in the worst rainstorm we’ve had in years for me to pack them in the car at 9pm and drive 45 miles to the closest emergency room? Or do I need to just calm down and relax?”
“If you feel like you should go, then go.” Her answer was curt, unemotional, annoyed. I swear, I wanted to throw my phone across the room. I told her thank you and hung up. My passed out, drugged up child was breathing deeply and heavily in my arms completely unaware of what had happened. I started bawling. My tears covered her sweet face in salt water before I realized and I carried her out into the living room, sat her up against a pillow and watched her.
She looked so peaceful and I remember wishing I could feel at peace, too.
Soon after, the Padawan began to doze. I got him a pillow and blanket and made sure he was sleeping sitting up. It was now about 10:30pm and I realized there was no way I was going to be able to sleep in my bed with them out on the couch and there was no way I was going to be able to keep them sitting up if I had them in bed with us. I was sleeping on the couch with them. The husband went to sleep in the bedroom alone and I sat between my two, sleeping beauties all night. Once I was settled and he was asleep, I went back to Facebook to find the most beautiful, loving, compassionate rally round me. I saw statements reaffirming that I was a good mom, stories relaying similar situations they had been in, applauding me for my quick thinking to call Poison Control. Then I saw someone’s comment, someone I didn’t know personally… she wrote; “Mistakes happen. We have all made them at one point or another! Grace upon grace!” All the women responding to my post were so full of love, prayer and seemed honestly overjoyed to deliver prayer for me and my babies was overwhelming. I started crying again… thankful, so thankful for this group of mothers and the “grace upon grace” they so freely offered.
It took me till about 1:30am to calm down enough to nod off myself… 4 1/2 hours after I’d given them the medicine. I woke again a few hours later to reposition them both to make sure they weren’t slumped over and then went back to sleep.
When they woke up, they were totally fine and had zero clue what had happened. The Punkin had no memory of the experience or her episode before she went to sleep. The Padawan seemed completely fine and had no idea. Neither of them seemed hung over, but both were starving and ready to get up and on with their day by 7am.
It was over. I could breathe. They were fine. My mistake was not life-threatening, but I’d learned a valuable lesson. Several, in fact, worth sharing with you.
1; Trust your intuition. Always. Always. Always. Even if you’ve already double checked. If something tells you to do it again – JUST DO IT AGAIN.
2; Double check dosages and labels and lines on the cups and medication administration tools. Especially if you are dyslexic when you have migraines.
3; The combination of lavender, patchouli, vetiver, Balance blend and Serenity blend works just as well as a prescription-level medication for nervousness.
4; It’s always okay to ask for prayer. Even if you don’t do it often or feel deserving. It’s always okay.
5; It really will be okay.
6; Things like this really can happen to anyone and it doesn’t make you a bad person or a negligent parent. Stuff just happens sometimes.
7; It’s okay to forgive yourself and most importantly,
8; it’s okay to talk about it.
I now know others who have been through similar and even far worse situations than this and I am certain I’d never have known I wasn’t the only one if I hadn’t shared my story first. So, the reason I am sharing it now with you is to show you that I know how it feels to make stupid mistakes that can hurt your kids. I know what it’s like to feel that guilt. I know what it is to think “eh, it’s probably fine” and then realize you were terribly wrong. You need to know that you are still a good mom. You are still trustworthy. You are still amazing. Everything is going to be okay. Even if it’s bleak in the moment, or even for days after… things will be okay.
I’m sorry for the restless night you went through with the kids. Mothers are put on pedestals not allowed to err even at our lowest moments. Don’t beat yourself up about it we’ve all been there. We’re all too human, to not make mistakes. Like the time I locked myself out of the car with my 9 month old baby in car in 40 Celsius heat. You kick yourself for how much your failing. With every slip up we build new anxieties, making us even more cautious. But the fact that your intention is to care for these precious souls more than life itself is testimony that you’re a great mom. X
Thank you for your beautiful comment and for bravely sharing your story. That must have been terrifying!