The Unkindest Cut
On Friday, we hurt our baby. I sat on this one for a few days because I didn’t want to jinx anything. But now we know everything is going to be okay and we can all laugh about it. When it happened, it was no laughing matter.
What happened was this: Sarah decided to clip our baby’s fingernails for the first time. Clipping baby fingernails is a surprisingly onerous task. We have several pairs of baby fingernail clippers, but basically what they are is adult fingernail clippers with giant handles. So you can more accurately position them, I guess. They’re not at all like safety scissors, which can barely be used to cut paper. They’re razor-sharp little snipping tools designed to be used on flailing, unpredictable fingers that are about 1 cm in diameter. And babies aren’t cats; you can’t wrap them in a blanket to calm them down while you do your clipping. You just gotta go in and hope for the best.
We’d avoided using the clippers for as long as possible. Instead, we’d been biting her nails off. I know that probably sounds insane to anyone who isn’t a parent, but we are parents and it doesn’t. Earlier in the week, though, Sarah watched one of our friends cheerfully clip her 2-month-old’s nails while she was engaged in conversation. It looked so easy, Sarah thought it was time to give it a whirl.
I left Sarah in the living room as she was just about to begin the de-nailifying. A minute later, I heard her shout out, “I cut off her finger.” I ran back into the living room to see a very frightened mother holding a wailing, thrashing Hazel. Blood poured out of the baby’s finger like Coke from a soda fountain. The baby’s screams pierced through our eardrums and into our souls.
“Jesus,” I said, “that looks bad.” I knew my job was to be the strong, supportive one, but it really did look bad.
“Is she okay? Is she going to live?” Sarah asked, in a state of shock.
“I don’t know,” I said. I honestly didn’t know. “I’ll call the doctor.”
I called the doctor. Even though I was filled with anxiety about my daughter’s health, I was excited to present him with a problem that couldn’t be solved by eating more meat and fruits.
“We were clipping my daugher’s nails and we clipped off part of her finger and now it’s bleeding all over the place,” I said, breathlessly, when I got the doctor on the phone.
The doctor is never phased by anything. “Put pressure on finger,” he said in his calming Lebanese accent. “If still bleeding, come in. Before 2. After 2, is busy.”
“Okay,” I said, “what about Band-Aids?”
“Sure, okay. Whatever you want,” he said, and hung up.
Hazel was in worse shape than I’d seen her since my misguided attempt to let her cry herself to sleep when she was 3 weeks old. “The doctor said to apply pressure,” I told Sarah.
“Like this?” Sarah asked. She squeezed Hazel’s finger. Hazel exploded in a new round of tortured wailing. It was all Sarah could do to keep it together.
“That sounds right,” I said.
After about ten minutes of torturous squeezing, her finger stopped bleeding and she settled down. We took a look at the damage. It was hard to tell how hurt she was, because every time we tried to hold her finger, it set off a new round of bleeding and screaming. Finally, we decided to put a mitten on her hand and take a look at it later. Out of sight, out of mind.
She seemed to be in okay shape so I went into the office to do some work. On the way home I stopped by Rite-Aid to pick up some children’s Tylenol and baby Band-Aids. To my surprise, every box of children’s Band-Aids they had in the store was covered with product placement for toys and cartoon characters. I know kids love that shit but I’ve gotta draw the line somewhere. My baby does not need to be wearing somebody’s product on her finger. I ended up buying some liquid bandage goop that I brushed onto her finger and never bothered to remove.
The next day the top of her finger was covered by a big, black scab. Two days later, the scab fell off and her finger appears to be back to normal. Lesson learned: babies have Wolverine-like healing powers. As for how to tame her unruly nails, we’re back to biting. It’s not that big a deal, really. Everyone knows baby fingernails taste like lollipopsicles and marshmallowmars.