Everyone has heard a story about a mom who lifted a fridge up off of her toddler or fought off a bear or some other example of super-human strength in a time of crisis, right? I always sort of assumed those stories to be hyperbole until the day I got locked in the bathroom with my toddler loose in the apartment and I found out super-human mom strength is a real thing.
My 18-month-old has an obsession with doors. Bedroom doors, bathroom doors, cabinet doors — he doesn’t discriminate, he loves to open and close them all. I tried to make doors off limits to keep him out of the bedroom and bathroom but obviously “no” is a word that a toddler loves to ignore. So, I took to Amazon and bought some things to baby-proof our bedroom and bathroom doors and it worked like a charm.
Like most of my babyproofing devices, after a while I just started to leave them unlocked. It took five extra seconds for me to unlock the device and frankly, sometimes I just don’t have five seconds when I have held my pee for six hours because using a public bathroom with a toddler is horrifying.
One day, I was trying to get ready to leave the house to take my little guy to the museum. I was trying my best to claw my hair into some semblance of a bun with one hand on my hair and one hand trying to keep him from throwing his water bottle into the toilet when it happened — he left the bathroom and shut the door on me. This is not the first time that has happened so I thought nothing of it, finished my hair and went to open the door... only it would not open.
It began to dawn on me that the baby-proofing device had somehow engaged when he shut the door and that I was trapped in my windowless bathroom, without my cellphone (which is perpetually hovering at 10 percent battery and was on the charger) and with my toddler loose in the apartment.
I started to scream at the top of my lungs 'Someone please help me! Someone call 911!' I shouted my apartment number into the vent.
I cannot put into words the panic that begin to consume me. My mind immediately went to all the things that he could possibly get into and get hurt by and I wanted to throw up. My first instinct was to start screaming. We live in an apartment building with probably a hundred or so units and there is a vent in my bathroom that I often hear muffled conversations through, along with the requisite dogs barking in the distance, so I started to scream at the top of my lungs. “Someone please help me! Someone call 911!” I shouted my apartment number into the vent. I started to thrust my body against the door as hard as I could. I could hear my son crying on the other side of the door and I thought that as long as I heard him crying, I knew that he was standing right there and was safe.
I continued hurling myself at the door and alternated screaming like an insane person and trying to soothe my crying son telling him, “I will be right there, it's OK!” but each time my body banged against the door his cries got louder and more panicked.
Normally, in emergency situations I cry and run away. Once, my mom passed out at the dinner table at Christmas and it is rumored that I yelled 'MY MOM IS DEAD' and ran away from the table.
I started going through our bathroom cabinet trying to find something I could use to pry the door open. I jammed my hairbrush into the door, the handle snapped off but the door did not budge. I then decided to focus on the door handle itself, I thought maybe if I could just rip it off the door, that I would be able to get out. I started going at that door handle with everything I had. Normally, in emergency situations I cry and run away. Once, my mom passed out at the dinner table at Christmas and it is rumored that I yelled “MY MOM IS DEAD” and ran away from the table, I was like 28 at the time. However, in this case, I was so incredibly focused. It was like my body and my mind went into some magical mom autopilot and would not allow me to let panic get the best of me. I started bargaining with the universe: “If you just let me get out of this bathroom I will never get annoyed with him again — no matter HOW early he wakes up in the morning.” I knew that I had to get out of that bathroom and I would do whatever it took to get out.
Eventually I was able to bust the door open by going ape on the door handle until I had blisters on my hands and the handle just popped off. My little guy was standing by the dishwasher, hysterical crying and I scooped him up and held him tighter than I have since he was born.
Something inside me changed that day. I suddenly felt immensely proud of myself for not letting fear and panic get the best of me and for doing what needed to be done to protect my son. Becoming a mother has challenged me in ways that I never could have prepared for. No books I read or classes I took warned me about the incredible strength, both physical and mental, that motherhood requires. Your life is no longer about you — any fears, hang ups or baggage that you have you need to set aside and power through for the sake of this little person who looks to you to help them form their image of the world. Mothers have a quiet fierceness inside of us that comes out when it’s needed most. So mamas, never doubt your strength or your courage because when it comes down it, we will tear that damn door off its hinges.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.