Every breath matters.

The shittiest five seconds – I wrote about that once. But the most terrifying ten seconds? I am not sure I can write about that yet. But I feel like I should try.

First, a couple of facts.

Fact: I practice baby-led weaning. Contrary to what you might think this has nothing to do with stopping breastfeeding. Baby-led weaning is, at its simplest, following your baby’s cues and skipping pureed foods. Lucy has been eating solid food since she showed signs of readiness: ability to sit up unassisted, an effective pincer grasp and a loss of the tongue-thrust reflex. A crucial part of embracing baby-led weaning is making peace with the fact that your baby will gag. Gagging is a human’s reflex that prevents them from choking. As long as your baby is gagging they aren’t choking. It’s frightening at first. But by the second baby I was sure. I was sure that she was okay, her body was preventing her from choking and forcing the pieces of food that were too big back up to the front of her mouth. I am not afraid when Lucy gags.

Fact: I do not like to ask for help. I have spent too long changing my own tire because I was sure I could do it myself.

That’s the back story. This morning – the most terrifying ten seconds happened. My hands are still shaking. My face still swollen with tears. Lucy is asleep in my lap.

I knew she wasn’t gagging. I know what that looks like. When I turned around and I saw her sitting on the floor in the living room her eyes were wide. She was silent. Her face was red. It has been no longer than five seconds since I had looked at her. Long enough to have found a minuscule something on the floor and eaten it: a Barbie shoe, a leaf, a piece of paper.

A finger sweep produced nothing. I smacked her on the back. Nothing. Her face grew redder. I needed help. I did not hesitate.

I calmly picked up my phone and called 911. The phone was ringing and I sat cross-legged with my baby on the floor in front of me. I tipped her head back and checked her airway. As the dispatcher answered the phone I was prepared for what would happen next. A-B-C. I had checked her airway. Breathing would be next. The 911 dispatcher would talk me through infant cpr while I waited for the ambulance.

I called for help. As I said earlier, I have seen her gag. I always know she will be fine. But today I didn’t know that. She was silent.

I did not panic.

Before I could finish identifying myself “My name is Kelly. My 8 month old daughter, Lucy, is not breathing. It has been less than a minute. I live at…” she threw up. If you’ve ever been a runner you’ve seen it. The snot rocket. A ball of mucous the size of a golf ball. And she was fine. She deeply inhaled and rolled over and crawled away.

“She’s fine. Umm… I guess I just needed to call you. She is fine…” And she is.

And so am I. I called my husband and said “Lucy is fine, I just need to cry.” I told him what had happened. He was quiet. “Say something,” I said.

“You did everything you were supposed to do. Good job, Mom.”

I was calm. I was prepared. Because I have taken an Infant CPR and First Aid class. I didn’t need it today. I hope I never do.

I use this space to share my life, to reflect, to create and record a history of my own growth. Very occasionally do I use it as a soap box. Today I will.

Take a CPR class. Soon. Don’t wait. Murphy’s Law – if you take it than you won’t need it.

Go hug someone that you love. Because if you think you love them now, I dare you to spend ten seconds imagining your life without them. Then think about how much you love them again. And then call your local American Red Cross and register to take a class.

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23 responses to “Every breath matters.

  1. OMG, I was so scared for you til I got to the end. Glad everything’s OK. You did better than me; when my baby was a little more than a year, he choked on a bit of a Wheat Thin (I”ll never forget) and I totally panicked even tho my mom’s a RN and I totes knew what to do, but his dad was outside and I screamed for him and he helped our little one. I felt so horrible for so long, I still do and he’s 31!!

  2. My Life: A Work in Progress

    This is so scary! I took an infant CPR class while I was pregnant, but I think a refresher course would be good. Good for you for not panicking and thinking clearly!

  3. Seeking Joyful Simplicity

    Well done Kelly. Well done.

  4. Whew! So glad Lucy is okay and you knew what you needed to do. Well done!

  5. I was panicking for you as I read that. we’ve had a few gagging possibly almost chocking before she coughed it up but nothin like that. glad your kiddo is ok and you’re ok too!

    on a lighter note, love how she rolls over like nothin happenes and everything is fine at the end.

  6. You know, I’ve taken the CPR class many many times. i still have no idea what would happen if I ever needed that information. I hope writing it out helped in some way, friend. That is the sacriest fucking thing. The scariest. I wish i could give you and Lucy a hug right about now.

  7. Can’t stop thinking about this post…You know, one of the many things I admire most about you (and fervently wish I possessed) is your ability to be calm in a crisis. I just fall into a million pieces. The girls and MQD are ridiculously lucky to have you.

  8. No one ever thinks it’ll happen to them until it does. Super scary! We all need to be reminded of these emergency type of situations and hopefully take a CPR lesson so we are better prepared. Thank God Lucy is okay!

  9. Thank God you’re both okay – excellent excellent job!! Thanks for sharing this.

  10. Oh Kelly. Thank you so much for writing about this. You are a kick ass human.

  11. Good job Mom!! Great post…terrifying but a great reminder to us all!

  12. You are my child…You inhaled a leaf when you were two months’ older than Lucy is this morning. I did the right thing, then shook for the rest of the day, trying to imagine my life without you. I couldn’t imagine it then, can’t imagine it now. You did the right thing, Kelly. You’re a good mother. And the best damn daughter in the known universe. You make me cry with your competence, and I love you today more even than I loved you then. And tomorroow will be even better than today — for me and for you and your daughters.

  13. Smart Lady! I don’t know of anything more scary, but you did exactly the right thing. The CPR is so important to know – I had to use it once and was so glad I had the training. Really proud of you.

  14. This happened to me recently, too. We too practice baby led weaning, and I am used to the gag sound, but he was scooting around the kitchen floor and he then made this terrible noise and his eyes were WIDE OPEN staring at me. Having worked as a lifeguard for 5 years, they looked like the eyes of someone drowning, and I immediately picked him up, turned him over and did 2 back blows. Out popped a random shredded piece of plastic that our dog had gotten to first. I remained calm throughout, but internally was FREAKING out. And the adrenaline and emotions afterward was so intense…I cannot imagine having to call 911 or worse…not recognizing the signs or knowing what to do.

    So glad both our kids are okay.

  15. Oh dear God!! How terrifying!! Good on you for staying calm. One of the kids started choking at the table one night. I went into super-calm solve it mode. Then I sobbed in the shower for 15 minutes later.

  16. That just made me cry a little. I have a 6- month old and I was doing baby-led weaning but I couldn’t take the gagging! I got too freaked out when he gagged really bad once and was scared and cried really hard. Before that, he’d just gag up the piece that was too big and would go back to eating. I’m doing mostly purees now b/c the whole thing just terrified me. I’ll go back to finger foods in a bit. I’m glad to know everything is ok w/your little one! You were a good calm mama.

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