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.