Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hazards (Choking, and Others)

I had to do the Heimlich Maneuver on Addie tonight.  Three times.  Hard.  That moment--what was it, seven seconds maybe?--between the time I heard her (bloodcurdling) scream and the time the quarter flew out of her mouth and on to the bathroom floor was the most terrifying moment of my life.  Easy.

We went to a barbecue today at some friends of Eric's, his bandmates.  He's still there, as I'm typing, playing drums, probably, and hanging out.  He doesn't know about all this yet.  I brought the girls home around six so they could have baths and some down time before bed.  I put Addie into her bed a little before 8, with some books.  Normally, she reads a few then turns out her light and goes to sleep.

But not tonight.  Tonight, it seems, she got out of bed and got down her piggy bank (which is actually an old spaghetti jauce jar that we throw our old change in) and decided to "play with her money," which is something she's been interested in lately.  I didn't know this was going on.  I figured she was reading, or already asleep.  It was quiet in there.  Also, I have to say I might not have been too worried about it if I had.  You can be horrified if you like.  You can assume I'm the worst parent ever if you need to.  But, really, Addie's not a kid who puts small stuff in her mouth just messing around.  She has played with her money jar before (albeit when one of us is in the room); she usually counts the coins, throws them around on the floor, puts them in the jar and pours them back out, and that's it.

Except that's not it, is it?  Tonight, it seems that she got that old jar down out of her closet, and decided to put a coin (coins?) into her mouth, and swallowed one (or more?).  The one she choked on was a quarter.

By the time I got to her, she was red-faced and bug-eyed, terrified.  How did I get so incredibly, incredibly lucky, I wonder, that she was able to get out a scream before the thing closed off her windpipe?  Because if she hadn't got out that scream, it would be quiet in there now, and we wouldn't know a thing until morning.

After the quarter popped out, I lost it, of course, rocking her back and forth and sobbing, probably scaring the shit out of her, though not more than she already had been.  I frantically sweeped up that money and hid that jar in the highest recesses of my closet (it will disappear tomorrow, believe me) and then rocked her and sobbed some more and made her promise she would never ever put money in her mouth again.

There's all sorts of stuff I could write, like about how these things happen in an instant, an instant, and how death and danger seem to always be lurking, waiting to snatch your happiness away, or about how insane it is that I would ever let a jar of money, a jar of choking hazards, for Christ's sake, just sit on a shelf in my three-year-old's closet, as if I had a death wish for her or something.

But those things are only half-truths.  Some disasters take eons to unfold and go on and on.  Life is strangely safe, too, despite those lurking dangers, and I don't wish to live my life--or teach my girls to live theirs--as if we were constantly under siege.  I'm not interested in teaching them to skydive anytime soon, or anything, and yes, I will be a little insane about choking hazards from now on.  I will readjust what I trust Addie to do and not do.  But I will not be zipping the girls into plastic bubble tents, either.  I will let them run and get scraped knees, and taste dirt, and put their shoes on backwards. 

As for tonight, I think when I stop feeling so scared, I will just feel grateful.  For that scream.  For the Heimlich Maneuver working.  For my girls, who are living in this world, safe as I can make it.  For the reminder that my girl is only three, and that shiny things are too inviting to resist, and need to be put away for now.  Grateful that this was a lesson and not a tragedy.  That is the best I can do.


  1. That is so intense, Sweetheart. I'm so glad you were there, so glad you are both ok. Holy Crap. Thank god you knew the maneuver. Thank god. You must still be reeling. I wonder how many times we all, as kids, or god forbid as teenagers, come close to dying but amazingly don't, in our lifetimes. Nothing to say except I'm so grateful it all worked out okay. Love you.


  2. Thank you for sharing this. I will no longer trust Max to play with change - something he also has been doing quite safely. I felt your fear as I was reading this post and not for one moment did I feel like you did anything wrong. You are a wonderful mama - and I too am so happy she was able to let out that scream. Life is so fragile. I also love what you wrote in concern to your feelings about keeping your kids safe but not putting them in a bubble. I think we all have something happen that make us think about that.

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