I’ll never forget the day it happened. My “mom fear” had come true. If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have at least one fear in raising our small children. Maybe you have more than one. Mine has always been choking. I’m terrified that my children are going to choke to death one day. Call it irrational, but it’s the reason I held off on giving solid foods for so long (probably too long) and the reason I still cut their food up into tiny itty-bitty pieces even though they’re old enough for their bites sizes to be bigger. The potential of choking is the reason I watch my children like a hawk when they take bites I deem to be “too big” and have anxiety every time they eat grapes and cherry tomatoes.
Choking has always been my biggest fear for one reason: you can’t hear it happening. Your kids can’t call for you. They can’t cry. They can’t breathe. It’s silent and it can happen right next to you, in no time at all. Recently, a video went viral of a mom saving her little one from something he ate. Images of grapes lodged in kids’ airways have been circulating the interwebs with warnings to cut them in half. A professional athlete’s daughter died after being wrapped up in the cord of their blinds some time ago. So tragic. I remember reading about a little girl who almost choked on her seat belt with her mom less than 10 feet away, talking to a friend at the front of the vehicle.
The Internet is full of these stories – these warnings – and it terrifies me. It’s always been my “mom fear” and it is even more so now since it happened to my little girl.
My now-4.5-year-old daughter was sitting happily in her high-chair. She was 16 months old and I was sitting next to her at our kitchen table visiting with a friend. She was eating mini-peanut butter cracker sandwiches that I had broken in half (so she wouldn’t choke, ironically). I was sitting right next to her but my head was turned away to talk to my friend. I looked over and there she was, turning red with terror in her eyes. She was choking. Right next to me.
Adrenaline and instinct took over and I quickly flung her out of her high-chair and laid her flat on my forearm, braced by my thigh, face down toward the floor. I started forcefully patting her on the back between her shoulder blades while my friend was watching her face, updating me on the color it was turning. Instructing her to, “tell me if she turns blue.” I patted for what felt like hours when really it was only seconds. Then my girl let out a loud cry and I had never been more thankful. That sound meant the cracker was dislodged and my baby could breathe.
I let out a huge sigh of relief and held my girl tight, calming her (and me) down from the scare. Of course, she was done eating at that point and wanted nothing to do with that particular snack again. It was the last time we ever bought those cracker sandwiches.
If I had been in another room, if I didn’t pay attention during the classes I’d taken, or if I didn’t have the choking guide on my fridge that I passively looked at every day as I opened and closed it, this story may have ended differently. Our story could have been one of the tragic ones that circulate through social media.
My toddler was choking.
My fear came true.
I’m so glad I knew what to do.