January 23, 2007

One Step Behind

My kid almost died today. Once when she ran outside our apartment to the 8" wide railings overhanging the concrete patio, once when she galloped headfirst into the crashing ocean waves, once when she started gagging on her own phlegm in her carseat, once when I turned my back for a second and she slipped under the water in the tub, once when she went sprawling on the floor holding a freshly sharpened pencil... you get the picture.

None of this is out of the ordinary. One of the truly bizarre things about children is that they are scrambling for death every second of their lives and you either have to learn to accept it or have a panic attack the first time they eat the entire bottle of asprin and give them all up for adoption. Despite my instincts, I've chosen the former. I tell you, if it wasn't for the whole death thing, kids would be a hoot.

Once I created a baby-proofed living environment and took the necessary precautions to ensure a reduced chance of spontaneous suicide, the only thing I could do was sit back and wait for her to find the cracks. In my own home, there are few opportunities left for Pixie to kill herself. But the second we step out that door it's a whole new world of exciting new ways to go.

Death didn’t take long to introduce himself after Pixie was born. There was no nursery at my birth center but I was happy to sleep with her by my side during those first hours. My husband and I had fallen asleep in the recovery room with Pixie lying in a cart next to me. It was the first sleep I had gotten in almost two days and I went out cold. For no particular reason I woke up with a start in the middle of the night. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was almost three in the morning. Then I looked over at Pixie. She was swaddled tightly and lying on her back silently but something seemed wrong. I flicked on the lamp and to my terror realized her face was dark purple, her mouth and nose were filled with vomit and she stiff as a board and choking. I quickly suctioned out her mouth, rolled her on her side and watched as she screamed her way back to life.

When the nurses sent us home two days later they gave me their standard recital about Pixie’s possible death by SIDS, malnutrition, allergies, suffocation and choking, Getting into that car and driving home was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.

I guarded her viciously during those first months. I wouldn’t let myself sleep for fear she would die if I dozed off. But after two successful years of keeping her alive and no major disasters I’ve found that Death stays one step behind every child and there is little a parent can do to outsmart him. Anyone who doesn't believe in God should have kid and reassess. He's the only reason they survive. With a determined enough toddler, a green sock and a sippy cup are all that is needed to strangulate themselves and set the house on fire in under ten seconds.

Although I’m considerably less paranoid nowadays, I still go in her room every night before bed and touch her cheek to make sure it's warm. I send up an I.O.U. every time my fingers brush that soft, flushed skin. We beat Death today. Let’s hope we get lucky again tomorrow.

20 comments:

Suzie Petunia said...

That is a terrifying story about Penny in the hospital. As a new mom? As a first time mom? I wouldn't have slept ever again... I would be there standing over her crib watching her every breath. I, too, am a bit more lax in baby-proofing these days. I'm convinced there is an entire squadron of guardian angels making sure our house doesn't burn down. I'm not kidding about that... my house SHOULD have burned down this week. kid + lamp + pillow = burn mark and smoke but no fire? I'm thanking heaven.

Clyde said...

Wait until Penny starts school. It's a whole new story. Playground at recess, car pool at the beginning/end of the day, field trips, blah, blah, blah... There is no way to stop your worries/concerns/paranoia as a mom. Just wait, wait with patience... and pray!
My oldest Claire is 6 years old now and I still check her cheek every night. I feel (and sleep) much better after doing that :)

compulsive writer said...

Wait till they start driving! I agree with susie petunia, there must be entire leagues of guardian angels.

I believe in miracles more each time when my kid pulls up to the house and puts his car into park. (And, lucky me, I get teenage driver number two in just two short months.)

Beautiful post. It's good to let our kids really live and it's especially good to be grateful.

Samantha said...

OK...this blog terrified me! I knew I was already going to be afraid of this but that hospital story really, really...holy crap. I mean I already feel like it will be a miracle if I survive childbirth, and now I've got to pray for MORE miracles and my baby not dying every day? WHAT IF IT DOES? THIS IS TERRIBLE!!!

Rachel said...

Oh, how I identify with this post!

Rachelle Black said...

Hmmm...
I have two teenagers now and I STILL check to see if they are breathing at night.

Having been through (and still going through) some serious health problems with my daughter, the heartache and fear is so very indescribable. It's a good thing Father balances it out with such wonderful joyful moments. He know what he is doing methinks.

The things you worry about change, but the drill is just the same- paranoia that they are going to die just never goeas away. And as a mother, your love grows stronger and stronger as they grow, so I am sure you can figure out how gray my hair is by now :))

What would we do without our guardian angels? I just hope there is a troop available when my son starts to drive next year.... they'd better start training now...
Slainte~
Rachelle

stupidramblings said...

Hear! Hear! (or is it Here! Here!)?

Either way, I agree.

The Wiz said...

I'm not actually sure your baby would survive if she ate an entire bottle of aspirin. Aspirin is dangerous stuff.

I can't believe you ever went to sleep again after her almost dying in the hospital. I've never heard of a baby choking on her own vomit. Good thing you had the suction thing there and knew what to do. Did you yell at the nurses that they didn't warn you this might happen? How scary.

I'm constantly amazed any of us make it to adulthood.

s'mee said...

FYI...

I will turn 49 in a few weeks. Read that and understand that all the offspring are at least 19 years old by now and living away from home.

It doesn't stop. You will have those "woke up with a start" nights and call the first person who comes to mind, just to hear them, once again, say, "No mom, we're o.k. 'You?"

You will be the first one at the hospital when the D-i-L calls to tell you: "They found something..."

You will be the first person after "dad" to hear your grandbaby's first cry.

Face it girls, you won't be sleeping until your "sleeping". ; >

kaff said...

Thanks for changing my mind about ever having kids. I was just beginning to think that I could do it. I am in need of some serious training!!

Laura said...

I'd like to think it was more than mere coincidence that woke you up that night.

AzĂșcar said...

You know you've reached another level in parenting when your kid is sleeping too long and while you immediately think of all the horrible things they could have done in their room to kill themselves and thus remain quiet, you decide that you still need to sleep.

Rather than risk the wake-up, you resolve that you might find them dead in the morning.

I always wondered why my mom was the lightest sleeper known to man. Now I know why.

Lisa M. said...

I am so grateful.

Each and Every Day... I am grateful for one more.

A Payne said...

I hate this post. It makes my heart beat faster,just thinking about all the near-death experiences my kids have had. Every birthday, like you, I think, I did it! I've kept them alive for one more year.

FoxyJ said...

The hospital story is totally scary. My daughter wrapped the blind cord around her neck and jumped off our bed while my husband and I were sitting next to her at the desk. Worst sound I've ever heard in my life--choking child (she was 2 1/2). We're both still grateful she did it while we were in the room and could get her down fast. I think that's one of the hardest things about having kids, there's always that fear in the back of your mind that something's going to happen to them. It's a good thing that someone more attentive than me is watching out for them...

Cannon said...

When Kendall was 1 we put him in his bed with a high fever. A few minutes later I heard a blood curdling scream, and ran in there to see him convulsing in his bed! He stopped breathing. Amanda called 911 while I ran him out to my car. It was a Dodge Stealth and I was about to set a land speed record getting to the hospital, but fortunatley he started sucking down air again and was fine. The police showed up like 30 seconds after we called 911, but it was all over by then.

We live in the country and I think my kids do more crazy, active things than most, but somehow they have never been to the ER yet. I'm sure our luck will run out some day and we'll be getting a cast or some stitches, and hopefully nothing worse.

Heather O. said...

I look at my son, now almost 5, and am constantly amazed that he's alive. I have no idea how I did it, and then I realize it wasn't me at all.

Once, when my son was about 2, a stranger knocked on our door and asked, "Is this anybody's child?" It was night, it was snowing, and this stranger, in his car, had almost hit my child who, unbeknownst to be, had been standing in the middle of the street. He had followed my sister's dog (we were having a big family party) out a door I assumed was locked. I didn't even miss him, because I had thought he was playing with his cousins. Yeah, that was a bad night. It was a long time before I let that kid OUT OF MY SIGHT. And he definitely had guardian angels watching over him that night.

Lindsay said...

Wow. So I'm officially freaked out about giving birth to the child currently growing within me. I think it might just be safer where it's at. And after reading your post and all these comments, I think the pain and discomfort of being eternally pregnant would be less that that of living in a state of constant worry. Yikes.

Shiloah Baker said...

That is a scary story about the baby! I'm paranoid all night and all day with my new one....she chokes so easily and is congested a lot. I barely sleep at all at night.

BTW- I'm tagging you! I want to see how weird you are! LOL! See my homeschool blog for the details:
http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/pinkginghamom/

amanda said...

Heather O. your story scared me to death. I have heard that family gatherings are the very worst for kids getting hurt or killed because everyone stops watching their kids because they assume someone else is watching them.

Our friends' little girl came within minutes of drowning at a pool where her family was at a reunion, but luckily her cousin saw her struggling under water and pulled her out. (note to self: pools are not a good place for reunions)

And I am guilty too--my 2 year old wandered off in a public building where we were having a large family gathering, and I had no idea because I thought one of her grandparents was holding her. when I looked up and saw that they weren't holding her, I freaked out and started searching the building. It took us over 10 minutes to track her down. YIKES!