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.