This one choked on a frozen blackberry yesterday. Scared the squirrel out of me.
Beau was gone, horseback in the northwest pasture. I was on the phone with my mom and cutting frozen blackberries in half for our youngest, a 16-month-old, to snack on. She grabbed a whole blackberry and popped it in her mouth. Distracted, I thought nothing of it.
Thirty seconds later it was evident she was clamoring for air. At first I thought she was suffering a brain freeze because of the frozen fruit in her mouth. I draped her belly over my arm and hit her on the back. Nothing came out. She was struggling but soundless, her face filling with panic. “Mom-I-have-to-go-Marsi’s-choking!” I shouted into the phone, and slammed it down.
I did two shallow sweeps of the baby’s mouth with my finger. Her jaws were shut tight, with razor-like baby teeth blocking my way. Nothing. I couldn’t reach anything. More pounding on her back. Thoughts stampeded through my head: what would happen if I couldn’t save her? I didn’t want her life to end this way. Should I call 9-1-1 and hope a professional could quickly talk me through some sort of method to save her? Should I drive up the county road honking the horn for my husband’s help? Should I load the kids and drive down to the home of the neighbors with whom we don’t get along and who probably wouldn’t be inside anyway? No, no time for any of that. If she’s going to be saved, you’re going to have to do it yourself. It’s up to you.
The back-pounding was doing no good. I had to try something else. I had to get serious and risk hurting her in order to save her. Finally I pried her mouth open with my hand and used my index finger to make a very deep sweep of her tonsils. Thank the very good Lord, I snagged the blackberry and it plopped out onto the kitchen floor.
She could breathe. She cried. I cried. Her older siblings looked on in wonder.
For the rest of the afternoon I held her. I caressed her face as she napped. And I shook. I was weakened, once again, with the knowledge that life is fragile. Happiness and misery are moments apart. Life and death are only a blackberry apart. The reality of all this seems magnified out here on this stark prairie, where aloneness is real, where we know we have only ourselves to rely on in an emergency. But truly, even if you’re in a bustling city, when your time comes, a top-notch medical facility next door couldn’t save you. Who but yourself do you truly have to rely on?
If you’re a little one… hopefully your mom. Or dad. Or caretaker of some kind. And therein lies the responsibility. Yes, we went through the work of bringing these munchkins into the world. Now it’s up to us to get them through the next — 16? 18? more? — years alive.
I didn’t come up with the “Mommin’ Ain’t Easy” slogan; I saw it on a t-shirt. I think I need that t-shirt, because it’s so true. This is real life. And it’s really tough. Sometimes it’s really scary.
But it can be real rewarding, too. I mean, there’s probably nothing more gratifying than saving someone’s life. And these Blake kids give me plenty of opportunity to do that. May the odds be ever in my favor.
© Tami Blake