Almost every mother of a child old enough to eat solid foods has had a moment like I had this morning or lives in fear that she will one day have one. Evan took a bite of toast. He chewed it a bit and swallowed. And the toast went down just far enough to get lodged in his throat. First he tried to cough. I sat and watched, knowing that he always manages to get wayward bites like this out on his own. But that didn't happen this time. His eyes got wide. He started to gesture wildly. And I suddenly realized that my child really and truly couldn't breathe.
I know intellectually that a finger sweep is a mistake in these cases, that I could have lodged the toast further into his throat by doing it and that I should have tried a Heimlich or something first. But I'm a tad unclear on the Heimlich. Evan was strapped into a booster seat with a tricky-to-remove tray attached. And the kid wasn't breathing. All I could think of was getting that toast out so he could get air in his lungs again. Fast. So the finger sweep it was. The piece was jammed so far down, I could barely reach it. Thankfully, it was also soft enough that I was able to scoop it out.
I sat for a long time afterwards, holding Evan and trying to compose myself. He was breathing normally again, but I wasn't, not by a long shot. As he squirmed out of my arms, I couldn't help think how tenuous my grasp on him really is, how easily he could just get away from me -- permanently. If I could have, I'd have held him there safe in my arms forever, not even caring what a cliche that was. Instead we returned to the kitchen table, where I fed him teeny tiny bites of toast as if he were a baby again and watched him like a hawk. Our morning progressed as if it had never been interrupted. Evan babbled happily about Cookie Monster and Julia sang a little song she'd learned in preschool. And I just sat there, trying to breathe around a lump in my throat much larger than any piece of toast -- and much harder to remove.