This Friday as the credits were rolling after our Friday night movie I heard the tell-tale sound of choking. It was our almost-three year old, our little birthday girl. John sat up in his recliner, trying to see if she was OK. A big sister was patting her on the back.
“Is she OK?” I asked. Someone flipped on the light as I jumped up from the couch and hurried over to her little beanbag nest on the floor. Seconds passed as I patted her back, watching her struggling for air, expecting any second to see her coughing out a popcorn seed. Instead her mouth hung open and her eyes stared and her body grew limp. John grabbed her from me and turned her over and held her head-down, thumping on her back. Still no breathing. He thumped some more as I felt to see if her chest was rising.
“Should we call 911?” I asked him, thinking frantically of the many minutes it would take a rescue worker to reach our house. It seemed to me that her face was getting blue, and all I could think was that it was her birthday in two days and she had to be OK.
“Yes.” John decided quickly. He stuck his finger in her mouth, swiping, feeling for the obstruction. Our 19 year old ran wide-eyed for the phone, with me willling her to move fast. But as she started to dial, John said, lifting his ear from her chest, “No, wait– she’s breathing now.”
She was still limp. I put my hand on her chest and couldn’t feel anything. “No, she’s not!” I was terrified, desperate to get the paramedics on their way to us.
“No, she’s OK,” he reassured me. “See?”
And sure enough, as I sat there on the floor trembling she breathed and moved and pinked up and her face became aware again and she started to cry and held out her arms for me to pick her up so she could cry in my arms for awhile longer.
And tonight we celebrated her third birthday. And she was so beautiful blowing out her candles and opening her gifts and laughing and playing that I wanted to make it go in slow motion.