Sand Hill Road, heading West. About a 1/4 mile from the freeway entrance. Max starts gagging on a cracker. In his carseat. In my rearview mirror I see his eyes frozen in fear, his mouth stretched wide, and an entire Ritz cracker (yep, they’re round) wedged in his mouth. Whole.
In the span of about two seconds I am merging to the side of the road while at the same time turning around to reach into his mouth and grab the cracker with my finger. Except it’s really stuck. And he’s frantic, and I’m frantic. He panics, because he can’t breathe. And I grab the cracker, but it breaks. I am still turned around while I’m pulling off to the shoulder, fishing soggy cracker pieces out as fast as I can, realizing at the same time that some could get pushed further back into his throat if I’m not careful. In that instant I can hear the horror stories from CPR training about parents who are trying to dislodge something from their kids throat and instead push it back further and the kid dies. So I’m “finger-sweeping” his mouth, and the cracker pieces are falling all over the car seat, and then I realize that there is blood everywhere,and that it is coming from his mouth. When the cracker broke and got stuck, I grabbed it forcefully enough that I scraped the roof of his mouth with my fingernail. But his tongue was bleeding too, probably from the hard edge of the cracker. I have no idea. All of this, while still in the front seat, then throwing the emergency brake on as I bolt out of the car, into traffic, and throw open the back door.
Max is breathing, but terrified. He’s gagging as I rip him out of his carseat, “It’s Ok, It’s Ok, It’s Ok” I repeat, as I run him past the oncoming cars and over to the other side of the car. I’m rubbing his back as he throws up cracker, formula, and what looks to me like an awful lot of blood.
I will NEVER let him eat in the carseat again.
5 minutes later, he is happily playing in the front seat, pushing all of the buttons on the dashboard, sporting a clean shirt and fresh, diaper-wiped hands and face. I am shaking as I look at his sweet face. All of the do’s and don’ts of parenthood, all of the what-if’s and close-calls and might have beens. Thankfully Daddy was only a few miles ahead of us, and he circled back and helped us to get ourselves together again.
As I turned the hazard lights off and pulled back into traffic, I looked back at your pouty rosebud lips and your big hazel eyes. You were sucking down some water and your little feet were crossed comfortably in front of you. I had to fight with the thoughts that were flooding my brain….we could have been on the freeway, or driving over the hill with nowhere to pull over. What if the cracker hadn’t dislodged? What if I had been in the fast lane? What if, and what if, and what if???
Turns out that the only road home, up and over the big hill, with one way in and one way out, was closed because of an accident. I had to drive all the way up to the City and then back down the coast, an extra hour, to get home. I had 60 minutes to think, to look at your soft cheeks in the rearview mirror, and to remind myself that being a mom means that (most of the time at least), I know exactly what to do.
Then I thanked God for being with us, and thanked you for being mine.