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I took Lena out in the front-carrier for her first real snow on New Year's Day. It's snowed plenty in her short life, but this was the first time she felt flakes on her cheeks, saw it swirl around her. It was beautiful, walking on our street, silent but for the sounds of Sylvia and her friends' voices, calling to each other a block away. I love the closeness that holding Lena in this position gives us--almost like being pregnant again, with my big down coat around both of us, but so much better, because I can nuzzle the top of her head.
That night, we went to our friends' for dinner. After a typically harried-but-fun codependent evening--they also have a 3 1/2 year-old and an infant, and our time together is defined by mutual understanding of chaos--Sylvia took a few sections of clementine off the table, and popped them in her mouth.
As she sauntered towards me in her signature walk/dance, she suddenly stopped. I can't find the letters for the sound that punctuated the silence when she opened her mouth, her eyes wide. She couldn't breathe. Aron and I were both right there--Lena was already snug in her car seat in the hallway--so we each reacted, fast. I was down on my knees, pounding on her back and trying to do that "sweeping" motion with my fingers in the back of her throat. When it wasn't working--maybe 10 seconds had passed--Aron grabbed her from behind, held her little body against his forearm, and pounded her back. Plop, the half-chewed, saliva-filled sections fell onto the floor. Sylvia started screaming and crying in his arms. I was all nerves, my hands still shaking minutes later as I buckled her into her car seat.
But I didn't cry--not a tear--until I was reading Cat in the Hat to her in bed, and the thought came down, the thought I had never truly entertained before, but clearly has just been out there, waiting for me: "What if Sylvia ..." I can't even type the word. And then, "What if Lena ..."
I tend towards morbid thoughts, especially when the house is a mess, it's winter, I haven't gotten any work done or folded any laundry, or someone looks at me cross-eyed. If you added up the hours, I've probably spent entire weeks of my life worrying about Aron's death-by-falling-in-gutter. But not the kids. I certainly get anxious about them. But the real thought of serious harm to them--the kind of thought that comes right before a visceral belief that it could happen, that it's just a hair's breath away from happening--hadn't ever occurred to me, not in this way. As I robotically read the words in the book, the Cat unleashed Thing One and Thing Two into the peaceful house, and I unleashed the thoughts within me: "What if we had come home without her? What if instead of reading this book to her, the next time I saw it, it was lying on her empty bed, in this empty room?"
If you're tempted to now try this exercise with your own life, please don't. It's self-torture, plain and simple--like mentally rewinding the scary scene of a movie that just ended.
So we have rules now, about only eating while sitting down, and I'm taking CPR. But I don't necessarily expect that the next time I feel this way--this vulnerable, this tender, this unbelievably lucky--will have anything to do with CPR. The scary depths we open up in ourselves when we take on parenthood... this is part of the job, right? The possibility of great sadness has to live alongside the possibility of great joy. The silence of a moment gone terrifyingly still, next to the silence of walking with a child through a snow-swirling landscape.
Join writer Emily Bloch each week as she chronicles her pregnancy--and now, life with a new baby.