The three scariest things that can happen to a childless man:
- Looking in the mirror and seeing your father’s face staring back at you.
- Hearing the mechanic suck in his breath through his teeth when you ask how much it’ll cost.
- Your girlfriend turning to you and saying, “I know we’ve never talked about having children, but I’ve got some news…’
The three scariest things that can happen to a parent:
- Answering the door to a stranger who says, “Hello, I’m from Child Services.”
- Discovering a rash that looks strangely like those meningitis pictures you keep Googling.
- When your child stops breathing.
So this afternoon I was driving along with my wife and youngest daughter in the car when suddenly 17-month-old Rosie’s breathing started to sound a bit raspy, like there was something lodged in her throat and she was struggling to breathe. I looked round and she was staring vacantly off to one side.
‘Rosie?’ I said.
‘Can you check on her?’ I asked my wife.
She turned round in her seat and said, with increasing panic, ‘Rosie? Rosie? Rosie!’
I looked round again and Rosie was still staring off to the side, eyes still blank, but now her lips were blue, her face was violet, and she looked like a porcelain doll.
‘I’m pulling in!’ I shouted, spun the wheel and stopped the car on someone’s driveway. Leaping out, I scattered the contents of the door pocket all across the road, rushed round the back of the car, ripped open Rosie’s door and dragged her from the seat.
She had this glazed look in her eyes and she was trying to breathe but there was nothing but this horrible gurgling rattle, and she was totally unresponsive.
I turned her upside down, lay her over my forearm and slapped her hard between the shoulder blades, whereupon two old ladies, thinking I was assaulting her, asked if she was okay.
I checked her and she wasn’t, so I shook her, turned her over, slapped her again a few times. When I turned her back the right way she was still struggling to breathe, but there was a bit more life in her eyes.
Cuddling her and bouncing her up and down, gradually the colour returned to her lips and she started breathing, if not normally then at least no longer sounding like she was dying. She didn’t react to me, just stared away and kept yawning and closing her eyes, everything sluggish and drained, her eyelids pink and lurid.
Luckily we were only a few minutes from the local surgery, so I rushed her there and they put me straight in to see a doctor. She was so sleepy, she didn’t react to the thermometer in her ear or the stick in her mouth, but she did start to cry when the doctor listened to her chest.
The long and the short of it, she has a fever but her chest sounds clear and her throat isn’t swollen. The doctor thinks it’s one of three things:
- A fit, though with no other symptoms or a repeat performance, it’s difficult to say any more at this time.
- She choked on a foreign body or even her own saliva.
- She is ill, and sometimes children hold their breath when they’re feeling rotten, even to the point of turning blue.
Reassured, I took her home and she has been asleep on me the last ninety minutes while I listen to her breathing. But oh my gosh, if you’ve ever known fear before becoming a parent, it’s a thousand times worse after. It was probably three minutes between seeing her lips were blue and the colour returning to them, but those three minutes have kicked the living crap out of me.
I only hope it is a one-off.