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Moonfrye Family: Just Breathe by Katie Hurley

You can read every parenting book ever written.

You can lose entire days reading parenting blogs, some written by credentialed experts, others by moms in the trenches.


You can plan, structure, and time everything just right each day.


You can troubleshoot to avoid meltdowns, you can sanitize to avoid germs, and you can overstuff your over-sized bag to account for things like wet clothes, hungry bellies, and allergic reactions.


You can do all of that each day.


But even so, you still can’t fend off the one common denominator that brings us all together:  Mom Anxiety.


You tell yourself that it will get easier over time.  To some degree, it does.  But with each new stage of development comes new challenges, which leads to new worries.


And some worries just seem to be there all along…


She was just 22 months old when we heard the unfamiliar gasping sound filtering through her monitor late one October night.  Baby brother, just one month old, was nestled snug in his co-sleeper, quiet for a little while.


My husband and I had just settled in for a couple of hours of sleep before baby brother would need another feeding.


For a brief moment, we thought she might be coughing.


Let’s keep them separated tomorrow; we can’t let baby brother get sick…


Within seconds we knew that something was terribly wrong. 

She rolled back and forth in her crib, gasping for air, unable to even yell or cry.


She can’t breathe.  Oh my god, our baby can’t breathe.


We sprinted down the hall at record speed.  My husband hit the lights and grabbed water while I picked her up from her crib.  Her eyes open wide in a panic and her face an unfamiliar shade of red, she flailed her arms as she fought to breathe.


She’s choking, she’s choking, she has to be choking….


Her pacifiers were all in tact.  There was nothing in the back of her throat.  Attempts to give her water were futile, at best.


Call 911.  Now!


I begged them to please just hurry as I choked out the information...

Please just come; she’s not yet two.


By the time we made it down the stairs, the firefighters were at our door.  With a calm that only belongs to everyday heroes, they strapped her car seat onto a gurney and walked us out into the cold, dark night.


Smiling on the outside, I did my best to convey a sense of calm for my scared baby girl.


Can you hear the sirens?  Can you see the lights?  Those are special for us tonight!


Medicine was given and evaluations were made.  Croup.  A constriction of the airways that makes it exceedingly difficult for very young children to breathe. 


Once she was stabilized, a red Popsicle brought the smile back to my baby girl’s face.


Together, her daddy and I sighed in relief.


We could have lost her.


But we didn’t.


But we could have.


The tears would pour from my eyes for most of the night.  Sleep seemed an impossible task as I laid on her floor, right beside her crib, listening to her breathe.


They said it would get easier.  They said it would go away.

Most kids outgrow this by 5.  It’s time limited.


But two months ago we were given a new diagnosis:  Asthma.


At least once a month, I make that very same sprint down the hallway to get to her before it gets any worse.


At least once a month we spend days doing breathing treatments.

This one, she will not outgrow.


It was early morning when the attack hit just this very weekend.  4:37AM, to be exact.


The gasping was the same as it’s ever been.  Her wide eyes darted back and forth as she attempted to choke out, “Mommy, help, I can’t breathe.”


On autopilot I filled the bathroom thick with steam, started the breathing treatment, and held her close to calm her down.


Just breathe, baby girl.  Just breathe.


An hour later I tucked her in, sleepy at last.  I collapsed on her floor as I watched her chest rise and fall.  The tears poured from my eyes once again as I finally drifted off to sleep. 


Just breathe, baby girl.  Please, for Mommy, just breathe.

Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA.  She has a four year old daughter, three year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog, Practical Parenting, and can also be found on Twitter.

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Comment by Galit Breen on March 27, 2012 at 8:26pm

Oh Katie, stunning and scary all wrapped up in your beautiful parenting.

Comment by Lorena Costino on March 27, 2012 at 1:09pm
What a scary story! I'm sorry your baby has to deal with this. I feel anxious for you. Your commitment to your daughter will continue to protect and support her when these challenging situations arise, which are hopefully not too often.
Comment by Gina Osher on March 26, 2012 at 3:37pm

Oh, that story brought tears to my eyes, Katie. How incredibly frightening. I think, even when you know what it is, it doesn't take the fear away for a mom. I'm so glad she was OK and I'm sending healthy, healing thoughts her way. xo

Comment by Katie Hurley on March 26, 2012 at 12:37pm

Thank you all for the supportive comments.  You are right, Sarah.  The anxiety does linger.  My daughter has tree nut, dog, and mold allergies (among others) and it's a constant worry.  

Comment by Donna Tetreault on March 26, 2012 at 10:33am

Katie... so frightening... your baby girl is so lucky to have you and your husband... I absolutely share your fear and worry... always.

Comment by Sarah Helene on March 26, 2012 at 9:47am

Even when things like Asthma and severe allergies can be "managed" or you've dealt with them before and know what to expect, that anxiety always lingers. My son has allergies to nuts and egg whites. On the road to discovering this we've been to the ER a couple of times, we've been to some of the best allergists here in LA, we carry Benadryl and an Epi Pen, we've cleared our house of all offenders so our curious 2 y.o. never is tempted or harmed. And while I'm prepared, I know I can't keep him in a bubble. But no matter how much I educate friends, family, teachers, etc. (who I know are completely capable), I always worry about the "what ifs..." Don't you wish you could take on the Asthma, the allergies, or whatever health challenges they face for them so they could be completely free? I am so glad your little girl is okay and that she resumed her sweet slumber after your loving care.

Comment by Christina Simon on March 26, 2012 at 8:48am

Katie, I would have been beside myself that night. I'm so glad she's ok and you heard her. Yes, firefighters are heroes. 

Comment by Hillary on March 26, 2012 at 8:04am

Thank you for sharing your story...I can't even imagine how scared you must have been that first night.  Mom anxiety is contagious and shared by all of us.

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