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.