No meal with Isla would be complete without one cool shot of adrenaline, poured especially for me.
It’s served straight up my spine, numbness across the chest, heart pumping through the ears, fingers tingling.
She offers it in the kitchen, when my back is turned away from her. I’m facing the counter, slicing and dicing her serving of whatever’s on the menu. I hear her gentle coughing, then a sharp gag, then a moment of silence that lasts an odd second too long. The instant I whip around to face her—those cherub cheeks flushed red, her eyes uncertain, more silence—the adrenaline shoots right through me with a lone thought,
She’s choking! Oh my god! This time, she’s really choking!
Though I’ve thought this a couple dozen times, it still rips through me like a triple espresso on an empty stomach.
I rip her tray from her chair, fumble unbuckling the belt (did I mention the numbness?), and grab her by her tiny torso never knowing exactly what to do next. It’s usually in that moment that she opens her little mouth, releasing dozens of little pieces of the un-chewed food I’d been serving her over the last ten minutes.
She’s not gasping for breath, losing oxygen to the brain, about to pass out …. she’s simply given in to the fact that there’s no room in her mouth to chew.
When I realize she’s fine, I get a small taste of relief and then a large side order of anger. “Isla! Why do you do this? Don’t shovel so much in your mouth at once!” For dessert, we share a small dish of disbelief. Me, not understanding what’s possessing my little daughter to hoard every morsel she sees. Her, wondering why soft, sweet cooing mommy sometimes suddenly turns so loud and sharp.
I’m always wide awake after a meal like that.
WIDE awake. Ready to run a race, dash off a hundred thank you cards, redesign the living room, write a family financial plan for the new year. No need to seek life-affirming thrills on the top of a ski mountain, on the backseat of a motorcycle, in a 100 foot plunge off a trestle bridge. I’m now get shots of my adrenaline right in my own kitchen.
The last time this choking fake out happened, I had had enough and did what any
young mother mother of a young child would do: I signed up for a class on infant CPR. (No. That’s still on the To-Do list.) I took my problem to the Internet and start googling the heck of out of it… ‘infant stuffing mouth,’ ‘infant choking,’ ‘infant feeding problems,’
That’s when I discovered that there are actually experts in what I call the ‘mechanical side of feeding.’ They’re usually occupational therapists and speech pathologists who specialize in pediatric feeding difficulties. Who knew?!
Q & A: Alisha Grogan
Meet one such expert, Alisha Grogan, MOTR/L a pediatric occupational therapist and mother of two young boys based in the Pittsburgh area.
Alisha and her blog, Your Kid’s Table, talked me through my most recent fear of feeding Isla—and then, since I’m full of fears, we chatted some more… Here, find great tips for feeding a toddler or younger. Since this post is long, I added some nifty headings to make it easier to skim through and find what you’re looking for…