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My Child Choked (& I’m a careful Mom). It was my fault.

May 9, 2019
My Child Choked (& I’m a careful Mom). It was my fault.

I’m a cautious, smart mom and my child choked. And it was my fault.

I didn’t lose him. Thank God I didn’t. But it was as real as real comes, and it was terrifying.

It was textbook choking. He was silent. He didn’t make a peep. He wasn’t coughing. He wasn’t gagging. He wasn’t flailing his arms. He was still. He was quiet. And he had an expression on his face that I’ve never seen on that precious little face before.

That’s how I knew it was real.

The sound of my sister’s voice. I knew. The way she said my name. It was quiet but it was different. Just hearing her tone, I immediately knew something was wrong with my son. I looked at him. I knew. There was no sound. I knew. His eyes were big and there was a look of worry. Helplessness, panic and worry. I knew.

My child was choking.

C'MON MAMA mother kissing child who choked

I shifted him forward in his chair and hit his back very hard several times.

I looked at him. Still no sound, still the same look in his eyes.

I felt the panic and the “Oh my god that didn’t work” wash over me.

I stood him up and slammed my hand into his back as hard as I could. Over and over again.

I didn’t know what else to do. And at the same time I knew the next thing I had to do was bend him over the chair in front of me or try the Heimlich.

I’ve never actually done the Heimlich. I know what you’re supposed to do but I wouldn’t say I know how to do it.

I’d lost my voice a few days earlier so I couldn’t even scream for help. I needed my sister to yell for a doctor or nurse.

My mind was racing a million miles an hour. And yet it was like everything was happening in slow motion. Slow enough for my mind to process the gravity of what was happening even as it was happening.

I was still beating his back as hard as I possibly could. I wasn’t worried about hurting him. I was worried about saving him.

Finally, I heard him cry my name through a weak sob.

I pulled him into my arms. I couldn’t breathe. Oh my God, I could’ve lost my child. Losing a child—or them losing me—is my biggest fear in the world. And I almost had.

My child choked.

I’d managed to get it up. Or out. Or at least shifted it so he could breathe.

I had done the first thing I could think to do. I don’t know if it was the right thing. Yes, it worked, but what if it hadn’t?

I send my regular babysitters to get trained in CPR & the like, but I haven’t gone myself. It’s been on my list for a long time. But I haven’t done it. How arrogant of me to think I know what to do just because I’m the Mother.

my child choked and im a careful helicopter mom

I’m diligent with their safety.

I use “leashes” in huge public settings. I’m scared of them running into the road. I’m terrified of kidnapping. I have them in survival swim lessons.

I worry about what they eat. What’s in the food I give them. How it impacts their growing bodies.

I’m the Mom who cuts my kids’ grapes vertically every single time. And when those grape halves look too big, I cut them again. I’m wary of whole bananas. I don’t like my children to eat with a sitter when I’m not there.

parents using leash for child

No shame in my leash game.

I’m careful. But still, my child choked.

I’m smart. But still, my child choked.

I’m a good Mom. And still, my child choked.

And it would’ve been my fault.

I made the mistake. I’m the one who thought a peanut M&M would be okay. I made that call.

We were at the theater. I don’t let my kids eat popcorn because it’s one of the main choking hazards for young kids. My son is 4.5 & I still don’t let him eat it. And yet I somehow thought peanut M&Ms would be okay.

I thought it would be okay because I’m careful. And because HE is careful. He chews. He tells his little sister to “take bites.” He is an excellent listener and a cautious child. So I thought it would be okay.

I had even momentarily hesitated and thought about it. And I ultimately decided it was okay.

I was wrong.

In one instant, everything could have changed. And I was almost completely helpless to save him. I’ve never felt so powerless in my entire life.

Even a medical professional might not have been able to save him if I hadn’t been able to. There are no guarantees.

Yes, I know “anything can happen to anyone at anytime.”

But that’s not what this is about. This is about me as a Mother making a mistake that could’ve cost my child everything. A Mother who loves her children more than she could have ever dreamed. A Mother who guards them with her life. A Mother just like you.

I’m just trying to say—it can happen to any one of us. Even the “careful” ones.

I’m taking a CPR class the first chance I get. I hope with my entire being I never feel that helpless again.

And as careful as I am, I can be more so. I hesitated about the peanut M&M. My mom gut questioned it. And my mom brain or heart or who knows what overruled it.

Such a tiny little thing could’ve destroyed my entire world. I’m sharing this so others can think twice. And so we as parents can make sure we are as trained/prepared for an emergency with our children as we can be.

I wasn’t.

I wasn’t trained. And I sure wasn’t prepared.

C'MON MAMA mom hugging child who choked

I’m not afraid to say that I’m a great Mom. I am. But I almost failed my child. And in a way, I did fail him. Because I guide what is “okay” for him to do, eat, watch—you name it. He looks to me. And I thought it was okay. So, so did he.

It’s been weeks and I’m still reeling. He recovered quickly so we stayed at the show that night. He’d been so looking forward to it. The second I tucked him in and shut the door that night I just sobbed and sobbed. I went into our bedroom and told my husband what had happened. That our child choked. I couldn’t stop crying. I was carrying the shock that I could have lost him. And the guilt that it was my fault that my child choked. And I was carrying the weight of wanting to tell everyone in the world so it wouldn’t happen to them, yet not wanting to tell anyone because the heaviness of it was too much to repeat. It was the closest call of my life.

The day after it happened I called my sister to make sure it was as real as it felt. She told me it was. And that it had been shocking and she’d gone home and taken a long shower and cried and thanked God over & over that he was okay. I asked her to tell our mom and sister what happened because I couldn’t bear talking about it yet.

A few days later I spoke to my son about it. He remembered it. He remembered being scared and he remembered that I really hurt his back. No, he hadn’t been playing or jumping up and down or being silly. He’d been sitting calmly waiting for the show.

My child choked not because he was moving around or playing at the table or being silly or talking with his mouth full.

The truth is he choked because I gave him something I shouldn’t have. It’s important to remember that it can happen in any circumstance.

We’ve since talked about choking safety and eating safety and how we all need to be more careful. In true big brother fashion, he is now exceedingly worried about his little sister choking and taking too big of bites.

I’ve also spoken to my husband about it more. About how I am going to take a CPR class. He’s a surgeon. He told me the Heimlich is very effective. I asked “How effective?” His answer: “About 85% of the time.” My mouth dropped. I blurted out, “That’s it?! That’s all? That’s not good enough!

He’s showing me how but I’m still going to take a class. Heimlich is one of the ways to save the life of someone choking. There are others. Like the back blows I did. And what about CPR? I don’t even pretend to know how to do that.

Did you know that a child dies from choking every 5 days in the US? I didn’t. My child choked. He could’ve been a statistic.

child who choked eating popcorn choking hazard

No more popcorn in this house. Puff-corn only.

So what can we do?

We can educate ourselves about the main choking hazards for children. (*Keep in mind that my son is 4.5—just because your child isn’t 2 years old anymore doesn’t mean he or she can’t choke.) We can take the life-saving skills classes & know what to do. And we can make sure our babysitters and schools and day cares are trained. We can make sure we don’t take any of it lightly. Because I can assure you, in that moment, it will feel anything but light. It will feel like the heaviest terror you can imagine.

Think of it this way:

It’s like preparing for the biggest test of your life—don’t you want to be as prepared as possible? Especially when it could mean life or death?

I let my kids eat popcorn until I read a post a Mom wrote about almost losing her 2 year old son to a piece of popcorn. I let them eat nuts until I read a Mother’s article about how her child choked to death on an almond. Reading those things breaks my heart into a million pieces but also makes me even more aware.

Mamas, I’m not trying to guilt you. Or mom-shame you. But I might be trying to scare you.

Scare you into getting the proper training and scare you into thinking twice. About the lollipop in the car (guilty). About the hot dog or piece of ice. Or maybe the spoonful of peanut butter. Or the latex balloon.

Because your child could choke.

Even if you’re a careful Mama, like me.

 

Update: I took a CPR/Basic Life Support (BLS) class. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I know it’s tough to find the time. I know it’s tough to find the money. But, the peace of mind it gives you is worth every penny & every minute. You will not regret it. I cannot believe I didn’t do this sooner. I feel so much more secure in my Motherhood. Do it. Look for a class in your area asap. We can raise our kids, we can mold & teach our kids, we can love our kids…but we also need to know how to save them when we can.


 

Has your child choked or have you ever had a choking scare? Do you have any pointers? Tell me more in the comments.

 


Want more MOMtalk? –> Are you a Stay at Home Mom? Or scared to Fly since having kids? Do you have Mom Burnout?

 

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I’m a cautious, smart mom & my child choked. And it was my fault. I wasn\'t trained. I wasn\'t prepared. I\'m a smart, good Mom but I was helpless.

Here\'s what I did and what I wish I had known before my child choked. #chokingchild #childchoked #chokinghazards
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16 comments

Jennifer D June 27, 2019 - 10:52 pm

First I just want to say how sorry I am that you had to experience such a thing but so glad your son is ok!! Reading your article was like you were reading my mind. Fortunately I have not had such an experience but it is something that tortures me daily. I have a daughter that just turned 5 and a 3 1/2 year old. Every time I have to leave them with someone I am tortured by the thought of things that could happen. Just like you said I don’t want my kids eating with sitters. I’m terrified every time I leave….even though I know it could happen with me there too. I still cut grapes in half and like you in half again if I think it’s still too big…hot dogs cut down the middle….no popcorn if I can help it! I can’t even tell you how many times a day I say chew good, one at a time and small bites. And I don’t see stopping any of this in the near future. It’s comforting to know I’m not overreacting with these foods and /or this topic. Some people give me the vibe like it’s ok to let my kids have these things and lighten up but IM NOT COMFORTABLE WITH IT!!! They have their entire lives to experience everything….they can live without popcorn for now. I don’t judge what other parents give their kids….I just know what I’m not comfortable with and it is from stories I was told at a CPR first aid class. I’m glad I heard the things i did because It made me smarter. And I also feel like my kids now know certain things they should lot eat and will come to me saying can I have this? Or turning down a particular food somewhere saying I’m not allowed to have that. Prayers to everyone and thank you for sharing.

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C'MON MAMA June 28, 2019 - 3:57 pm

Thank you for your support & sweetest words of encouragement. I mean it, it means so much to me. I am just like you–super careful & cautious. We are all just doing the best we can & we know what is right for us & our kids. No shame in my Mom game! If that means I’m a helicopter Mom, then I’ll be the Pilot (I just posted a meme about this other day in fact 😛 ). Be proud of the Mom you are & don’t let anyone make you feel differently. I don’t do popcorn anymore, either. And I agree with you so much — they have the rest of their lives to have all those things. We don’t need to rush them! You sound like a wonderful Mother. Keep on doing what you’re doing. You got this.

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Lili May 20, 2019 - 6:58 pm

I usually don’t leave comments but your post made me cry. I lost my 8-month old baby girl last August. It was not due to choking but I still feel reponsible and the guilt is always there.

I have a 4 year old boy and a 5 year old girl, and they are the ones that keep us going.

I’m vey happy for you that it was just a scare for you. Things happen so so fast.

I am like you, I don’t let the kids out of my sight. My husband actually stays home with them because we didn’t feel comfortable with daycare or other people watching them for that long.

And it still happened, my worse nightmare.

Do take the CPR and first aid class, they are very helpful. I had taken them already a few years ago and re-certified last year after what happened.

God bless you!

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C'MON MAMA May 21, 2019 - 10:21 am

Lili, my heart is broken for you. I really and truly cannot imagine. I’m so, so sorry. I know losing your daughter will forever be the heartbreak of your life. It is any parent’s worst nightmare and my heart aches for you. I lost my brother several years ago and it has been the biggest heartbreak for me….I look at my parents and cannot even fathom how many pieces their hearts are in. I’m so sorry, Mama. I understand about your son & daughter keeping you going, and I can assure you that they need you and always will. <3 I am taking a CPR/first aid class next week & wish I had done it sooner. Thank you so much for sharing your story and know that I am sending light & love your way, Mama. <3

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Michelle May 19, 2019 - 7:33 pm

My child also choked. My daughter was 4 at the time, eating with our family at the dinner table and she choked on a piece of fresh pineapple. Her eyes got large, she became still and made no noise. Fortunately I am CPR and first aid trained, which is required for my job as an Occupational Therapist but I never had needed to use the Heimlich maneuver before. I immediately recognized what it was, jumped up from the table before my husband even knew what was happening, began back blows but nothing, then I just instinctively did the Heimlich and within two hard thrusts, out popped the pineapple onto the table. My daughter was shocked and said for a few days her stomach was sore from the thrusts I did, but I did save her life. Thank you for posting your story and expressing the need for parents to become trained in first aid and CPR. I made my husband get certified when I was pregnant. I wish it was something included as training for parents at the hospital, and I also wish OBGYNs would discuss it prenatally.

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C'MON MAMA May 20, 2019 - 8:16 am

Reading your message made my heart stop, Michelle. The way you described how your daughter looked is exactly how my son looked. And same age & all. How lucky she is to have a Mama who is an OT and trained like you. You saved your baby’s life & were able to recognize what was happening immediately. Incredible. Like you, I so wish there was a push and some awareness for parents to be trained in first aid & CPR, too. We are the ones with them the majority of the time, so it only makes sense…and yet, most of us aren’t unless we need to be trained for work. I took an infant CPR class when pregnant with my first, but that was 5 years ago and also, though some of the basics might still apply (the back blows were the thing that popped into my mind in the moment), I no longer have infants. I have a toddler and a child, and I was not/am not prepared for something like what happened. I am taking a CPR/LSS skills class next week. I also couldn’t agree with you more about the OBGYNs touching on it as well. You are a great Mama. Thank you for the solidarity, Mama. It means the world.

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Tami May 18, 2019 - 11:09 am

I just came across the product called LifeVac. We bought a kit for the house and one for each car. I also sent links to all of my friends, family, and the preschool and daycare we use. Learn the heimlich and have some back up tools (including what I would do if choking while hubby is at work and I’m home with my kiddos).

Thank you for your honesty. I am so worried about this and nothing seems to help me truly feel better. I am both happy and sad to know that I am not alone with this fear. Thank God your baby is okay.

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C'MON MAMA May 20, 2019 - 8:11 am

Tami, we think alike. I’d love to know what you think about the LifeVac seeing it in person. I definitely want to do the same & get an emergency device like that for my house, my mom’s house, our preschool, my car, etc. etc. I have come across the LifeVac and the deChoker and I’ve been reading up on them both. Anything we can do to be a little more prepared in a situation like this….I’m all in. I am taking my CPR/LSS class next week and you are so right to think about us needing to be prepared if it happens to us and no one is home. Thank you. Thank you for the love & support — it means so much.

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Laura May 14, 2019 - 8:31 am

My six month old daughter at the time choked on one of those puffs. I think it just got lodged in her throat weird maybe .?. Of course it would have eventually dissolve and she would have been okay I’m hoping but I was the scariest 2 minutes of my life. I walk to the sink to rinse off her teether Im not even gone for 10 seconds and when I walked back I saw the look on her face and she definitely wasn’t breathing her face was turning redder and redder until I could tell that she had something stuck in her mouth (realzing her puff got stuck) and I started hitting her back over and over and she still wasn’t making any noise or breathing in her eyes were starting to water really bad saddest expression I’ve ever seen and then I finally just flung her over my shoulder and hit her back one last really hard time and then I heard a gasp of air come out of her…. I DO NOT BUY PUFFS NOW . I use the teething wafers now thank god my precious girls ok. She is my first. And only. I will be more careful as she gets older cause of this post

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C'MON MAMA May 14, 2019 - 10:11 am

Laura, thank you for sharing your own experience with me. I’m so sorry you went through that with your baby girl. I now know how terrifying an experience like the ones both you and I had is and how it shakes you to your core. You did good to get it out, Mama. But I know you’ll always remember it just like I know I will never forget my terror and feeling so helpless, too. We try to do everything right and we all think puffs are the “safe option.” I’m so glad you shared this, it makes me think twice, too. Thank you for the ♥️ and solidarity.

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Jes May 13, 2019 - 2:08 pm

Choking has always been a phobia of my own. I swear I choked to death in a past life – that’s how much of a fear I carry around with me. I was so nervous with my first and choking and became a little more lax now with my second but I will never stop worrying about this happening to them. And it’s so funny because I can totally relate to that mom gut instinct and now I know I need to listen more and go with it.. there’s a reason I came across this article and I’m so sorry you experienced this because I was in tears just reading it. But what you can take from it is exactly what you’re doing, educating and preparing yourself if you’re ever in a similar situation (I hope to god not) in the future. Deep breaths mama you’re doing a wonderful job this could happen to any one of us.. much love to you and those little babes 💛💛

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C'MON MAMA May 13, 2019 - 9:17 pm

Same for me, Mama. I’ve always been so scared about choking. I’m so careful, too, and yet I know I’ve relaxed about things as I’ve gotten more comfortable in Motherhood. Like I’ve let mine eat popcorn for a couple years but it took reading another Mama’s post about almost losing her son to a piece of popcorn to wake me up. We all do the very best we can and I just hope this can make another Mama think twice like the mom with the popcorn did for me. I just registered for a CPR/life-saving skills class. I hope to God there’s no next time, too, but I want to be better prepared just in case. Thank you for the love, it means the world to me. ♥️

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Lexie May 13, 2019 - 2:07 pm

Thank you for sharing your story. I have a been in a similar situation with my daughter. She was 16 months. She was sitting on my lap eating chunks of pear that I cut up for her. I am also a super cautious mommy, and despite that, bad things still happen! This was not her first time eating pear and she wasn’t moving or playing, just sitting. It happens so fast! Fortunately, I am trained in CPR, and didn’t have to use it. I gave her back blows like crazy and the pear never came out, but she did start breathing again. A paramedic checked her out to ensure the pear was not in her lungs, but after the whole ordeal, I also broke down. I could not stop crying thinking about how something I did could have turned out so much worse. Every parent sure be required to be certified in CPR so they can be prepared if it happens to their child.

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C'MON MAMA May 13, 2019 - 9:26 pm

Lexie, thank you for sharing your story, too. I’m so sorry you went through that with your daughter. So terrifying. We try to do it all right. And you did it right — cut up pears, something she’d had before, sitting still — it just shows how easily it can happen. I’m so thankful it was a scare for you and me both, and not a tragedy. But now I know I need to get trained in some life-saving skills so I can be prepared if there is ever a next time, which I hope with all my heart there’s not. And thank you for the ♥️ and solidarity, Mama. To hear that even someone trained in CPR had it happen & broke down afterward makes me feel not alone. Thank you ♥️

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Meredith Fee May 13, 2019 - 1:41 pm

This is my nightmare. Thank you for sharing. I can’t imagine how tough that must have been to write. I have been guilty of giving popcorn etc., but no more. Not worth it at all. Thank you

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C'MON MAMA May 13, 2019 - 9:18 pm

Thank you so much for the love & support. I really mean it. ♥️ We all just do the best we can & sometimes hearing other’s experiences can help us. I hope this can be that for other Mamas.

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