[Fair warning that this post is l-o-n-g. Like, longer than the crunchiest of birth stories. However, I really needed to get this account out there.]
Many of you have been texting/calling/Facebooking me about the details of Friday (June 21), so I thought I’d interrupt the blogging hiatus to tell you about the most frightening night of my life.
Let me back up. Friday afternoon was a frustrating one for this Mommy. My little 18-month-old Philomena, who is usually a rockstar sleeper, had been up numerous times the night before for no apparent reason. Even more, for the first time in a long while [perhaps ever?] she was refusing to nap. After two-and-half hours of trying, I just waived the white flag and let her crankily play.
This makes me cringe in retrospect, but I was so annoyed and discouraged by the day, that I even sent a Facebook message to a few friends just to whine about “how difficult” my afternoon had been. [Not going to lie, memories of this selfishness produced many tears later on that night.]
Anyway, at some point I noticed she was playing with a little remote that we never use that belongs to a digital frame. I think she was pretending it was a phone and saying, “hi!” into it. Here it is:
To be quite honest, I didn’t give this a second thought. The remote itself was big enough that there was no possibility of choking, and it never once crossed my mind that it contained a removable battery.
Probably 20 or 30 minutes later (around 3:00), I was in the other room when I heard her coughing and gagging. Of course, I ran to her. She spit up a little bit, but was breathing fine. She had in her hand this little black piece of plastic:
I had no idea from where it had come, but I assumed that she had gotten it into her mouth, it had made her gag, and she spit it out. I put it aside with a mental note to ask Ryan what it was when he got home.
I gave my Mena lots of hugs and had her drink some water. She seemed fine, other than the fact that she was extremely cranky. I thought it was due to her exhaustion, so I put her in the Ergo carrier on my back. She usually loves this, but it only seemed to make her more irritated. Her crying started to “build up” to shrieks [all you parents know what I mean by this], and then she started gagging and spitting up. I truly thought this was due to her intense screaming.
I decided to try to snuggle with her to see if she would just settle down and sleep. She nursed well and finally dozed off. She woke up in a great mood, but then threw up all over me. I got some water in her, and she was happy. However, shortly after that, she gagged and vomited again. She was cheerfully playing, so I just thought she must have contracted a stomach bug. [“That explains the crankiness today! Of course!” I astutely concluded.]
She threw up maybe three times over the course of a couple hours, but like I said, she seemed fine other than that. She didn’t want to eat, but she nursed and drank plenty of water. We were having fun stacking blocks and reading books.
Ryan came home, and we just hung out and talked for a while until I casually asked him, “oh, by the way, do you know what this black piece of plastic is part of?”
He responded, “that’s the piece that holds the battery for the remote control for the digital picture frame.”
Instantly, I knew. I just knew. My heart started pounding, and I furiously said, “she swallowed the battery! I know it! She swallowed the battery!”
Ryan, the calmest of parents ever, said, “let’s not jump to conclusions. That’s highly unlikely.”
By this point I was in freak-out mode, and just kept insisting that I knew she must have. Ryan quickly found the remote, and when he saw that the battery was missing, he went into action. We looked up the hours to the immediate care clinic just blocks from our house. It was 6:45, but it didn’t close until 7:00.
Within seconds, we were in the car. At the clinic, Philomena was great. She was calm and happy. I wish I could say the same about myself, but as we were waiting to go get the x-ray, I kept breaking down in tears. Philomena would do the baby sign for “sad,” then give me a hug. Yes, she is such a sweetie.
The x-ray determined that the battery was lodged in her esophogus. Thankfully, her stomach acids hadn’t started working much on its deterioration. We were admitted to the ER at the nearby hospital, and in less than half an hour she was admitted into surgery.
They didn’t have to cut her open, instead, after putting her under anesthesia, they took a scope down her throat and removed the battery via her mouth.
The clear thinking of retrospect reminds me that this surgery wasn’t major at all. There are so many children out there who have had to undergo operations infinitely more dangerous and serious. That said, in the moment, this was the biggest deal that could ever occur: complete strangers had taken away my baby and were forcing her asleep without me there. As Ryan led me away, I may or may not have dramatically fell to the floor of the waiting room in incoherent sobs.
They said the surgery would only take about 20 minutes. [Ah! Why did they say that?] Instead, it took over an hour. And that hour was the longest of my life.
Every day I place my “trust” in Jesus. But, to be honest, not really. It’s more like, “Jesus, I trust in you…unless it’s not convenient for me.” Or, “Jesus, I trust in you…except if I want to do something else.”
But, in this waiting, I was so empty, so broken that He brought me to place of genuine, abandoning, surrendering trust…because that’s all I could do.
The surgery was successful. And that moment in the post-op room in which I held and sang to my mostly-incoherent little daughter hooked up to an IV and numerous machines, was one of those instances that truly strikes at you, that makes an imprint on your soul. Absolutely haunted by the “what if,” I embraced the what is: the reality of Philomena and the radical gift of her life.
Here are some pictures of her in the hospital
crib cage. I apologize for the heinous quality, but they are from our cell phones. Like, our old-school, non-data phones:
It was a rough night, but we woke up to this:
[Okay, the pictures are ridiculously blurry, but trust me, she’s happy!]
The next morning they did a [terrible! awful! scary!] x-ray, in which they forced some liquid down her throat to see the effects on the esophagus. By the grace of God, there are no major tears in the esophagus. There is definitely some irritation and inflammation. She has to be on a liquid diet for a few days and take antibiotics. And she’ll have to be monitored closely for a few months to make sure the scarring doesn’t constrict the esophagus [“monitoring” includes more of these awful esophograms]. However, by all accounts she is fine. Totally healthy.
Now, usually in articles and blog posts like this, here is the point in which I give everyone the “lesson” or “warning” of the story. But, really, all of you know not to let babies and toddlers put small things in their mouths. And I think any sane person would take a kid who swallowed a battery to the doctor.
However, what surprised me about this whole situation was how much her symptoms mimicked a normal stomach bug: sudden gagging and puking, followed by relatively normal behavior. Honestly, if I hadn’t seen that little piece of black plastic in her hand that afternoon, I definitely would have just kept her hydrated and watched her temperature for days before seeking treatment. Obviously, prudence would dictate that there is no need to rush a kid to the ER every time he gags or throws up. And yet, I feel an obligation just to get this story out there, so maybe it will implant in the deep recesses of your memory. And if you have a situation similar to ours, perhaps “swallowing a foreign object” may be something that comes to forefront of your mind.
Also, this is going to sound like such a cliche, but whatever: trust your motherly and fatherly instincts. I used to always hate it when people told me to, “trust my instincts,” because I feel like I am wrong about so much all the time. And yet, if I truly believe the Holy Spirit is working and moving in our lives, then I have to believe that sometimes He inspires us with wisdom to know what is right in a particular situation.
Personally, I will probably always struggle with days of selfishness and annoyance in motherhood. Nevertheless, I desperately pray that I will remember the longest hour of the longest day of my life. Because I would rather have thousands of afternoons of frustration than even one minute of the fear I felt when my baby was taken away into surgery.
p.s. In case you care, here is a picture of the battery. [Yes, they gave it to us. Weird, no?] It was a little smaller than a quarter and a little bigger than a nickel: