The sea air, the warm sun and the mouthwatering smell of fresh fish and chips. Such an easy, relaxed way to spend an early Friday evening when you have your first young child. My partner is home early from work, enjoying the evening too. Seagulls flapping around, squawking for some of our salty fare and our one year old firmly strapped in her pram after expending enough energy in the park that she’s now happy to relax and eat too.
This was my evening four years ago. Chips lined up like small soldiers, carefully broken to cool. We were halfway through that pile of goodness, me chatting animatedly, enlivened by adult company and nothing too much to think about.
Mid sentence however, my partner stopped listening and before I could recognise what had eventuated he leapt up, as though the seagull poo sprayed seat had fervently developed an eject button and some strange hand had thumped down on it. In, what now can be viewed as, a comical act, he tilted the pram forward, and forward, and sideways, until it was horizontal. He then shook it, and consequently our toddler who was still tightly strapped inside, until she coughed and spluttered and a chip fell from her mouth.
With the pram’s wheels crashing to the ground, came her look of shock and tears falling to the ground too. What seemed a too lengthy, sweaty handed moment of pressing, and fumbling with, the pram’s fasteners and she was hauled up into my partner’s arms. He had acted quickly and instinctively and stopped her choking. I was still half glued to my seat, breathing quickly confused, unsure what to do next, while she had been choking on a chip, I felt as though I was choking on the sea air – was this a moment of triumph or disaster?
Fast forward to two weeks ago, and here I am casually wandering around our local supermarket. My 22 month old skipping and trotting along, swishing her mandatory skirty down the aisles. Chestnut, ginger, blonde afro curls, angelic skin and distinctively different coloured eyes, capturing the usual cohort of smiling faces. I’m torn between thinking about dinner and watching that she doesn’t pluck glass jars from the shelves. She’s happy with her usual supermarket smorgasbord and munching on segments of a mandarin. “One for each hand”, I always say.
We’re in the dairy section and I’m thinking a yoghurt pouch is next on the check list if I want to make it home without a “beebie milk” stop. There’s a bald, older, fit looking man stacking the shelves ahead and a young kid, probably really a man, early 20s, kneeling stocking the shelves behind me. It’s a narrow aisle, my pram takes almost the full width, and people are stepping around me and my dancing, smiley cherub. My thoughts are suddenly broken. The cherub is coughing. I turn and she is no longer a smiley cherub but a wide eyed owl. Those eyes are pleading for help. She’s gagging, something is stuck.
I bend down and look. My brain is firing like a formula ford racing car but my limbs are smoothly moving through their paces like a trained Olympic swimmer on auto pilot. I look inside her open mouth and see her tongue and throat trying to move something up. The mandarin!
I think she’ll dislodge it. She is great with chewing food and has had finger foods and self fed since 4 months. I wait. Nothing! I look to see if I can sweep the food out using what Ive learnt from my Paediatric First Aid training. There’s nothing to sweep. I tell her its ok and gently lift her into the aeroplane position. I wait. Theres no noise. No cough. It’s lodged. I put her over my knee and perform a back blow. The mandarin shoots out. I’m relieved, I gently place her back down upright and go to give her a hug but she’s still wide eyed and gagging. I tip her again and perform another back blow and then another. Out pops another piece of mandarin and a heap of drool. She’s crying, and breathing, and coughing, and breathing. I say, “Its ok, Mummy’s here, and hug her tightly.”
I realise people have stepped around us but the older, kind, terribly kind, man has come over and asked if we need water. The younger man is fetching it and paper towel after I’ve confirmed water would be very helpful and that she has sort of vomited and I think that she’s going to vomit some more – and that it’s all over the floor. Knowing she’s safe, my mind strangely worries about the inconvenience we are causing to others…
We chat with the man a while, about people, children, community and life. We pay for our groceries and walk out feeling content and proud. My daughter is dancing along the street in her skirty again. Sucking on her yoghurt now. Me, who is terribly anxious about anything medical, is walking with my head high, exhilarated instead of traumatised. No aimlessly swinging her around or screaming for help. No panic. Just the motions. The steps I learnt when my oldest was small and revisited when my youngest was born. I text KidzAid and say, its true, what you’re doing empowers and I am so grateful I learnt it. Thank you, thank you, thank you and I go on my way.
And now, here I sit with you today sharing my fish and chip and slimy mandarin affairs.
Your slightly clumsy, medic-phobic, but buoyant stay at home Mum. Kresta
About the Contributor-
” Kresta has a BA Journalism and Dip Ed Primary Teaching and has worked in Advertising, Marketing, Management and as a Teacher. She is currently a SAHM on the Mornington Peninsula with two energetic and adventurous girls. “