I gave up the habit of checking on my children in the middle of the night and listening to the monitor for sounds of life years ago. As they grew, so did my confidence as a mom, and I felt assured their breath was guaranteed. The nightly fears faded, and I learned to trust nothing bad would happen.
I felt secure through the worst days of the pandemic. Not because I didn’t understand the risks, but rather because I remained in control. I wore a mask and kept my children home. We practiced all the safety measures the morning news implored us to follow. We had no underlying conditions threatening to make COVID far more severe.
Yet six months into the pandemic, all the security I’d built over 11 years of parenting came crashing to a halt.
Early one morning, I awoke to what sounded like choking. I reached over and shook my nine-year-old daughter. She didn’t respond. An hour earlier, she’d climbed into our bed distressed after having a nightmare. Now, the nightmare was mine.
Her eyes remain closed as her body convulsed. I thoughts she was choking on the retainer she wore to keep her teeth aligned. I reached in her mouth to remove it and felt nothing. Her tiny chest didn’t move.
“She’s not breathing,” I thought as I wrestled her body upward. I felt her skin. “It’s not cold.” The warmth reassured me. My husband fell asleep watching television in the basement, so he wasn’t next to me to help. I switched on the lamp and saw foam seeping through her lips. She couldn’t go without breathing much longer. I thought she was dying.
As I grabbed my phone to call 911, her eyes opened and rolled back in her head, and she gasped for air. I stared at her as she fell back asleep as if nothing happened. I collapsed to the floor, overcome with nausea.
Trembling with fear, I crawled into bed next to her. Phone in hand, I googled “shaking, unresponsive, foaming at the mouth,” and out came the answer. Seizure. She had two more seizures lasting around twenty seconds each before I woke her for good.
The drive to the emergency room was a blur. She looked at me watching her in the rearview mirror. “Mom, I’m not going to die” she blurted in her sassiest, roll-my-eyes-at-you tone. The word die made my heart skip a beat. The on-call physician sent us home with anti-seizure medication, no reassurance it wouldn’t happen again, and a…