The Pleather Predator

spoonIt is hard to imagine that there was a point in time that I thought having one child was tough work. Two children are tough work. Two children means no sleep, no hot meal or beverages, lightening fast morning ablutions, and having to learn how to do nearly everything with just one hand. Talking to me on the phone these days is not unlike talking to a person with a split personality disorder because I am never without interruption. Something is lost? Ask Mom. Eyelashes are itchy? Tell Mom. The dog won’t give horsey rides? Complain to Mom. Mom is on the phone? Pshh…phone, schmone.

So imagine how excited I was when I was able to take just the baby shopping with me the other day. He is a really chill little dude. He sleeps through most everything, rarely cries, and smiles and giggles on cue. He can’t talk yet so there is zero chance of him whining that he wants a new toy. Shopping with him was going to be a breeze. Was.

We went to Reny’s for a Maine shopping adventure. First stop, the kid art supplies section. Baby was asleep. Next stop, the ladies apparel section. Baby still asleep. Next stop, office supply section. Baby woke up.

Mom: Awww…hey little, man! You’re awake!

Baby: (drooling)

Mom: What’s that? Oh…you see Mommy’s wallet, huh?

Baby: (drooling some more)

Mom: (Oooo…accordion folders are on sale!)

Baby: (grabs and puts wallet in mouth)

Mom: Whoa, kid…let’s not put this in your mouth. Germs are icky! Here, play with your teether…see? Yellow!

Baby: (drooling)

Mom: (tucks wallet under blanket out of baby’s sight/reach begins drooling over office supplies)

See, now, this is where this story about my bright yellow pleather wallet should have ended. But my kid has gadget arms and can seemingly get his little hands on anything. We shopped for a little while longer. I put 25 things in my cart and then put 23 things back after talking myself down from new bath towels and a coffee mug with some snarky one-liner about motherhood. We headed to the check out.

Reny’s is run by sweet older ladies. They sport dark green smocks and pleasant smiles and always have a good sense of timing when it comes to offering balloons to wild children or opening new checkout lanes. They are like an army of grandmothers. It’s half the reason I love shopping there. The lady behind the register on this day was about five feet tall, all gray, all smiles, all slow and sweet.

I piled up my loot on the counter while babbling with the baby. He was smiling at the checkout lady. I was busy thinking how easy shopping is with this child. He grabbed at a tag hanging off a shirt and I set my wallet down to get the tag and shirt away from his drooly lips and onto the counter.

And then he stuck the wallet in his mouth. Four seconds later he made a weird face. Then he started choking.

I panicked. Faster than I thought possible, I unclicked his seat tethers and pulled him forward.

The army of Reny’s ladies stopped what they were doing and descended on my child and me, presumably to save the day. The lady behind the counter flew around to my cart.

Baby’s arms started flailing. My hands started shaking uncontrollably. I looked into his mouth and I could see yellow. I jammed my pinky finger into his mouth and hooked it around the yellow thingy and I started to pull it out. It was half the size of a penny. It looked like cloth.

And then he swallowed.

We all stared at him realizing that he was breathing and not freaking out anymore. His drool was back to its usual flow. His eyes blinked. I peed my pants a little bit. My head got all foggy and dizzy. My heart was in my throat. I nearly threw up.

Immediate phone calls to the doctor, the husband, the mother-in-law was made. The poor kid was OK, but I most certainly was not. The doctor reassured me that the piece of pleather my son ingested was too small to travel all the way through his digestive track and would likely dissolve in his stomach juice. And anyway, it is the same weird gold color as his poop so good luck finding it in his diaper.

The first free non-panic moment I had that day was spent looking into signing up for a refresher course in infant CPR.

Motherhood is always challenging to be sure. One can never know when an emergency is going to arise. At my house, we deal with a bleeding disorder and so we are hyper aware of safety in everything we do, but that wasn’t enough to keep an almost serious situation from happening while doing something as benign as shopping.

While I recalibrate my nerves after this harrowing experience, the pleather wallet has found a new home in the back of my closet. Sir Grabby Hands remains under constant Mom and Dad surveillance.

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Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Sarah Cottrell is a member of the Stay-At-Home-Mom Club and proud herder of two loud boys. She earned her MFA in 2012 and then accidentally washed it in a load of laundry. Sarah's work can be found on popular websites like Mamalode, BlogHer, and Scary Mommy. Her work will appear in two new parenting anthologies in 2015.