One day when Spencer was a year and a half, he crawled over to me and pulled up onto my leg. Lifting one hand while still holding on with the other, and said “Up.
He wanted me to take him somewhere else in the house. His siblings were walking by then, some for nearly a half year. But Spencer had been the last in all his developmental milestones. As the runt of my litter, weighing in at just 2 pounds 11 oz., he needed the most support in the NICU. Last off CPAP, last to maintain his temperature, last to tolerate feedings, he needed more time to catch up. Once home, he stayed on oxygen and a heart monitor the longest, he rolled over last, sat up last, everything. The day he wanted me to pick him up, he wasn’t even really crawling on all fours yet, but instead he did a kind of commando crawl on his belly, pulling himself along with his elbows.
I decided not to give him what he wanted immediately, hoping to coax him into trying to cruise a little along the furniture, maybe get a few steps in to strengthen his legs. I answered, “I don’t think I’m going to pick you right now. Don’t you think it’s time you start to try to walk yourself?”
He didn’t agree. “Up!”
“No, I don’t think I’m going to carry you anymore. I’m not going to pick you up.” Of course I was going to pick him up. I just wanted to delay gratification a few seconds to see if he’d try something.
He looked at me a minute, then took his hand off my leg and turned away and walked off. The little rascal must have been practicing with the Toy Story toys when no one was looking and he’d been holding out on me.
Though he could walk then, he still wasn’t incredibly stable. One day he was holding on to a kitchen chair. They were fun to push around on the slippery tile. Molly was on the other side of the one he was holding onto. When she pushed it forward toward him, Spencer went flat out on his back, whacking his head on the floor.
Along with all of his medical adjustments to being born two months early, he had this nasty habit in which he would stop breathing if he cried too hard. Well this whack was plenty hard. And boy did he cry. For a second. Then he froze, his mouth open without a sound coming out.
Often when he started to go into one of these episodes, turning dark blue with his eyes getting glassy, we could blow fast, hard puffs of air into his face and it would help. The air would make him gasp a little and pull in air, ending the clamping down that made him hold his breath (valsalva response). But this time, he got darker than he’d ever been. His eyes started to roll back in his head until his lids fluttered to a stop, and he went limp. I didn’t panic. I knew that if he did pass out, then he would relax and start breathing again. Not that I wanted him to pass out, but I knew the mechanics of it. It would be okay. They always said once out, they’d breathe again.
Well, he didn’t.
And he still didn’t.
Shoot, I thought. I will need to start CPR.
Jason was down in the basement studying for his master’s degree. In a closed room. On the other side of the house. Wearing shooting muffs. I needed him. He would need to call 911 while I administered the CPR.
Still Spencer didn’t breathe. He was completely unconscious.
So just to give it a try, to rally some support if it was at all possible to get, as I bent over Spencer watching for any sign of movement, I screamed louder than I’ve ever yelled in all my life. “JAAAASON!!!!”
There on the kitchen floor, I positioned Spencer to prepare to resuscitate him. I pretty much knew no way would Jason have heard me, so I planned to do a round of CPR then go grab the phone myself. Right before I started, I took a breath and instead of blowing into Spencer’s mouth, I tried yelling one more time.
Right as the scream screeched out of me, two things happened. Jason was tripping up the last of the basement steps into the kitchen. “What? What’s wrong?” He’d heard my first cry for help—through his ear muffs and the closed door—and had come running, worrying what in the world would make me shout that blood curdling scream.
The second thing that happened when I yelled louder than I’d ever yelled before or since was I woke Spencer up and he took a breath. He cried a bit, but not the blue-in-the face kind, and he pinked up quite nicely. I held him and comforted him, and he calmed down. He had a bump on his head but it hardly bothered him once it was all over.
I was so glad I didn’t have to do CPR on him!
And after that, if they really wanted to play push-the-chairs-around-the-slippery-kitchen-floor, I decided to implement a mandatory helmet rule.
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