Paper Eating Baby

I. Baby Board Books

As any mommy mgiht tell you, the most challenging portion of the day is after the afternoon nap and before daddy gets home. During this must-be-filled-with-activity block of time T and I often visit the swings at North Weddington Park–however, especially when colds and (like now) evil things like hand/foot/mouth virus are going around, sometimes its best to stay away from other babies.

So we go to IKEA and wander the displays of kid’s rooms and maybe pick up a few colored plastic dishes.

And then we cross the street to Barnes and Noble and hang out in the children’s books section where T enjoys touching the Touch and Feel books and I enjoy fiercely imagining my children’s novel on the shelves, next to ‘Twilight’ and ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Golden Compass’ trilogy…Inevitably I will purchase a book for T. Or several books. The last time we were there I purchased five board books and gave him one for the drive home.

As we neared the fringes of Noho, I heard him cough. Hm, I thought. Is he getting a cold, performing the fake cough, or actually maybe choking on something? Hm, I thought. But if he’s choking, what could he possibly have back there that would–GAH!

I screeched the minivan to the curb, cut the engine and barrelled into the backseat, crying, Look at me, baby, look at mama, LOOK AT MEEEEEE.

To my horror, bits of white paper coated his chin like sticky sugar granules.

Open your mouth, baby, open your mouth, I said urgently, shoving my finger between his lips. As he gagged and protested, my finger fished out two good sized chunks of slimy, gummed board book. I snatched the book up. Oh my god, I whispered. He’d eaten the entire bottom right corner–a good three inches of book cover. I was not holding three inches of paper in my fingers, wadded though it was. I looked at T. His cheeks were red and he was yelling at me, one angrily uttered vowel sound covering several octaves. I grabbed my cell phone and pressed the button for poison control. HE SWALLOWED BOOK, I hissed at the voice on the other end. HE SWALLOWED BOOK! The voice assured me that book was not poisonous to babies and that whatever he ate would pass through him without incident. I wanted to believe, but–HOW DO YOU KNOW, I hissed, smiling at T, who had stopped yelling and was staring at me like I was a scary stranger. We know, the voice assured me in a tone that meant it was time to disconnect. I did and phoned T’s doctor and was given the nurse who echoed poison control, pretty much verbatim.

I fell back against the seat, breathing hard as T moved on to analyzing his toy tree frog and making motor sounds with his lips.

Okay, I sighed, feeling my heart calm a little. Okay, T, okay–those bastards better be right.

I stayed in the backseat for a while, regaining compsure, stroking my boy’s lovely hair, vowing never, ever to leave him alone with something as dangerous as a board book ever, ever again.

II. Brown Paper Grocery Bags

As any mommy might tell you, there’s a window of time after the morning nap and before lunch not big enough for an outing to, say, an indoor playground, but just right for a Trader Joe’s run. T and I went to TJ’s yesterday. As I plucked Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies from the shelf and contemplated the many intriguing flavors of chicken sausages, T—from his belted seat in the cart—amazed me with his reach, almost pulling bottles of olive oil from the shelves (quick catches by the mama) and definitely plucking a large carton of ice cream right out of the freezer. So strong! Back at the minivan, I placed the brown paper grocery bag filled with bottles of sparkling water next to his seat, thinking he’d like to try and pull the bottles from the bag on the brief drive home. Which he did, I discovered, when, back in our carport, I slid open the van’s door to find bottles all over the seat and floor, the brown paper grocery bag dented and missing a handle. Oh, ha, ha, I thought, Isn’t that sweet, he had a good time on the drive, yadda, yadda.

Later, once more in the minivan, we headed for North Weddington Park. Here we go, I sing-songed blearily, still groggy from the afternoon nap. To the swings–to the sweeeeengsy sweeeengs–wee hee.

T coughed.

Sweengsy, sweeng, swingy…

He coughed again.

I gunned the remaining few blocks to the North Weddington and screeched into a parking slot. I shot out of the van and yanked T’s door open, saying, Look at mama, look at mama, baby, LOOK AT MEEEE!

Drool gushed rabid-dog-style from his mouth. His eyes were red and watery. My heart popped into my throat and stayed there as I shoved my forefinger into my son’s mouth and fished out a wad of brown paper. I looked at T. The drool was still gushing. Okay, okay, I said, undoing the carseat’s snaps and belts, hauling my baby out of the minivan and placing him over my knee. I patted his back with force. Get it out, baby, get it out, I croaked. I held him up. He didn’t look happy. I knew he was going to scream, but before he could I shoved in my finger and gagged him. I pulled out one long slimy crinkled brown paper grocery bag handle.

I held and rocked T as he sobbed and recovered.

Why hadn’t I looked for the brown paper grocery bag handle earlier, when I noticed it missing? Where did I think it had gone? Into the ether? Although I hadn’t seen it when I fastened T into his carseat, of course it was in his seat somewhere, hiding, just waiting for him to go, Oh yeah, you, I remember you, come here, come into my mouth. Hello? Am I a mother, or a moron?

Babe, my husband laughed as I pushed T in the swing. I held my cellphone away from my ear. His laugh was bell-bongish. His laugh was bar-loud and uncomfortable. Babe, my husband laughed. He’s okay! You’re a fantastic mom. We just won’t put grocery bags next to him, that’s all.

Oh. Okay. That’s all. THAT’S ALL. Fine. Sure. That’s all. That’s all. That’s all.

A child approached me and asked if she could push my son in the swing. I relented and sat two feet away on gritty walk, hoping she wouldn’t get slammed by T’s feet, hoping T wouldn’t fall out of the swing, belted in though he was, hoping I could at least keep him alive until his 18th birthday, at which point I will say, Okay, look, you can vote, you’re off to college, you can live on your own, so give it your best, okay? That’s all. Just—give it your best and mommy will sit down for a while—on a tropical beach. Okay? Thanks, kid. You’re a gem.


9 Responses to “Paper Eating Baby”

  1. PB says:

    PB! Everybody knows babies love paper like llamas love lichen! What is your PROBLEM???

  2. S_Hall says:

    You are NOT a bad mother. Keep reminding yourself of that. You are learning like all mothers do. Are you tired? Kind of hard to think straight when your tired all the time too. Sounds like your little one is doing fine.

  3. PB says:

    Oh yes, I’m tired. Thanks for the encoraging words! One day he WILL sleep through the night…….Right?

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