Just Breathe


2:40 a.m.

Caleb and I are awake and frantic and sealed up in the bathroom while the rest of the family sleeps. As I run the water as hot as it will go in the shower and the sink, he is inhaling billows of steam and fighting hard to breathe in and out through his congested sinuses and croupy cough.

I remember nights just like this with my mom, nights from my childhood that I’m sure were as scary for her as this one is for me, nights when she concentrated with panicky precision on every laborious breath rattling in and out of my lungs. I didn’t think about her back then, just about myself, and the pinpoint of light my world had become, its only focus to keep sucking oxygen through the suddenly tiny straw of my windpipe. I’m thinking about her now, though, and how helpless she must have felt as she willed each rasping breath, how she must have prayed silently, feverishly, for my lungs to open up and the frightening wheezing in my chest to fade away into silence. If she could have breathed for me, she would have.

When I remember those moments, I am suddenly aware of how much I take for granted the way I normally breathe, and the long, easy rivers of air that swirl through me all day long. What a precious gift.

Ten minutes pass, fifteen, and I can tell the water heater is nearly out of hot water as the steam clouds grow lighter. Caleb’s breathing has eased, and he’s already falling back to sleep in my arms. I wait a little longer and then carry him back to bed, rolling him onto his side and tucking the covers in around him. I listen for a moment to make sure his cough has really subsided, then say a prayer of thanks and tiptoe out of the room to fall into bed next Paul. Disaster averted again.

It’s just a common cold, true, but like me, Caleb has always been susceptible to breathing problems. Perhaps, like me, he’ll grow out of them. I hope so.

Until then, I’m sure there will be other nights like this one, other 2 a.m. prayer vigils where fears are lifted up and dissipated on clouds of steam.

11 responses »

  1. Mommy, I know exactly how you feel as I have 3 kiddos that tend to get a severe case of croup each & every fall/winter. It’s so scary, especially when all of the typical ‘home remedies’ don’t seem to help, sending you in a rush to the nearest ER for medical help. When my oldest, Alex, was 2, he had such a severe case of it when we were out of town, that we ended up in a strange ER one night, fought his breathing all day long, then ended up back in a Children’s hospital ER the next evening – after 36 hours with no sleep, 4 breathing treatments, and an IV, we were admitted and treated further. It was a horrible, lonely feeling to not be able to just make it better, but God was good to us and were found ourselves blessed with the best room in the hospital and wonderful doctors & nurses – yet far from home. Thankfully family was nearby, allowing us to go get our luggage from the very expensive hotel that we never used, and to catch a few hours of uninterrupted sleep (about 3 hours if memory serves).

    Last year was a much better year for us – I simply removed milk from our diets and voila, the croup didn’t visit us! My kiddos still have yogurt & cheese, but just don’t drink milk, so it might be worth a shot if this is typical for Caleb this time of year! Besides, milk’s supposed nutritional value is actually fake and non-existent, as all of the ‘vitamins’ are synthetic and not naturally found in the milk…but don’t get me started… 🙂 I’ll be praying for you both!!!

  2. Sweet Mommy…caring for a sick little one pushes worry and care to the forefront even at 2:40 am.

    Even with a common cold, the fear that can grip your heart from the inability to inhale can be overwhelming.

    This is obviously extreme, but my appreciation for ease of breath without discomfort or pain came when I met my husband’s beautiful cousin, Becca, who had Cystic Fibrosis. She truly taught me what a gift the breath of life is.

    Sorry for the downer! Guess my heart is a bit heavy today.

    Dairy can cause bigger issues with mucous, so I’d cut it all out till Caleb’s better.

  3. Parenting. Hands down the most difficult job on the planet. My heart goes out to you and to all the other parents who spend countless sleepless nights with their children. I have to go call my mom now and tell her thank you.

    Big hugs to you and Caleb. Hope he’s over this bout soon.

  4. My own son had similar problems when he was younger, and he is finally growing out of it. He’s almost 11 now. I remember many a night sitting on the edge of the tub surrounded by steam and mist, feeling my own heart pound from worry. I seemed to operate on automatic pilot those days, as I hardly ever got a solid night’s sleep.

    I pray that your son is able to recover from his cold very quickly. And that you can find some rest whenever and whereever you can! :x)

    Huge Hugs!

  5. What you’ve described sounds just like what I had. When the flu literally attacked me in one fell swoop, all I could do was breathe…and manage to crawl from the bedroom to the bathroom once in a while. The first night, I couldn’t even make myself get up into the bed; I slept in a fetal position on the floor. I have never been that sick before, and it was a little scary. Yet I knew I’d get over it. Except I really haven’t; I have an inner ear infection that causes me occasional balance problems; the doctor said “it just takes time for that to work out”. This flu, this year, was mean, vicious and spiteful. The worst I’ve ever had, bar none.

  6. How is Caleb doing now? I am assuming a lot better. And I hope both of you are recuperating and getting enough rest .

    “……2 a.m. prayer vigils where fears are lifted up and dissipated on clouds of steam.” – I like the way you said that – I could imagine prayers dissipating on clouds of steam as God hears it.

    Oh, motherhood, the joys, the challenges and everything else that goes with it.

    By the way – have you heard that thing about using VICKS Vapo Rub on their feet? I’ve always likes Vicks and it always works for me. Lately there’s an e-mail and some blogs that mentioned how it works well when you rub it in the feet! I’ll find one of the posts for you 🙂

  7. Really must be going around, ’cause my little 7-month-old guy is awfully stuffy these last two days. He’s been sleeping through the night (pretty much) for a couple months now, but last night was up crying and snuffling every hour on the hour. Wouldn’t open his eyes, just cry and cry, arching his back and fighting me when I would try wiping his nose. And forget lettting me suction it! That brings on full-fledged hysterics, so I’ll hold off on that unless it gets so bad he can’t breathe when he’s feeding on a bottle.
    But I’m glad to hear about the steam filled room trick- I think I may try it if it unfortunately moves to his lungs, too. Along with Vicks- that’s one I vividly remember from my own childhood.
    My prayers will be including your little one for the next couple days, and for you to have the strength to get through the worrying.

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