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Post from the Past: Noises in the Night

25 August 2011

I wrote this post in May 2004, when my first born, Callum was 1 year old. It was the first – of many – “midnight scares” I have had as a parent.


It was 2am. I was sleeping like the dead. Passed out. Utterly unconsciousness from a long day’s work. I was dreaming of tropical sunsets, pineapple cocktails and 7 large Thai men massaging coconut oil into my back.

That is, until I heard a noise.

A strange, cold howling noise that made my eyelids fly open. I stared into the darkness. I didn’t dare move. I just laid very very still. WHAT THE F*** WAS THAT NOISE??

It sounded like a dying cat. A dog? No a SEAL. A BABY SEAL! THERE’S A BABY SEAL IN MY SON’S BEDROOM! I leapt up and fumbled around in the darkness as I tried to find my pants. My head was in a blur of tropical seals drinking coconut oil.

The noise was horrific. A dying baby seal, tortuously gasping for air.

I stumbled down the hall, into my baby’s room and switched on the light. There was no seal. But no seal meant MY SON was making THAT NOISE. And one year old boys are NOT supposed to sound like DYING SEALS.

I found my son, red faced and gasping for air. Was he choking? Was there something wrong with his lungs? Is he convulsing? Nothing in my entire life had prepared me for the feeling that exploded in my stomach. It was sickening.

I was frozen, trying to make sense of what I was seeing. Callum was crying. He was trying to breath in, but made barking seal noises instead. He obviously wasn’t getting enough air and was red-faced and gasping. I was horrified. Zillions of first aid steps whizzed through my head. Check for breathing. Check his air passages. Check his temperature. Good lord, it was the scariest moment in my life as a parent.

There was nothing stuck in his airways. He was still in control of his body. He just wasn’t getting enough air and he was freaking out.

I screamed for my husband.

I suddenly remembered reading a home remedy for a congested air passage. We grabbed Callum and ran to the shower. We turned on the hot water and hovered his head over the steam. The heat from the steam soothes the constricted muscles.

All three of us sat on the floor of our steamy bathroom.

Silent. Hearts racing. Heads dizzy from shock.

Callum started to feel feverish and started to shake.

My husband and I looked at each other sharing only one thought, “Oh god, do we really want three kids?”

Things calmed down after we took his temperature, gave him some baby panadol and called the 24 hour health nurse. I was so relieved.

Callum’s mood lifted considerably after the drugs, food and cuddles, so we decided we weren’t going to drag him to the doctor at 3am.

Which turned out to be a wise move, because he happily went back to sleep by 4am.

The next day I was still edgy and tense. I didn’t sleep well.

I was exhausted.

I told my mum about it, hoping for some sympathy and offers for babysitting. But she laughed, as she waved me off with her hands. “Aiyah, why so dramatic? No big deal lah. It happens to all babies.”

And in a matter of seconds I felt happy that I wasn’t the only mother in the world to wake up to the sound of a choking baby, and somewhat pissed off that I’ll never have an original baby story to tell the world.

It turns out that the night before, we gave Callum a whole cup of cow’s milk. He’s not allergic to cow’s milk per se. Only large quantities of it bring about a mild swelling in his throat, hence his inability to breathe properly.

Thank God I read all those parenting books with all those “stupid” home remedy tricks.