Then the youngest of the babies began to choke. If she were a forty year old business man in a restaurant, she’d have been standing up clutching her throat, as table-goers looked on and wondered if they could remember the Heimlich manoeuvre. I picked her up and opened her mouth, catching sight of a flash of gold on the back of her tongue. It looked like the foil from a champagne cork, although in our household that is highly unlikely. I’m pretty sure Somerfield’s table wine isn’t wrapped in gold. Besides, the room was heavier in guilt than in gilt, as I mentally beat myself round the head with a Dr Spock manual for not checking the floor for hazards. Asked in a classroom about correct choking management, I could inform you precisely what to do, and remind you that on no account should you attempt to hook out the foreign object. It’s impossible. Your hands, when compared to your baby’s delicate rosebud mouth, are great hams of clumsiness, with fingers the size of sausages. Like you, I thought I knew better. I made a lightening decision when I saw that metallic flash, and just knew I could get my finger behind it and all would be well. Ten seconds later she was going blue and gasping for breath, as my inept digits pushed the object further back. Husband and I are pragmatic people who have been through a lifetime of hospital procedures with our children. We are not prone to panic, but even I was starting to reach for the speed-dial and calculate the potential speed of an ambulance on icy roads, as we held our youngest by her feet and slapped her on the back.
Then suddenly a gulp; a gasp of air; and frantic crying indicated that the object – whatever it was – had dislodged itself. As it hadn’t pinged across the kitchen with the velocity of a projectile poo, we could only assume she had swallowed it. And as we had no idea what the object was, that meant a trip to casualty. Again. And herein lies one of the biggest problems of multiple parenting; the unavoidable division of labour. Clearly it makes no sense at all for both parents to drag three children to A&E, just at the start of what is commonly referred to in our house as Winge o’clock (this starts at approximately 4pm and continues till supper time). Gone are the days of doting on your only child, and racing anxiously off to the doctor together. It begins in pregnancy; those appointments, false alarms, extra scans you were driven to by your loving partner when you were expecting your first baby? A thing of the past. Now someone has to stay home with your first-born while you drive your bump to hospital, changing gear in between contractions.
So, the immediacy of the panic over, but a reassurance trip to casualty unavoidably on the cards, we tossed for it. Who would dig the car out of the snow, drive half an hour to the nearest A&E, and sit for hours in the waiting room with the drunks and the DIY buffoons, with just the nurses and back copies of Chat for company?
I lost. Husband started the car and I had to stay at home to put the other two to bed.