Life is moving along with your beautiful little family, right? At least it was with me. Brendan was 3 1/2, Bridget was 2 and along came Kelly.

It was March of ’93. Bill Clinton was President and I gave birth to a breath holder.

I had no idea what that meant at the time, but my life was about to get…entertaining.

Fast-forward to September of ’93

The first time it happened, Kelly was 6-months-old. She was sitting on the family room rug and we had a house full of company for one reason or another that I can’t seem to recall at the moment. We were surrounded by a wonderful group of friends and we all went to the same church. We were all starting our families at that time, and the support was paramount. We had about thirteen kids between the 5-or-so couples, and we would often get together at one house or another,  port-a-cribs in tow, and settle in for a wonderful evening of dinner and card playing after all the littles were tucked in for the night. These were great evenings of sharing and laughing. Truth be told, I miss those evenings.

Anyway, in her age-appropriate wobbliness, Kelly tipped backward. Now, keep in mind that she was still on the rug, and, due to her vast size, her head was only about 10 inches from the floor to begin with. But back she toppled and her outrage ensued.

I didn’t blame her, she was happily sitting there, independently upright for one of the first times and watching the world’s ankles go by. Life was good if you were Kelly. Then suddenly and without warning, her world flipped upside-down, or maybe horizontal would be the more appropriate word. Either way, she was on her back, looking up and mad as hell. She burst into tears and as most babies do, cried so hard that when I scooped her up, she was beet-red and there was no sound coming out. Now, in my house this part is normal. The silence-before-the-deep-intake-of-air and then the screaming continues. 

However, this time the deep-intake-of-air part never happened. Kelly’s chubby hands twisted inward and her lips turned blue. Her stiff little angry body slumped forward in my arms. I had never seen anything like this before, so as any good mother does, I panicked. Fortunately, our paramedic friend was there and he checked Kelly over and determined that she was breathing and basically just passed out. From temper.

From temper, folks. Let that sink in. My 6-month-old just passed out from her own temper.

She came back around after 30 seconds or so and was fine. The lack of oxygen had her pretty exhausted, but she rebounded. The general consensus was to take her to the pediatrician the next day to see if there was any reason to be concerned. So I did.

Our conversation went like this:

Me: “She passed out yesterday when she fell over.”

Dr: “Was she crying when she passed out?”

Me: “Oh, boy, was she!”

Dr: “Ahhhhh. You have a breath-holder, then.”

Me: “?1?!”  (The ‘me’ of 1993 was still respectable enough not to swear at this point. That ‘me’ is mostly gone now.)

“But she turned blue and…and her hands did this weird thing! How do I make sure that never happens again?” (Insert rising, panicked tone)

Dr: “Oh, that’s easy! You’ll just need to hold her until she’s 21, never raise your voice and ALWAYS give her her way…all the time.” (chuckles softly to himself)

Me: “…”

So I learned how to deal with a breath holder

Basically, there were two types of events that caused it. One was when she got hurt, the other was pure temper. So each event had to be evaluated separately. Those were good times when you have to stop everything and figure out what happened, quickly, so you can react appropriately before she hits the floor.

If Kelly actually fell or pinched her finger or otherwise got hurt, she would hella-cry, pass out and wake up in my arms and we would cuddle until she felt like toddling off for her next adventure.

BUT…if she did something naughty and I got angry with her behavior, (keep in mind, she was a toddler by now…with two older siblings…both of which had stolen her birth-right!) she would also cry. But it was these times that I knew she couldn’t wake up, cuddled in my arms, because that would just reinforce the bad behavior. So I would lie her down on the carpet and make sure she was safe and…yes…I would walk away. Not far, just out of her vision. My goal was to make sure she knew these times were different than when she was hurt

And, yes, it brutally difficult.

I couldn’t let her manipulate the situation by getting all my snuggly attention because she was naughty to her sister. As I’ve said many times before, I had to teach them BOTH, because they were BOTH watching my every move. And I could never send her to her room because she would pass out half-way up the stairs. One time, I got there just in time to catch her as she tumbled back down the staircase. 

So, on we went, sometimes dealing with this 8 or 10 times a week. I remember 5-year-old Brendan carrying her in from the backyard one day, her head drooped and her hands doing that weird-curling-in-thing.

“Mommm! Kelly’s doing that thing again!”

I guess we all had gotten used to it 

Except for Grandma. Some things Grandma would never handle. Her grandchild turning blue and losing consciousness was one of them. And It didn’t matter one bit to Grandma if it was because she had been naughty. No sir. 

So as a result, Grandma didn’t babysit much during these years. And I’m pretty sure that on the occasions we were able to bribe her to watch the kids, I think she followed our wise-cracking pediatrician’s advice. 

But let’s be honest, holding, rocking, never raising your voice and never making your grandchild mad is exactly the way it was supposed to be in Grandma’s world. 

The fun part now is waiting for Kelly and Ryan to start their own family…

Whenever that happens, I hope Ryan knows what he’s in for!


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