The unmistakable sound comes through the baby monitor and I run to my son’s room.  It is earlier than usual, only 11:30pm instead of 2am.  I am thankful it happened before I fell asleep.  I pick him up and put him on my shoulder just as I did the first time I heard this sound when he was eighteen months old.  Now at seven years and forty five pounds, he does not fit against me like he used to.  Still, it is the best position to keep him calm and to keep him breathing.  My husband and I start preparing for an all nighter.  He turns on the tv and starts a movie that will keep my son calm.  He moves a reclining futon chair from another room into the living room and pushes it against the love seat.  I set my son upright on our bed and rush to put on something warmer than the usual tshirt and shorts and gather blankets, stopping several times to calm him in the process.  Downstairs, I sit on the loveseat with him against my chest.  I start bargaining with God.  I swear I will be a better mother.  I curse every time I have lost my temper with my son.  I feel the weight of him against me and listen to the sound of air uneasily going in and out of him. 

According to Wikipedia, “Croup (or laryngotracheobronchitis) is a respiratory condition that is usually triggered by an acute viral infection of the upper airway. The infection leads to swelling inside the throat, which interferes with normal breathing and produces the classical symptoms of a “barking” cough, stridor, and hoarseness. It may produce mild, moderate, or severe symptoms, which often worsen at night.”  According to me, Croup is the worst experience I have had as a mom.  All three of my children have had Croup multiple times.  It is a concerning thing for any child because of the breathing difficulty it can cause and the horrendous sounds it can produce.  For my oldest son, it falls under the “Probably not going to make it to the hospital” category.  Because he has Down syndrome, his anatomy differs from my other children’s.  His airway is smaller.  Swelling of the vocal chords leaves little room in his tiny throat. We have had emergency steroids on hand for several years for these occasions.  Once we administer a dose, his breathing regulates and the panic passes.  I position myself inches from him.  I want to hear him breathing and be alert if he has any more distress.  These nights are long and sleepless and all too familiar. 

Breathing is such a seemingly simple thing.  We do it mostly without thinking.  Most of us rarely stop to contemplate the miracle of air moving in and out of us every second of our lives.  The last several years have changed that for me.  Every night I listen to the soft sounds of each of my children breathing when I check in on them.  I give a quick listen to my two year old daughter and my four year old son and finally stand over my oldest son and hear the air moving freely in and out of him at a slow and steady pace.  I am thankful.  Tonight, there is no reason to stay up all night to listen to him breathe.  I leave his room, lie in my bed and drift off to sleep listening to the beautiful sound of his breath over the monitor anyway.

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