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Swallowing Foreign Objects: A User’s Guide for Parents

After almost five years of parenting one of the wildest creatures in the human race, I truly thought I had seen it all. Broken bones, ambulance rides, toddler surgery, falls resulting in teeth piercing straight through the tongue and bottom lip (I still cringe when I recall the amount of blood involved in this one). These are just a few of our top contenders. I was pretty much a pro at anything my little ninja warrior had to chuck my way. That was until the day she decided to make some loose change “disappear.” 

Allow me to elaborate. 

My husband was a clown in his past life. Tricks, jokes, and acrobatics are a daily staple in our house. The disappearing coin trick is the ultimate fan favorite. Or at least it was. My daughter, aspiring to join the circus herself, was in complete awe of the fact that my husband could have a coin in his hand one minute and then POOF! it was gone and discovered behind her ear. Pure. Amazement. 

I always thought this goofy bond was adorable. And quite frankly, I was relieved not to be the one wearing the magician’s hat. 

My daughter has handled money, especially coins on many occasions. We never had a problem with her and small objects, even as a toddler.  So it didn’t even cross my mind when one day I noticed her playing around with a few nickels and pennies. 

“I’m going to learn how to disappear them so I can show Daddy when he gets home” she explained to me with an exuberant grin.

I chuckled and moved on with tending to her baby brother. 

Sometime later, I heard her coughing in her room. I went in to check on her and found her with tears filling up her tiny wide eyes.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She then covered herself with blankets and pillows and refused to respond. This was not normal.

She coughed again.

Then it dawned on me.

Where. Are. Those. Coins. 

They were nowhere to be found. 

After some deep negotiating, she burst out into a deeper sea of tears and exclaimed: “I couldn’t figure out how to disappear them like Daddy, so I ate them to make them disappear my way!”

OH. NO. 

This was a first. What do I do? Do I call 911? Go to the Emergency Room? Will she need surgery? Are they stuck in her throat? This is all my husband’s fault! Why did I marry such a moron? I think I saw a Grey’s Anatomy episode about a kid who swallowed things once. What happened? Did he die?! STOP! Breathe. She’s not choking. Call the doctor. Breathe. 

Anyone who has been through this or any unknown medical territory with their kids knows that gut wrenching feeling of panic. The key is to focus, take a deep breath, and try your hardest not to let your kids smell your fear. 

Now, the swallowing of foreign objects can go a variety of ways. Luckily for us, it turned out she swallowed a nickel and a penny. She was able to eat, drink, and breathe normally, so medical intervention was not necessary. BUT we did have to make sure the objects passed within three days time. 

What did that mean for mom? You guessed it! Poop scoopin’ on the daily until Thomas Jefferson and Abe Lincoln were set free. 

Funny side note: after having to explain why his wife called his office 5000 times that day, my husband’s boss fittingly nicknamed her “the six cents.” 

If you ever find yourself in this less than desirable situation, here are a few tips I can offer to make the process as smooth as possible. 

  • Always have plastic bags and disposable gloves on hand 
  • Feed your child fibrous foods and avoid starches or anything that would cause a backup. Trust me, you will want to get this over with ASAP. 
  • Create an alert system or code word for when your kiddo needs to go. You DO NOT want to miss the opportunity to line the toilet with a bag so you don’t have to do any unnecessary deep sea fishing. 
  • DO NOT. I REPEAT. DO NOT GO TO TARGET. Or anywhere for that matter. After two days of being home searching through coin-free excrements, I realized there were a few things we needed from the store. Of course, I could only find these things at Target. So, I checked with my girl who promised me she was nowhere near needing to go #2. And I was going to be super quick anyway – because it’s always an insanely speedy task to take two kids to Target, get what you need, and not be tempted to look at ANYTHING else. Ha. Ha. Ha. I figured we were good to go and nothing had happened yet, so it probably wasn’t going to happen in the next 30 minutes. Low and behold, we were barely two aisles in and little miss needed to use the bathroom. “Just #1 Mommy” she promised. “Are you sure? We can run home now if you need to do more.” I warned. “I’m sure, Mom.” As I’m waiting outside the stall for her to finish I hear “Mom? I need to go #2. Now.” Oh heaven, help me. I had no choice. I rolled up my sleeves and went in. If this was the big one with the golden ticket, we could be free of following her around with a bag and bell and no longer need to consult the pediatrician, who already knows us not only by first name but by nickname as well. I won’t go into any further detail on what had to be done, but I will tell you that I did not have any plastic bags or gloves. To top off one of the most repulsive situations of my entire life, my daughter thought it appropriate to loudly exclaim “Mommy! Why are you touching my poop?!” Yes, there were other people in the bathroom. And no, the coins did not show up in this batch. One for the books. Again. 
  • Once the item(s) are successfully recovered, clean and put them away in a memento box to show their future husband or wife. 

**Disclaimer: this narrative should in no way replace any form of medical advice. It is simply an anecdote intended to share a parenting experience on a light and humorous level**



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