Awhile ago – we’re probably talking about a few months at this point – I mentioned that our local community centre offers a babysitting program at a reasonable rate. I had always intended to bring Claire to this service once I felt she was old enough – which I had, while pregnant, figured would be around 4 months.
And yet, it’s funny how you can come up with a multitude of excuses to keep you from doing something you don’t want to do, isn’t it? It’s also funny how, no matter how attached you are to your baby when she’s inside you, you have no clue how attached you will become once you lay your eyes on that little miracle, and how that attachment grows and grows and grows.
I can use the excuse that even by 4 months, Claire was showing signs of separation anxiety and not reacting well to strangers. But really, that should have just prodded me to hurry the hell up. How can you leave your child with strangers when you know it’s only going to make her scream? So week after week went by, with it never being the ‘right time’ to bring her.
Then, all of a sudden, Claire hit the 9-month mark. I was suddenly only too aware that I was now in the last three months of my maternity leave, and daycare loomed before us. Although it’s true that Sherry and her family moved to Halifax in July, we haven’t left Claire with them. There are a few reasons for that: after having lived here for six years without any family, I’m just not used to them being around; when Sherry and her family first arrived, I didn’t really want to start asking for babysitting help as I knew that they were settling into their new lives here and Sherry was settling into her reentry into the workforce; and finally, I’ve always been terrible at asking for help – I hate it, pure and simple, and will often try to do things myself rather than ask for aid.
So that has left us with a child who is used to being cared for solely by Neal and I. Neal’s parents watched Claire on one occasion, but she was napping for most of it and probably didn’t even know we were gone. Nina watched her when we went to my Christmas party. And that… sums up care by others in these first nine months of Claire’s life.
Obviously, this is a problem since I’m going back to work and Claire is going to daycare on April 2nd. Last week, I finally bit the bullet and brought Claire to the babysitting service on Friday. For a half-hour.
It was awful.
There was only one other child there; the girl was only a little bit older than Claire, so I hoped that they would be able to distract each other. I put her in the little section for non-walking babies, gave her some toys, and went to the library next door. I was gone for maybe ten or so minutes when the woman in the daycare called me on my cell (she was by herself that day, so she couldn’t come get me).
Now, this may have been my fault. I had explained to the woman that Claire isn’t used to being cared for by strangers, and that she might get upset. The woman, giving me a worried look, told me that since she was by herself that day, she wouldn’t be able to come find me, so I gave her my cell number. What I didn’t explain was that she was only to call me if there was an actual problem.
I guess Claire had been fine at first, but then she started to move towards the other baby, so the woman moved Claire away. I’m not sure why, if she had any reason to think that, I don’t know, Claire was going to harm the other baby, but that was when Claire realized that Mommy wasn’t there. Claire is a pretty good-natured little girl, but letmetellyou, when she’s pissed, she’s PISSED. That red-headed temper really comes out!
Maybe I should have told the woman to deal with the situation (said in a nicer way), but the woman hadn’t given me the impression that she really wanted to be there that day, and I could hear my daughter SCREAMING HER HEAD OFF in the background. So, of course, I went over. It went against everything I have read about separation anxiety. If you keep going back in because your child is crying (once your child is a certain age), when nothing really is wrong except that they want you, your child starts thinking that if she throws a temper tantrum, you’ll come running. And that might be fine… until they’re in an actual daycare and you’re at work. Suddenly they have to learn that that’s not always the case.
It took me awhile to calm her down. I got her somewhat calmed, told the woman I was just going to check out the books I had shoved at the librarian in my haste to get next door to my child, and put Claire back in the section. Even when we got home, Claire was in an awful mood. She didn’t want her lunch; she only wanted her bottle and a nap.
It just drained me of energy, and I started to feel really anxious about my return to work. Bringing her to Cole Harbour Place was intended to ease Claire into care by strangers, and I worried that this option wouldn’t be open to me. I started grasping at offers that had been thrown out to me, swallowed down my pride, and started asking for help. I talked to Neal about it and decided a few things:
1) The wife of the lawyer I work with had offered to watch Claire sometime so that Neal and I could go out somewhere. I emailed her and told her that I’d probably be taking her up on that offer soon, probably next month.
2) Sherry and George gave Neal and I a gift certificate for Boston Pizza. Sherry had mentioned that we could either take Claire with us, or we could drop her off at their place and we could go the two of us. I hadn’t really decided what we were going to do, but now we are going to get Sherry to watch Claire for us.
3) There’s a 16-or-so-year-old who lives across the street. I don’t actually know the people too well, but we’re going to go pay them a visit sometime and see if the girl is interested in babysitting for us once in awhile. The conversation should hopefully give us an idea of whether we want her to do so. I also figure it’s pretty good because if she has any problems, her parents are right across the street.
And, although last Friday’s experience was less than desirable, I brought Claire back to Cole Harbour Place. This time, I didn’t say anything (although that same woman was there today, but she was joined by another woman). I mentioned i was going to the library, but you have to tell them where you’re going in the building in case of emergency. I found a table in the library and started doing some research, checking my watch every 2.5 seconds or so.
After about 10 minutes, that same woman who called me last Friday came in and told me that Claire was crying and was really upset. As much as it killed me to do so, I explained that I’m trying to get her ready for daycare. I told her that she would find a bottle of formula as well as a package of rice rusks in the diaper bag. The woman went back to the daycare. I barely kept myself in my seat, only paying attention to what I read in a half-assed way.
When I did go in, at the end of my half-hour, Claire was sitting on the lap of the other lady. She didn’t look happy, but she wasn’t screaming and crying either. They had managed to calm her down by giving her part of a bottle and singing some songs to her. We came home and she acted like nothing terrible had happened. She ate her lunch. She took a bottle and had a two-hour nap.
We both survived. And we’ll probably do it again next week.
The woman who had calmed her down today did mention that Claire has a really high-pitched scream. Oh hell yes, lady, I KNOW.