School and daycare is such a large part of who you are. You’ve been in daycare since I returned to work after my maternity leave. Your first day of day care sucked… For me. It was horrible and I was a hot mess. But let me start from the beginning.
I stayed home with you for about 3 and a half months. It was winter and you were my snuggle buddy. I loved up on you real good and the baby smell helped. I really was not ready to go back to work. Most people assumed I didn’t want to go back to work because I was going to miss you and that was certainly true. However, I also was not physically ready to return to work. I wasn’t in shape when I got pregnant and I was the biggest I have ever been when I had you. On top of it I had to have a c-section. As I described my birth experiences here and here, I had an epidural gone wrong and a spinal tap. I then had a spinal headache and was on bedrest. I simply did not heal as fast as I thought I would. I am not exaggerating when I say that it took me one full year to feel normal again. One full year to trust that my body could do what it would do normally without pain or weird pulling sensations. Commuting to work was brutal. My body, mind, and spirit all rejected the experience. Your Mema watched you for a little while so that I could adjust to getting back to work. That helped me a lot mentally but it could not last forever. Mema had to go back to work. Daycare it was.
The additional challenge your Dad and I faced was our long commute. It created a challenge in finding a day care that I liked, and that either one of us could get to in case of emergency. The compromise was long days for all of us. All three of us piled into the car at 6:30 am and drove for an hour. We would drop you off at day care then I would get on the PATH train to work. Your Dad would then park and walk to work. After work, I would get back on the PATH train then walk to your day care. Your Dad would pick us up, then we would drive an hour back home.
When we arrived at the daycare center that first day, I was so emotional. I had a lump in my throat with the feeling that I was going to cry. I kept telling myself, “Hold it together Joey. Hold yourself together.” I had prepared and triple checked your things the night before and I’m sure I brought extras of everything. I did not want you to need anything. I hand the teachers your bags with your crib sheets, bibs, clothes, wipes, toys, and diapers. The teacher says, “Great! Where are her bottles?” I ask your Dad to get the bottles out of the car and that is when I lost it. NO BOTTLES! No milk for you! We left them on the table by the front door in the house!! I could not hold my composure anymore and I bawled. Like a baby. Standing there in the day care center with snot running out of my nose I cried and cried. One. Hot. Mess.
How could we send you to daycare with no milk? What kind of parents are we? Your Dad said, “Don’t worry! I’ll go to the supermarket!” He sped away and came back with new bottles and milk. The school promised they would wash and sanitize everything before giving it to you. I felt horrible. Your Dad had to lead me out of the school and reassure me that you would be fine.
I took the day off because I knew I could not handle work. After I ate breakfast I went to get a pedicure and cried the entire time. Those poor manicurists must have thought I was nuts. They scrubbed my feet and I cried. Then I would laugh hysterically at how crazy I must have looked and then I cried some more. I just wanted to keep you with me.
The end of the day finally came and I ran into the day care to see you happily sitting in a swing. You smiled at the mobile above your head and a sense of peace washed over me. When you saw me, you laughed and put your hands up. You missed me and I missed you right back.
You know what I learned? We are both resilient. The hard times pass and you still simply laugh and put your hands up. The worry of “will you be ok” never goes away it’s just not as intense. You are in a different day care now because I work from home and you love it. You like learning and activities. You like going to see your friends. You anticipate who you are going to play with and what you are going to do. It’s such a relief.
Some families simply cannot have someone stay home with a new baby and that was us. It was a hard pill to swallow but now I see it is a part of our journey. Sometimes people would say “Who has the baby?” I would say that you were in day care and I would get this look of horror. “Oh, sorry” some people would say. I’m not sorry. You are a beautiful and well rounded 2 (going on 22) year old. I’m thankful that your teachers have nurtured you and been patient with me. School has helped you in a lot of ways. As you get older, you will see that in this family, school is important and taken very seriously and I’m so blessed that you were able to get a head start.