On February 1, Husband and I did something neither of us wanted to do, both of us had to do, and many other parents understand: We went to work. While it may seem commonplace to a lot of people, there was a difference on this day for us. We had to leave Little Miss in the care of someone else.
Only three days prior she had turned six months old, barely sitting up on her own and just starting solid foods. On that same day we met for the first time the woman who would become our daughter’s “second mother.”
It was a frightening prospect, leaving Little Miss with someone we’d talked with for only 60 minutes a mere 60 hours before entrusting her with the watch-care and well-being of our precious only child. She seemed nice and fit all the criteria: She was a Christian, had only one other child in the house (her own 16-month-old son), didn’t believe in TV babysitting, respected my parenting style, had a child-proofed home and never had another adult on the premises unless she was there, too. But it was still nerve-wracking for a new mother to leave her tiny baby in the hands of a near-stranger all day, every day, all week, every week, all month, every month…you get the picture.
At first it was pure torture. At 7:45 each morning I’d unload Little Miss, kiss her goodbye, tell her I loved her, hand her over to Babysitter and quickly exit the house. The scared and confused crying followed me out to the car…down the road…into the office…
Mondays were the worst. After an entire weekend of routine, spending time with Little Miss – holding her, feeding her, playing with her – to have to start a whole week of leaving her again was far from easy. I cried myself all the way to work many mornings, with Mondays seeing the most tears on the steering wheel of my Toyota.
Since I was still breastfeeding, I went back every day at noon to feed Little Miss (it not only gave me an excuse to see her, but also helped keep my supply up, something I struggled with upon going back to work full time). As soon as she saw me, screaming ensued. She was excited to see me, and angry that I’d left her. She couldn’t handle the overwhelming emotions and simply screamed.
The same reaction occurred when I came to pick her up at 5:15. I hated having to load her into the carseat and drive home. All I wanted to do was cuddle and hold her.
Babysitter told me that Little Miss wouldn’t let her leave her side all day long. She had to be in the sling, strapped up close to Babysitter’s body, in Babysitter’s arms, or next to Babysitter on the floor. It was frustrating for Babysitter, because she had things she needed to get done. She was used to doing housework throughout the day, while her son toddled along behind her or sat on the floor stacking blocks and looking at books. With Little Miss in the picture, she got nothing done unless she carried Little Miss around with her, which she couldn’t do 8 hours a day. No one but Superman has that much muscle-strain endurance.
There came a point when I thought we’d never see light at the end of the tunnel. It was purely a long dark hole of sadness, frustration and guilt. I couldn’t sleep, realizing that when I woke up I’d have to do it all again: leave Little Miss with someone she didn’t know or like in an unfamiliar place that scared her. What kind of mother does that to her child? All my life I’d sworn I’d never let another woman raise my daughter – I would be the one home with her, teaching her, loving her, being her mama. And here I was, unable to be the stay-at-home mom I’d always dreamed of being, with no one to blame but myself for not planning ahead to that end. The anger at myself and the guilt I felt were overwhelming and I began to fear I was suffering from postpartum depression.
Fast-forward nearly two months to today. When I drop Little Miss off at Babysitter’s house, she smiles, babbles and watches me leave without crying. Even on Mondays. During the day she’ll sit and entertain herself on the floor for 45 minutes at a time. She interacts with Babysitter’s son, watching him, talking to him, and accepting the toys he hands her…and then calmly giving them back when he takes them again five seconds later. Though she cries occasionally, it’s not the huge panic attacks she was having two months ago. It’s normal – she cries with Mom and Dad, too, sometimes.
When I come to feed or pick her up, she grins, happy to see me, and though she gets fussy if I take too long picking her up, it’s not immediate screaming.
I will admit occasionally I still tear up after I leave her on Mondays. But knowing she’s adjusted to her new environment and is confident Mommy and Daddy will come back for her helps a whole lot. And I live for those grins.