Attachment Issues

That may or may not be the technical term.

Anyway.

I prayed for ten years to be a Daddy. Ten years. I would say “every day and every night,” but the truth is that there were days and nights when I was not on speaking terms with God. The thought never left my mind for long, though. Not a day went by that I didn’t try to reason with God, the universe, myself… I watched news stories of people doing unspeakable things to their own children, and I would fume. Why weren’t we parents?

I thought that waiting for an adoption would make it at least a little easier, because we’d be one step closer. Unfortunately, two and a half years “on the shelf” led nowhere, and instead it made it harder. I’d see those same news stories, and now instead of thinking only about the cosmic injustice of these people being parents while Ann and I were not, I would remember that we were waiting for a birth mother to select us, and I would wonder constantly what it was that people were rejecting about us.

Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, pregnancy caught us by surprise.

And seemingly within hours of our telling our closest family members, we had a scare in which we thought we were losing the baby.

Obviously, it turned out that we weren’t. But then, 33 days early, Sage had to be evicted from her one-bedwomb apartment (thank you! I’m here all week!) in order to preserve Ann’s health, and presumably also her own. She was in the NICU for two weeks before we got to bring her home.

She is just shy of nine months old now, and this past Sunday was the first time that I left her with strangers (who were not nurses in a hospital). We went to church and put her into kids’ care.

(Side note: I still miss my old church service. I’ve attended the regular services now a couple of times, and each time I am battling down just about every negative emotion I can think of.)

Sage did fine in kids’ care. There were lots of other babies and plenty of adult supervision; tons of toys and books and activity centers and mirrors, and she was fine. Me? Not so much. About halfway through the service I had to duck out just to see how she was doing, despite the fact that they have a service they use small LED screens to alert parents of a problem through specially assigned identification codes; if there had been a problem, we would have seen the screens and gone to her right away. I had to go anyway, just to make sure she was fine. She was smiling and playing with one of the adults. She saw me and I got to say a quick hello, but she went right back to playing without another care in the world.

____________________________________

So after a few weeks of sleeping through the night, Sage has recently decided to wake up every two or three hours. On rare occasions, simple rocking or patting or use of a pacifier will send her right back to sleep, but more often she wants to eat. Most of the time, this means that Ann is getting up to nurse her. I usually get up too, to help Ann get settled, and then I go right back to bed (and sometimes, I really don’t wake up before Ann is already taking care of everything — for which I always feel incredible guilt in the moments before I zonk right the heck back out, and also again in the morning when I do get up).

But this means Ann is up a couple times a night, losing sleep for anywhere from twenty minutes to a couple of hours if Sage is feeling particularly uppity.

And, since Ann works part-time for her parents and we can do this right now, Ann takes Sage to work. Often, Sage is content to sit and play, but sometimes she is incredibly clingy… and sometimes she just won’t take naps. Ann may be there for eight hours and get only three hours of work done, while running on four hours of sleep.

I have usually left for work before Sage is even up. I try to spend as much time with her as I can when I get home, but (a) sometimes that puts the burden of actual housework and so forth squarely onto Ann’s shoulders, and (b) sometimes Sage isn’t interested in Daddy, and only wants Mommy.

Ann really needs more time for herself. We’ve managed it a couple of times, but not often enough.

What we really need is something I really haven’t wanted to acknowledge, or even think about.

Day care.

____________________________________

I’m not prepared to hand off my kid to a day care. After ten years of waiting and praying, after scares and complications, it seems patently ridiculous to hand off the most precious, fragile thing in my life to someone else and say, “Please don’t do anything at all that I wouldn’t do, up to and including saying anything nice about the Red Sox or Patriots.”

Ann needs it, I think.

I’m just not quite ready to let go like that. I’m so used to only hearing horror stories about day care. In-home day care might scare me the most. There are virtually no oversights. People act differently — more careless and casual — in their own home than they do in a workplace. It’s easy to become distracted at home. Sage is the most important thing in the world to us, and we still sometimes suddenly have to drop what we’re doing to stop her from yanking a lamp’s power cord. What if the person in charge has a family event the next day and is busy trying to bake something instead of paying sharp attention to the kid?

(I already know that some of you are starting to compose responses in which you accuse me of overreacting. Guess what? I know that. I know bad things could happen anywhere and at any time. But I do work in insurance and I’ve studied risk management. These are not unreasonable scenarios to consider.)

And then I start wondering the things that are really overreacting. Like, what if the person running the daycare has a belief system that is at odds with mine, and my daughter starts believing in things that make my skin crawl? (Once again, Boston sports teams come to mind.)

But I know — I can’t control every facet of Sage’s life. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to. Not really. I want her to learn to be herself, and you are a combination of the sum of your experiences, and the choices that you make. All I can do is try to give her the best experiences, and to teach her to make the best choices.

…but day care. Some of the scariest words to me right now.

For Ann’s sake, I hope I get over this before the stress cracks her in half.

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20 Responses to Attachment Issues

  1. Andrea Lott says:

    Obviously I felt the same way because I’m still a stay at home mom most of the time. I didn’t leave Hannah with strangers until she was vocal. Just my personal choice, and I was able to do that. But the thing is, you have to do what is right for your family as a whole, because that will be what helps Sage grow up in a happy healthy household. I think lots of parents are tempted to put the kids first, and sacrifice themselves, in ways that aren’t completely necessary because obviously they love their children super duper much. But I have found that putting myself and my relationships first on occasion is a way of putting Hannah first. By raising her as a happy healthy person myself, in a happy healthy relationship, with a happy healthy personal life, I’m raising her to be a happy healthy person. Only you and Ann can know where your limits are, what you two personally find tolerable. But every parent dies every time they themselves are no longer completely responsible for their child’s safety. I still do. Every time. Every day she’s at school, I worry. Every time she drives, I worry. Every day she spends with a friend, I worry. Have I mentioned she flies airplanes? Yeah. But I can only give you the advice I give myself: use as much positive self-speak as you can. The vast majority of children turn out just fine whether they’re bottle-fed or breastfed, whether they’re in daycare or home-raised, whether they get a C+ or an A in Spanish. They turn out fine. Really.

    • strangedavid says:

      I know. And I also know that I could be the best parent in the world and end up with a little punk of a kid who seemingly tries to do everything possible to ruin her own life, and that’s just the way it is. I guess I just never thought about day care for anyone under the age of two. (Not that I put a lot of thought into it, you understand; it’s just when I think about day care, I don’t think of little bitty babies. I blame the show “Day by Day.”

  2. jaytee617 says:

    that was a touching story. R.E. the daycare thing, it’s like getting into a cold pool, better done by just jumping without thinking too much about it in rather than inching in and thinking of each agonizing step. It will take a while to get used to the temperature and it will never feel as good as a nice heated pool, but eventually it will be okay. my son had to start at 8 weeks because of our work situations. i agree with you that you should go with an agency based daycare rather than a home based one. in addition to all of the concerns you cited about home-based, the agency based ones generally have better structured daily routines, and the staff members support each other which ultimately means your kid gets supported. we found our best option was the daycare at the local hospital. it was mostly for the hospital employees but they had some slots for the public. they have cameras in each classroom that you can see online, and what better setting for an emergency to happen than to be on the campus of a hospital (not that we ever needed it).

    p.s. – go patriots, red sox, celtics, and bruins (if the nhl ever gets the lockout settled) 🙂

    • strangedavid says:

      Thanks, man. I appreciate all of that, except the bits about the Patriots and Red Sox. (I pay virtually no attention to basketball or hockey, so I can’t get too worked up about the Celtics and Bruins.)

  3. sinwi says:

    The prospect of finding day care was not something I liked, so I avoided it during pregnancy, and then could not conceive of it after birth. Fortunately I was able to walk in to my work and arrange to go to 30 hrs a week, opposite of A’s schedule. If my boss had been unable or unwilling to do so, I have no idea what I would have done. Probably quit. So I am there w/ you on the day care front.

    No answers, everyone’s solutions are different. Best of luck as you and Ann figure out what solution will work best for you two. (Of course, if you procrastinate long enough she’ll be heading off to 3 yr old pre-school… problem solved! 🙂 )

    • strangedavid says:

      “I avoided it during pregnancy, and then could not conceive of it after birth”

      …I see what you did there.

      The sad part is that if it were economically feasible, I would LOVE to be a stay-at-home dad during these years.

      • sinwi says:

        Yeah, I knew you would see it. 🙂

        Aaron and I both decided that we could both handle being stay at home parents together (we had a nice taste of it w/ his extended paternity leave). We just need to find someone to pay us to do so.

  4. Gretchen says:

    Strange, we’ve used a number of childcare solutions, and am happy to discuss and talk about benefits / challenges we encountered if you’re interested. – Gretchen

  5. joanna says:

    Your attachment is healthy- and it’s good for Sage, too! She needs lots of mom-and-dad time (though, Ann’s probably wishing, less at 2am). We had the same hesitation with childcare. We didn’t want someone other than us raising our child, spending more time with them than one of their parents. Josh stayed home full time with Elliott for the first year, and then an opportunity presented itself and he started working part-time. My mom watches E two afternoons a week. It’s not a lot, and he’s with *family*, but it was still a hard decision to make, even though he was a year old before we started the arrangement. With the New Baby, I’m not sure what we’ll do.

    And, you’re not alone on the negative-feelings-in-church thing. I told Josh this week, I’m still sad every time I go to church, just because it’s not Sojourn. It’s hard to get through the service. He asked what we can do about it… church shopping isn’t practical for us since we’re so involved AND the church is so close. I guess I just have to give it more time.

  6. We felt pretty much exactly the way you do about daycare (for all the same reasons, too!) But I also remember feeling pretty much exactly as you describe your wife feeling too – so much exactly that it kind of hurts. I wouldn’t want to go through that again.

    I just wanted to say that one thing I never took seriously at the time was the “middle ground.” Meaning, I never bothered to get involved in any parent-child classes or anything of that sort. I was so exhausted and burned out, I just wasn’t interested in trying to meet new people or anything of that nature. I don’t know how you guys feel about that stuff, or what your options are where you live – but (with hindsight) I think those sorts of activities would have been a really good move for me. At the very least, it would have given me a few minutes of semi-freedom, while my clingy baby was distracted by other babies – and right under my eyes too so that I wouldn’t have had to worry about anything. That would have been HUGE for me at that time. I remember thinking sometimes that I just needed a “lunch break”!! Just an hour I could count on in the middle of a hectic day to think my own thoughts and sort of replenish…and that rarely happened (which was hard.)

    There’s also the fact that watching the little one in that sort of setting, with other kids and other adults, might give you a better idea as to where SHE stands in regard to daycare. We never put our son into any childcare until last year when he started preK – and I don’t think (again in hindsight) that that was because HE wasn’t ready; it was because WE weren’t. I don’t think we hurt him or anything by keeping him home…but I think we probably shut him out from some fun he could have had. I feel sort of bad about that!

    I wish there was some sort of easy answer to these sorts of questions. It’s so hard!

  7. amy says:

    You guys will all be fine, even if Sage goes to day care. You’ll be fine. 🙂 Congratulations—you have a securely attached baby. (That means you guys are great parents, so Sage feels safe exploring her world in her own strength. We should all be so lucky.) She’s going to have a very good life.

  8. Br.Bill says:

    Ready for this one, Strange?

    I am f—ed up fifty ways to Friday, but none of the day care centers or babysitters that cared for me were responsible for any of it. Part of it was nature, part of it was [some rough kids in] public school, and the majority of it was my parents. The folks were the ones mostly responsible for creating most of the monsters that plagued me growing up — and some of those monsters remain. Mostly what I found my babysitters to be was … frankly, ignorant and intent on staying so.

    • strangedavid says:

      I’m definitely aware that there are kajillions of factors that could lead to issues. I just don’t know how long it will take me to get to the point where I can comfortably hand my child — that I waited for for so long — to unfamiliar surroundings on a regular basis.

  9. amy says:

    I think it can go both ways. Either the babysitters and day care centers come and go and don’t have much impact on the kids, or they’re like my husband and me.

    Nine or so years ago, I answered an ad that a single mom needed a babysitter one night per week for a few hours so she could run errands. When I showed up for the interview, I met three little boys, ages 5, 3, and 10 months old, who had recently been abandoned by an unfaithful father and had moved up from Texas to Indiana. I started taking care of them one night per week for a few hours, and we had such a blast together that mom started feeling comfortable leaving them for more and longer periods. Soon, I was staying with them when she had to go on business trips, up to a week away from her kids with only me there to run the ship. I manned all the birthday parties, attended the soccer games and sacraments (they’re Catholic), kept up with all present-giving occasions, gave advice about girls, fielded the first inquiry of “hey, how to the babies get *in* the mommies’ tummies anyway?” (Right answer: Hmmm. I bet Mommy remembers. You should ask her!) I became a cool aunt, and they adored me and I adored them. I made them eat vegetables (twice as many as mom did, despite much grumbling) and wouldn’t let them watch TV, helped with homework and cleaned up poop and puke and dealt with 104.7-degree fevers at 3 am when mom was four states away (lukewarm bath, cold drink, children’s motrin, back to bed in underwear with only a sheet), strange rashes, bee stings, everything you can think of (oddly, no broken bones though). When I met my husband, after I knew he was safe, I brought him to meet the kids, because I wanted to know what they thought of him (they were instantly in love, and he became babysitter #2). I helped raise and shape those kids, and I was so careful to help them become kind, thoughtful, active, healthy people. They’re into art and music now, because Kevin and I taught them art and music! (Mom’s an engineer; she’s told us it was a good thing we were around, because she has no idea what to do with creative children.) They still get super excited to see us.

    And most of this time, they were going to daycare before and after school and during summers. They hardly remember it, can’t even name any of their teachers. It didn’t hurt them at all. It’s just a nonevent.

    They’re teenagers now (sniff), and mom got promoted to a no-travel position, so they don’t need a babysitter anymore. But they won’t forget Kevin and me, and we’re so proud of them.

    It’s highly possible that whatever babysitters you find will be loving, positive influences on Sage who will want to help her grow and succeed. Susan (their mom) always said to me that it really does take a village to raise a child, and she was glad to have found people who cared so much about her kids to be part of that village.

    And Sage is SUPER cute, and so friendly. As babies go, she is easy to love. Another of my momma friends, whose son I love with all my heart, says that one of her greatest joys is watching other people love on her baby. I think you’ll find, once you get over the hump, that you feel the same.

  10. Carol Farrington says:

    OK I’m late jumping in here but no one has thrown in anything from the perspective. I had no choice but to go back to work when Liz was about 10 weeks old. We did a lot of interviewing while I was still pregnant and settled on a home day care. They didn’t have a ton of kids and her husband (a pharmacist) usually worked afternoons so he was home to help. They loved Liz like their own. They actually had a fairly structured day and I could drop in any time, which of course I did on a random basis especially when we first put her there. When she arrived the husband would take Liz and her seat and place her on the kitchen table where he would read and discuss the morning newspaper to her and with her. Sometimes they would have quite involved conversations. I was very happy because as a speech therapist I wanted someone who would spend time talking with my baby.

    Then we moved to Greenwood. It sucked, no one would take her at 7 months except one person who was awful. She, and I, cried every day when I dropped her off. Finally around a year we found someone else with an opening. All home care. I couldn’t afford the centers. Kathy was amazing, never had more than 6 kids and let them have play time, “learning” time, art time, and outside time pretty much every day. Liz stayed there until she started first grade. (Keep in mind she is 20 now and Kindergarten was only 1/2 day at the time.) Every year we gave Kathy a raise and paid her for the two weeks off that she took during the year. I cried on Liz’s last day there.

    Strange you know Liz you can decide if she turned out ok or not. But in her defense she did just win 2 awards from the Zoo where she works, Staff Clown and Most Spirited. I am proud to be her mother.

    • strangedavid says:

      Carol… I really hope your settings allow you to see my response.

      1) I rarely have taken the time to get to know CSz fanz. Part of the reason is that I’m afraid to spoil the “illusion” of what we do… but a bigger part is social anxiety. I’m really, really glad that I got to meet you two in Philly and “friend” you on Facebook after that.

      2) Liz turned out fantastic. And thank you for your comments — it really was nice to get that other perspective. I’m not just saying that; I smiled, BIG, reading what you wrote. THANK YOU!

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