That may or may not be the technical term.
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.
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.