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by Angela Geiser
The longest, hardest day for me as a new mom was not the 48 hours of labor. It was the day I took my baby to day care the first time.
I had scoured my town for the best childcare. “Not quite right,” I kept thinking as my new daughter and I toured 13 different centers and homes. One place seemed too big, another too impersonal, another too loud.
Then, I met Lena. Lena had run a home day care for years in a different city before starting anew in her sparkling new home. As a young mom of two, she immediately engaged my daughter.
On that first day back to work, with Theresa sleeping in her car seat, I worried: Did I send enough breast milk? Would she drive Lena crazy with her refusal to be set down? Should I wake her or let her wake naturally -- with a foreign face peering down at her?
Most of all, I worried she’d feel abandoned. We had not been separated for more than a few hours in her existence. I even worried if I was wrong to stop looking for facilities at unlucky 13.
Lena did her best to reassure me. She would devote the day to making my daughter feel at home, and I could call at any time. She assured me it would all be all right.
Back in the car, the tears started to roll.
In the three months while I was on leave, the newspaper I wrote for had moved to a new office and hired a new editor. I struggled with our new computers and got lost on the way to the ladies room, where I struggled with my new breast pump.
However, feeling grateful that they were letting me return for a three-day workweek, I was determined to do some real work that day.
I called Lena at 10 a.m. I called her again at 2 p.m., this time to hear the baby crying in the background.
“I just put her down,” she assured me.
At 6 p.m., I called my husband, who had picked up the baby after work. Theresa was starving, he said; he had to give her formula. “OK, but no more,” I told him. With my breasts about to blow, I frantically typed the last words of my story.
When I arrived home 11 hours after I had left her, Theresa’s eyes were wild. Was it fear or mere hunger? I smiled and urged her to smile back. She just wanted to nurse – and then fell asleep.
Over time, it got easier. Theresa seemed happy. She smiled on the way in to day care, eager to find her best friend, Lena’s daughter. Theresa called Lena “mama,” and I came to see Lena as a parenting mentor and a friend.
So I was crushed when, 20 months later, Lena gave two-weeks notice that she was closing to focus on her family. But, I was glad that Theresa had such a nurturing caretaker in her early years. I was also relieved that I had visited all of those facilities. I enrolled Theresa in number two on my list.
As parents like you, we know firsthand that finding a good childcare facility or preschool can be one of the most important decisions you make. That’s why Bay Area Parent puts together this magazine annually. We help you sort through and select a place that’s just right for you. Get tips for choosing childcare on page 18 or preschool on page 24.
Kids at this young age are growing and learning so fast it’s like magic. Find out how your child is meeting developmental milestones, uncover what he’s really learning in school, and get tips on nutrition, vaccines and other health issues in Ask the Doctor on page 62.
Sometimes, we get so busy taking care of essentials like childcare and health that we forget to have fun. So, check out the field trips and art projects we’ve featured. And hang in there; it will all be all right.
– Angela Geiser, Associate Editor
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