Confession time: Until now, I always thought that the moms who freaked out about leaving their child with someone else, either a babysitter or a daycare, were a little overdramatic. I did. I have friends who cried in the car after dropping their baby off for the first day. I didn’t think I’d be driving away, scarf blowing in the breeze, screaming, “THANK GOD, I CAN TAKE A SHOWER AND FEED MYSELF.” I did think I’d handle it relatively rationally, because I am a relatively rational person, I think.
But right now, as I am assembling a daycare bag for Olivia’s first day of daycare, I find myself packing for worst-case scenarios.
“Okay, 2 diaper covers and 5 inserts should be enough. She’ll only be there a few hours.”
“Maybe 8 inserts.”
“Maybe include 4 or 5 disposable diapers, too. You never know.”
“One extra onesie should be fine. How messy can she get? She’s not independently mobile.”
“Three extra outfits. Just in case.”
“And some legwarmers, in case it’s cold.”
“And a jacket, in case the zombie apocalypse comes, and they have to evacuate the children to above the frost line in Canada.”
“Wait, is this onesie made of flame retardant material? IT IS NOT. Must find another onesie.”
And as I am packing for 874 worst-case disaster scenarios, it is occuring to me how difficult next week is going to be. Because here is the thing. I like being in control, and I like being prepared. And right now, whether she is in daycare or not, I am neither.
I want to say that she’s safer with me than in daycare, but I don’t know that that’s true. A few weekends ago, we were driving as a family to New Orleans to visit Husband’s extended family. We were on a bridge. We were in the dark. The car in front of us spun sideways, and as we careened toward the back half of the car, my husband slamming on the brakes, I legitimately thought we were going to die. That is not an exaggeration, though I have been known to be a bit of an exaggerator. Is that a word? Not sure. At any rate, I truly, without any hint of extra drama or hysteria, thought that the millisecond before we slammed into the back of the car was my last millisecond on the planet. I was honestly surprised when I opened my eyes and I was still alive. It was the second worst feeling I have ever had in my entire life. The worst feeling was when I remembered–new mom after all–that my new baby, my brand new, fragile baby was in the back seat. My husband was already out of the car. I tried to open the door on my side–pinned, by the car that hit us from behind. I tried to climb over the console and get out on my husband’s side, but couldn’t, and so I grabbed the wheel to pull myself over, and the wheel kept turning. It would have been hilarious if I were not so petrified with fear. It was the first experience in my life where I was more concerned for someone else’s life than my own, selfish as that might sound. And in the days that followed, I realized that as tragic as it would have been to lose either one of us, it would have been a million times worse to lose her.
When I was little, my favorite game that we played wasn’t Candyland, or Twister, or Operation. It was a game called “What Would You Do?” It involved someone, usually my mom, giving us a scenario, and we would tell her what we would do in that particular situation. It was a way of testing our knowledge of safety, so the question might be, “What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and there was smoke coming into your room from under your door?” (Answer: Feel the door and doorknob to see if they’re hot. If not, open the door and go look for Sister, Parents, and Dog, and attempt to leave through a door. If they are, open the window, use heel of hand to punch out bottom corner of screen, grab Robert [the bear], climb onto porch roof, and shimmy down porch column. Run to neighbor’s house, call 911.) Sometimes I would play this game at night in bed. “What would you do if someone broke into the house? What would you do if you got kidnapped? What would you do if you had cancer?” It seems morbid and extremely negative, but it was incredibly comforting to go through these scenarios and at least feel like I had a plan. I loved that game. But you never think of the more obscure real-life scenarios, the other things that happen that might change or ruin your whole life. What would you do if your baby choked and turned blue? What would you do if you got into a car accident with your baby? I am in no way prepared for a scenario that involves Olivia being in mortal danger.
Realizing that Olivia is not one hundred percent safe no matter where she is is a terrifying feeling. Every day, you read in the news about school shootings and daycare fires and accidental deaths of children due to cars, furniture, dogs. We had the blue episodes in the hospital, and we had the car accident. Eventually, you feel like the only way your baby is going to make it is through sheer luck. That is a horrifying feeling for someone like me, who likes to be in control. My husband makes fun of me sometimes for wanting everything to go a certain way, and being a notorious over-planner. He’s right; I am well-known for doing much more than I have to in order to achieve a certain result. At parties, if I am asked to bring chips and dip, it would not be unrealistic that I show up with homemade chips and three different kinds of homemade dips. I have, in the past, written three different lesson plans for a single day, just in case something happens that forces me from my original plan. Some might say that this makes my life more difficult, but really, this is what keeps me calm. But there are things I can’t plan for, and that is really scary. And there are things I can’t control, like what happens at daycare while I am at work.
Dropping Olivia off at daycare on Monday is going to be the ultimate exercise in trust for me. Despite the blue episodes and the accident, I still feel like the safest place for her is with me. But she can’t be with me all the time. I want her to be able to go and explore and meet new people. I want her to have a life. I want her to trust that things will be okay, and trust in other human beings, and trust that life will take the path it’s meant to, not the path we plan for. So I will do my best to take deep breaths and have faith in other people and have faith in the grand scheme of things and have faith that someone or something will keep us all safe. She is so small and so vulnerable and so trusting, and I so want to believe that she will be okay, and that the perfectly competent and kind people at her daycare will watch over her and care for her.
But I am still going to pack an extra pair of leg warmers.