Thursday, October 25, 2007

Post-Bath Snuggle

I love his expression here- I couldn't edit out myself as well as I'd like, but I figured what the hell, you all can see me smiling.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

On Childcare

Several people have asked me how we found Maya, so I thought I'd do a general post on childcare. Obviously I am not an expert, but maybe something about our thought process will be helpful to others.

What We Wanted: I was interested in a small family daycare. I knew Landon could be as young as 5 weeks when he started and I wanted someone who could give his as much individual attention as he was going to need. The fancier, more official daycare centers are very bright and look filled with fun, but he wasn't even going to be sitting up for several months and it looked like the infants mostly hung out in their cribs. I wanted someone who could (and would) hold him and interact with him.

Our Process: UChicago is about 75% graduate students and many of them have children. The school hosts a listserve for student-parents and I sent out an email requesting infant daycare recommendations. I got several responses and set up appointments to visit each one. At the visit I mostly went off gut-reaction. Was the apartment clean? Was the person warm? Did she seem excited about caring for an infant? Did she ask good questions of us? What were the hours and flexibility? What was the cost? How long had she been doing this? How many other children did she take care of? Things like accreditation and certification weren't on my list (many would disagree with that, but given that I'm not certified to be a parent, I cared more about the provider's personality and demeanor than a certificate). I also wasn't too concerned with English language skills- if we could communicate clearly, that was enough for me.

Timing: We started looking for care in April (I was due in August and needed daycare beginning at the end of September). Having a baby over the summer was very convenient because many grad students move away during those months. One of Maya's clients had received a fellowship and was moving in August so she had a spot for Landon in September. I think finding care in the middle of the year would be a little tougher because looking too far in advance would yield few results (people moving in the middle of the year may have little notice) and waiting too long would just be nerve-wracking. I think I would probably start investigating early, get several leads, and then check in again closer to the end, but someone who has dealt with the situation should definitely chime in if they have a better idea!

Our Decision: We chose Maya for several reasons. I liked her matter of fact answers to my questions- when I asked her about a daily schedule (I was just reading off a list of questions to ask that I found online) she said, "they eat, they sleep, they poop, and we play - no schedule for the little babies!". She also seemed genuinely enthusiastic and knowledgeable about babies. She asked all about the pregnancy and talked about holding our baby close so he could hear her heartbeat and get to know her during that first week. She had been operating the family daycare for 23 years and just seemed warm and competent. I called a few of her current clients and they all raved. One had her baby in Maya's care from 3 weeks to 3 years and that recommendation meant a lot to me because her daughter could now talk and tell her about her day and about Maya- Landon wouldn't be able to do that for a while. Her apartment was cozy and she had a few baby play gyms and comforters spread out on the floor with toys. She had each parent bring a play yard for their baby to sleep in and I liked that because he would know his space and I could control what was put in there (one place we visited had lots of blankets in the crib where the babies slept and that just screamed SIDS risk). Her price was $200/week for full-time (drop off between 8-9, pick up around 5, although you could always drop off later and pick up earlier) and that was on the lower end of the price spectrum of the places we looked at. One wanted $250/week and another was $300. We honestly liked Maya the best, but the lower cost was definitely a bonus. I know the infant care at daycare centers in Austin is between $1200-1350/month, so I'd imagine that's what a center is in Chicago as well.

In Practice: Before Landon's first day we brought his play yard, diapers, wipes, and a few changes of clothes for Maya to keep for him. I think supplying the diapers and wipes is pretty standard for in-home care. Each morning I make up 3 bottles and drop him off in his car seat with a little lunchbox of bottles. In the afternoon when I pick him up she hands me the lunchbox with the empty (and cleaned!) bottles with a little post-it note on each one stating when he drank it and whether he had a dirty diaper. I had not thought of that system, but it is so nice when I get home to know what his schedule was like during the day. So far things have gone very well. Landon seems happy and I sincerely believe that if he didn't like her, he would let me know. He's always happy in her arms and that makes me happy when I continue on my way to school.

In The Future: I knew I wanted a small informal daycare for Landon as an infant, but I think that we'll switch to an activity filled center after he's one, which coincides with our move to Austin. I'm already on three Austin daycare waiting lists for Sept. 2008 (a post on the absurdity of that statement might be forthcoming). I also think that when he's in elementary school it would be preferable to have a nanny so that he can come home after school and keep a schedule similar to that of his classmates with stay-at-home-moms. We would also like more kids and at some point a nanny is just more cost-effective. I think it would be nice to come home at the end of the day to a bright and busy house with the kids already there. All that said, JP was in daycare and then after-school care all the way through middle school and he loved it, so I'm sure all of this will depend on our kids, their activities, and our financial situation.

Guilt? Just a quick paragraph about this. I've already said I'm okay with the fact that Landon is in daycare while I'm in school. I also think that he's okay being separated from me during the day. At this point in our relationship, I'm pretty replaceable. He needs someone to hold him, love him, feed him, and change his diaper. My physical presence is a bonus- I think he knows who I am and together we've learned how to comfort him best- but I'm not necessary. However, I do think that at some point JP or my presence will be more important- still not so much the physical, but rather our unique thoughts and beliefs. I want JP or me to be the one the kids talk to when they've had a bad day, not the nanny, and I want time together so they can unburden their troubles whenever they randomly want to. I don't have an answer to this yet, but it's something we both think about and will have in our minds as we talk about, plan for, and live out the next several years. It's hard to admit that I struggle with all the realities of being a working mom. I feel pressured to put on a front that I'm 110% happy about the situation every second (mostly because my family is so full of doubts), but I want to be honest in this blog. The arrangement we have now is the right one for us, and we'll just keep trying to make the decisions that are best for everyone.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Worn Out

Landon has an appointment with the GI doctor on Thursday morning- I'm just hoping we can all make it until then. Yesterday Maya called around 1:30 to tell me that Landon had a terrible morning and screamed so much he turned blue. She was obviously very troubled by his behavior- she said that in 22 years of watching babies, several with reflux, she had never seen one in that much pain. She reassured me that he was fine staying with her, she just wanted me to share that observation when I called the doctor to beg her to see him as early as possible. I'm really looking forward to the appointment. So far there haven't been any tests or x-rays at his doctor or ER visits. The doctors listen to my story and all agree that it sounds like reflux. I don't necessarily disagree, I just want proof that we know what the problem is and we're doing everything we can to help him to comfort me when he's hurting so much. And I can't shake the feeling that something more is wrong. No doctor has seen him at his worst and I think they all write me off as a first-time mom who thinks the crying is worse than it is. At least now I have Maya's support that the crying (no, shrieking) really is that bad- they can't just call it colic and expect me to go home again.

I'm also just plain mad and frustrated. In the brief intervals when he's comfortable he's so adorable and SO much fun. Yesterday I stuck him in his crib for a few minutes while I folded his clothes and he rediscovered his mobile- I think it was the most exciting thing that's ever happened to him. His entire body reacted with happiness- his arms and legs were flailing about to the music and he had a giant smile on his face. It was so cute it almost made me cry- we so rarely get to see that side of him. And he so rarely gets to experience that side of himself since he's normally consumed with hurting and screaming. I missed out on his first 2 weeks because he was in the NICU and now I feel like I'm missing his first few months because of the reflux- and he's missing out on his first few months too. I don't think I'll go into the details of how hard this has been on JP and my relationship over the past few weeks. Deep down we're fine, and we know that, but on the surface things have been pretty tense. The past few days we just haven't spoken much when we're home- it's the most effective way to avoid snapping at the other.

The countdown to Thursday at 9:30am continues.

Monday, October 1, 2007

ER Conclusion

Sorry I didn't finish the ER story yesterday- when we were done I went to the law school to do a few hours of reading and catch-up (yes, catching up after only one week of class) and when I got home there was dinner to be made, a baby to be cuddled, a husband's business school essays to edit, and the season premieres of Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters to watch.

Landon is fine- he had another miraculous "recovery" the moment we were on the road to the ER and gulped down a 4 oz. bottle of formula in triage. This time the GI specialist had called ahead to tell the ER we were coming, so even though our baby looked all charming and adorable, we were still admitted immediately. The doctors did a thorough check for bowel obstructions, hernias, a UTI- anything that could explain the screaming other than reflux. Nothing came up and because we were obsessive with the Pedialyte, he wasn't dehydrated enough to require an IV, so we were left with a diagnosis of severe reflux combined with colic. Treatment: time, cuddles, and patience.

We do have a follow-up with the GI doctor sometime this week (I have to call and get an appointment this morning and have the names of two Very Important Doctors to help us get an appointment within 7 days rather than the usual 2 months). Reflux may only be cured with time, but there is definitely room to improve on his pain management. His current dosage of Prevacid just isn't enough. The docs said that reflux almost always gets worse before it gets better. I initially got excited thinking that maybe this past weekend meant he would get better soon, but they felt it was more likely that his body had quickly adjusted to the medicine and now required a stronger dose. Babies usually don't get worse until 4 months and better until 6 months. I can't even describe how far away that feels.

Luckily his sleep has been going great. We're not doing anything, he's just sleeping longer. Friday night he went six hours between his first two nighttime bottles and in the past three days he's always gone a minimum of four. We can survive for a long time on four hour intervals.