Thursday, January 15, 2009

Baby Factory

This post is long, I know, but it's a topic that's been killing me, and I need to get it all off my chest. Today's topic: child care. I went back to work this week.

Back in April, when I was all of four months pregnant, I put my name on the wait list for the daycare at my university. I was told that the wait time varies... it could be as short as 6 months, or it could be as long as two years. Someday perhaps someone can explain to me how a wait list for infant care can possibly be two years, since every single baby on the list would be a toddler by the time they were picked. But I digress.

Since we obviously couldn't rely on getting into that daycare, we looked around for other options. Talked to a few people we trust. Discussed our finances. But then everything else that we needed to do to prepare for LL's arrival seemed infinitely more imminent, so we stopped researching child care. After LL was born, my months of maternity leave stretched before me, and we avoided the topic of child care for even longer. Then one morning I woke up and realized that all daycares have wait lists, and if we wanted to get LL in somewhere, we needed to get serious. I scrambled to find places to consider, scheduled some visits, and put us on some lists. The place that I liked the best didn't think they'd have an opening until March or April, and even then, there's a fairly long wait list ahead of us. Only one place could get us in to start in January, so we signed up. Let's call this place Baby Factory.

Baby Factory is a big place. They have three infant rooms, with 16 babies in each room, and strict rules about when babies get moved from room to room. Caretaker turnover is higher than I would like. Some of their care seemed a bit "assembly line" to me. So, it's not ideal. But, it also didn't seem objectionable. To top it off, we know four (yes, four) babies that were cared for at Baby Factory while infants, and the parents all had positively glowing things to say about the place. So, while it wasn't our top choice, we didn't feel bad signing LL up for daycare at Baby Factory.

LL was due to start at Baby Factory on Monday, and I needed to be back at work on Tuesday, so one day last week, I brought LL with me to Baby Factory so that we could spend a few hours there together. And it sucked. There were so many things that I saw that made me cringe... I came home and cried and told S that I didn't want to leave LL there. Not that we had many options at that point. So, on Monday, I tearfully left him there for a few hours. (I made S come with me to drop him off, because I correctly predicted that I wouldn't be in any shape to drive home afterward.) He was there for one feeding and one nap, and then I picked him up. On Tuesday, I left for work early in the morning, and S brought LL to Baby Factory later in the morning, and I picked him up mid-afternoon. Same thing on Wednesday, except that I picked him up even earlier. And now I'm scrambling to find somewhere, anywhere, that's better, because I don't want to leave him there ever again. Over just four days, here is what I've been told or what I've observed directly:
  • When I visited last week, one of the babies was recovering from an allergic reaction of some sort that she'd had earlier in the day. The caretakers had left a message for the mother, and when the mother called back, the baby's primary caretaker refused to come to the phone to talk to the mother about it. Just flat out told the caretaker who answered the phone, "Nah, I don't want to talk right now, you deal with it."

  • There's a microwave oven in the room, which we were told was used to heat lunch for the caretakers. Bottles were warmed in a warm water bath. While I was there, I watched them heat a bottle of breast milk in the microwave, which is a huge no-no.

  • With 4 infants sitting on the floor near the door, and 40-degree temps outside, one of the caretakers left the door wide open for 15 minutes while she went to talk to someone in a different building.

  • A baby was sitting alone on the floor crying hysterically for many, many minutes, even though one of the caretakers was sitting on a chair just a few feet away, doing nothing at all.

  • One of the caretakers noticed that one of the babies hadn't been put down for a nap for more than 4 hours. (Nobody had noticed before that....) She picked up the baby, brought her to the nap room, then returned a minute later with the baby. When someone else asked her what happened, she said that she put the baby in the crib, but the baby didn't immediately go to sleep, so she decided to bring the baby back out again. (Seriously, it's like they've never tried to get an infant to take a nap before!)

  • The infant care log has a place for the caretakers to write notes to the parents about how the day was, what he did, etc. We were told that we could expect little tidbits about LL's day. So far, after three days, the only thing they've written down was something telling us that they can't take glass bottles (we'd accidentally mixed a glass one in among the plastic ones). I won't get into how they then didn't feed him because of this mistake (as opposed to calling me and letting me know, so that I could have done something about it!). The only information that's ever on the care sheet is naps, diapers, and feedings. Nothing about any interaction or playtime.

  • On his very first day, LL's daily log showed that he napped for 45 minutes. When I asked his caretaker if he had gone to sleep easily, she said, "I don't know. I put him in his crib, then I went on break. When I came back, he was sleeping, so I guess he was okay."

  • On Wednesday, LL's log showed that he "refused" to nap. When I asked what happened, his caretaker said the same thing -- she put him down, then went on break, but this time, he must not have gone to sleep. I asked who was paying attention to him while she was on break, and it turned out that they hadn't communicated at all. When the second woman heard him crying, she assumed that he'd just woken up from a nap, not that he hadn't yet gone to sleep, so she took him out of the crib and returned him to the play area. When I pointed out that maybe they should communicate better when they hand off responsibility at break time, I got a blank look.

  • When I asked on Tuesday how his day had been, his caretaker gave me this response: "LL is such a mellow baby! After he eats, we can just plop him down in a corner and he's fine all by himself until nap time!"
This last one is possibly the most concerning to me. I know that LL is mellow most of the time, but he thrives on human interaction. He's happiest when he's around other people, particularly if they're smiling at him. But leaving him alone in a corner, when he's too young to sit up or get his own toys or anything? That just breaks my heart. I know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but I don't want him to learn that he has to be a squeaky wheel in order to get human contact!

When I came to pick him up on both Tuesday and Wednesday, they had him seated in a high chair at a table, even though he can't really sit up yet and he was slouched uncomfortably to one side. No toys were within reach of him, and no adults were nearby. He was just staring despondently off to the side. It was horrible. (When I picked him up Monday, he was lying awake in his crib, waiting for someone to notice him.) For the past three days running, he's been cranky and fussy all afternoon once I get him home. My normally smiley baby doesn't smile until he's been home for a while, like he needs time to shake off the Baby Factory fog before he can enjoy himself again. It sucks sucks sucks.

I mentioned a few of these things to a coworker on Wednesday, and he said, "Wow, that's horrible! You should try out the daycare where we sent my kids, it was great!" And before he finished the thought, I knew what he was going to say: his kids went to Baby Factory. So that's an additional recommendation for this place that seems just terrible to me.

Part of me wonders if I would be negative about any daycare, just because I know that LL isn't receiving the one-on-one care that he's used to. Maybe I just need to suck it up and give it more time. But every day when I get him home, I cry to myself because he just seems so miserable.

We're looking around at other places, because I want LL out of Baby Factory as soon as humanly possible. And I stayed home from work today (after being back just 2 days... I'm so dedicated) because I couldn't bear to leave him there. But he's going to have to be there for at least a few weeks until we line something else up, because I need to get working again. We're visiting more daycares, and a few home care places, this week. We're also broaching the topic of nanny-sharing with a few friends. (We can't afford a nanny just for ourselves... did I mention that I'm an underpaid grad student?) And while I do need to get back to my research if I ever plan to graduate, I'm more than willing to work half-days for a while so that we can minimize the amount of time that LL spends at Baby Factory. But in the mean time, I'm horribly depressed at what my poor innocent LL has to put up with. It's completely breaking my heart.

6 comments:

  1. That just sucks. I sure hope you can get into the new daycare soon because leaving your little one in that situation must be unbearable.

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  2. I cried reading this. I am so sorry, Nicky. That absolutely sucks. I really hope you find a great place soon for LL to spend his days.

    I have also procrastinated on finding daycare and am now facing having to put him at any place with an opening when I go back in March. We're planning to do a home care place, though, as my impression of centers is what you've described, which horrifies me to no end. Of course, a family daycare may be no better. Ugh.

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  3. I'm so sorry, that sounds basically terrible. And the fact that they are doing this with you watching makes me think they really could care less. My baby is in a home care daycare. Up until a few weeks ago he was her only baby. I really like her and I can tell she likes my baby. I don't know what state you live in, but maybe they have the equivalent of http://www.actforchildren.org/ (Illinois). They can send you a list of daycare/home care providers and you can call them up. Good luck to you.

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  4. OMG!!! That's why I hate the idea of day care. I hope you find some workable arrangement soon.

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  5. I am sitting at work, crying over this post. I am SO sorry. I want to badly to give you and LL a hug. This is horrible. Such a huge suck. I am wishing you find a better solution that you and LL are much more comfortable with

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  6. You are not being overly sensitive. Babys need interaction which is why there should be no-more than a 4:1 ratio for children <3 years. I hope you can find a nanny-share situation or something else soon. Sending you many good wishes and prayers.

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