I was due with my first baby in mid-June, just about the time I graduated from MBA school and about 10 weeks before I started my PhD program, a time frame which turned out to be perfectly suited for maternity leave. I planned to find childcare during that time and I figured it would be like finding a doctor – you go on a website somewhere that lists all the doctors within a certain radius, you check their qualifications and then you pick one based on who has the best decorated waiting room and hope like hell they are in-network.
We lived just a mile outside of downtown Chicago, just down the street from Oprah, and I was pretty sure there had to be like 66 million daycares and each of them were pining for the chance to take care of my infant. So then one day when I’m about 7 months along, I was in a deli minding my own business, eating my farm raised, low mercury salmon and asparagus sandwich and reading a Harvard Business Review case for class and two ladies on their lunch break sat down next to me. They were talking about office gossip, which was way more interesting than my reading, so I was listening in. And they probably noticed I was pregnant and listening to them so suddenly they began talking about how annoying another woman was at work because all she did was freak out everyday about how there were no slots for infants in any daycare centers anywhere in Chicago and she was only 3 months pregnant and what a dumb ass for not realizing this before she got preggers. Hmmm. I looked down at my belly and winced as two things happened concurrently: my fetus/son gave me a swift kick to my kidney, and I had an epiphany. I’m fucked.
The search for a daycare commenced immediately. I went to Google to find the website that listed all of the daycare centers/ family daycares / nannys / nanny-shares within a 1 mile radius of my house. We only had one car and I would have it most of the time at school. BD would have to be able to walk from work, to daycare, to home with the baby. I thought maybe 1 mile might be too large a radius, but we could start there and then figure out how to narrow down our choices.
I opened up Google. Now to find the website…..this nice, informational website….I’m sure it’s here somewhere….Hmm…wait, where is the website?….Nope, not it….Not this…..(My kid kicks my bladder at the same moment as if to say “you’re doing a helluva job so far, Mom) um, no. nonononononononono. NO…..
There. is. no. magical-daycare-finding website.
I am alone in the vast urban and Internet wilderness. Google has forsaken me. I had to sift through a tangle of daycare websites and dead ends and phone numbers. The whole finding-childcare-for-your-perfect-beautiful-newborn-that-you-can-afford-without-selling-your-kidney-and-is-located-somewhere-in-the-state-of-Illinois journey was kind of like the Trail of Tears for new parents. At least finding the big daycare center chains was easy. They were nowhere near my condo, but I called anyway. They had nine month waiting lists for infants. Okay…I’m not great at math, but I think that means that on the day of conception you sure as hell better reserve your spot at Kindercare. Now I finally realized why God sent an angel to tell me of my children’s conceptions – so they could get a spot in daycare on time. It would have been nice if he had mentioned that as well.
Well, this is bad news. I need infant care starting five and half months from now, and apparently this is really late notice for the whole childcare world. I mean, I haven’t even met this kid I’m going to have. I know nothing about being a parent or about babies or about my specific baby or what I’m going to feel like in five months and I have to find a perfect childcare situation now, or I can’t go back to school. I’m not going to get my PhD. I’ll have to be a stay at home mother. One thing I knew for sure was that being at stay at home mother was out of the question, because I already loved my unborn child. I would not subject him to the psycho mother he would come to know if he were in my care 24-7. So I re-doubled my efforts and kept coming up short.
I grew up in a home daycare. And I loved it. It was like having a second family, and we didn’t have any family nearby, so it was awesome. I guess I wanted something similar for my son, so I was partial to the idea of having my baby go to a home daycare nearby. But searching for home daycares on Google is futile and I was really starting to lose hope that the baby I was about to have wouldn’t be some kind of juvenile delinquent due to my poor parenting (non)decisions made while he was still in the womb. So I went to the Starbucks in the building next door. It was an odd choice because I don’t drink coffee, but I felt like I needed something warm in my belly for the next few hours I planned to spend curled up in bed crying and worrying about what a bad mother I already was. And Starbucks kind of seemed like a church to so many yuppies, I thought maybe they sprinkled you with calming fairy dust when you went in and I might find some peace there.
No visible fairy dust, but as I waited patiently for my Caramel Apple Cider, I wandered over to the little bulletin board they have by where you pick up your drinks. There was a lime green flyer right in the middle of it. My stomach did a flip and my knees kind of buckled and my brain said, “You are fucking kidding me, GOD!” (Yes, I have ongoing conversations with God in my head like “Oh God! You’re so unpredictable sometimes!” or “God, why did encourage me to have the third glass of wine? I feel like ass this morning. You should have stopped me!”).
There on the board was a flyer for a new home daycare starting up in the condo building next to mine. I know, right? Seriously. I grabbed the flyer and ran home. I forgot my Caramel Apple Cider. I was panting when I called BD.
Love: “I found a daycare for our baby!”
Love: “It’s in the building next door! And they do yoga! And its all organic food! Oh my GOD!”
BD: “You don’t even do yoga or know anything about organic food.”
Love: “What? Um. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that my prayers have been answered. I must call her immediately. She is The One.”
BD: “Go for it.”
I got off the phone with my heart beating fast and I immediately dialed Miss Amalia’s Place. No answer, but the long-winded, rambling, breathless message I left went a little like this:
Hello! My name is Love and I have a baby. No, I mean I’m pregnant with a baby that I will have in a few months and I need a daycare in August and I just love home daycares and I saw your flyer at Starbucks and I took it but I will definitely bring it back but I was wondering whether you had a spot for a newborn and I’m sure he is going to be a really good kid because I didn’t cry a lot when I was a kid, but I guess we won’t know till he gets here — heh, heh — but anyway I really think we should talk and I just love that I’m in the building next door so we’re neighbors and what great timing that I found your flyer and I will bring it back because I forgot to pick up my caramel apple cider anyway, so I’ll put it back but I really think we should talk and my baby should go to your daycare and please call me back.
I hung up and thought, “Seriously? What was that? You idiot. You sound crazy. Maybe you should call back again and explain that you aren’t crazy. Or would that be crazier? ” I hung my head. But then I brightened knowing that stalking people who need to be in my life is one of my most valuable talents and Miss Amalia’s Place just moved up to the top spot on that list.
I waited five minutes with my hand clutching the phone receiver. No call back. Ten minutes. No call. Maybe I should call again? Just to say I’m not crazy? Fifteen minutes — the phone rings. It’s her!! The woman sent by God to take care of my unborn child, as soon as he gets born.
M.A.: “Hi. This is Miss Amalia. You called about needing daycare in August for an infant?” (slight Korean accent)
Love: “Yes! Yes! Where do I sign up?”
M.A: “Ha ha. You are funny. It’s not that easy. I will interview you to see whether you’re the family I want to take.”
Love: “You’re going to interview us?”
M.A: “Yes. There is no other way. Can you and your husband come interview with me in a couple of days at 6pm @ Starbucks? You’ll both need to be present. I have a long waiting list, but I will choose who gets the spot based on my interviews.”
Love: “Oh. I didn’t know this is how it worked. Here I thought I should interview you.”
M.A: “You should. Part of my decision will be based on the questions you ask me.”
Love: “Um. My son isn’t even born yet, and we’re new parents, so I’m not really sure what we’ll have to say.”
M.A: “I find my relationship with the parents is as important as with the child. This is the way I do things. If you’re uncomfortable with the process —”
Love: “No! No! Heh, heh. No! We’ll definitely be there. With good questions.”
M.A: “Great. Don’t be late.”
Okay, so the world had changed from the time I went to daycare. Up to that point, I had spent my whole life competing to get in the best schools, in the best programs, hired by the best companies for the most exclusive jobs and I always won the things I set out to get. Because I loved those games and I was really good at them. No matter that I usually ended up not really wanting all the things I’d won, but who doesn’t like winning games? I wasn’t going to let a home daycare lady be the first to reject me or my unborn child. I wasn’t losing this game. She was our only hope and clearly God led me to Starbucks and this whole thing was meant to be.
We were going to be the family she chose. Period. Now I just had to figure out how to morph us into the “right” family for our interview. I quickly opened my browser and searched for “yoga” and “organic food”.