A little while ago, Wade’s physio suggested that he might benefit from a day a week at childcare. The idea being he would get a bit of extra stimulation and spend some more intensive time with other kids. It would also give me a day to myself and he might get used to being away from me for more than an hour or two. Seemed like a great idea! She would come with me to help me pick a place which was great. I hadn’t considered childcare previously so I’d spent no time researching it. I had no idea what to look for in a centre.
We dropped in to a local centre to get the ball rolling but it was awful. My mind was swimming with all the horror stories I’d heard from other local mums about having to look at 20 or so childcare centres to find anything half decent. I compiled a list of nearby places and did a bit of ringing around. I didn’t know how inclusive your average childcare centre is so I put on my advocacy hat and got ready to leap to the defence of my boy, only to find that most places were completely unfazed by the prospect of caring for a child with Down syndrome which was reassuring, except for one….
I started feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of finding a place I liked, I mean none of them are going to say “Actually, our service is pretty poor and your son won’t like it here”. I didn’t know how far afield I would have to search or what I was looking for or how to determine whether a place was perfect or hellish, so I put it in the too hard basket for a bit.
Then the strangest thing happened. I had made all those calls on the Friday. On the Tuesday, out of the blue, I was offered a job doing something I really want to do. Now I had to find a place and quickly. A few days later we looked at one of the places on the list. My physio came with me and when we walked in the front door, it felt like home. The staff were wonderful, the place was clean and bright with plenty of room. When we discussed the fact that Wade has Down syndrome, they were incredibly accommodating and asked lots of thoughtful and useful questions. Questions that assured me that Down syndrome is not an issue, but they would like to know as much as they can to care for him as best as possible. I felt as though the staff ask every parent extensive questions about their kids to give the best service they can. Best of all, I didn’t get that feeling of being slathered in extra attention and kindness that sometimes happens when talking to well-meaning strangers. My physio and I looked at each other and I was sold…. This place is perfect. And they have one spot left…
I thought I was supposed to look at 20 different places before I found The One! Should I keep looking? I decided to go for it, this place ticked all the boxes and I did not want to spend the next few weeks looking at places only to end up back there anyway and risk losing the last place. I signed him up and started the orientation the following week!
On the first day, I stayed with him for an hour or so just to get him familiarised then I would drop him off next week and see how he went.
Next week rolls around and I am a bit anxious. My logical brain can’t reconcile the fact that I am about to take the most important thing in the whole world to me…the one I would walk over hot coals for….my soul….my life….my reason for breath… leave him with complete strangers and just drive away! That just doesn’t make sense.
So I don’t….drive away that is….I sit in the car park like a fool. After a while I felt silly so I drove around the corner and got a coffee. Then I felt guilty so I drove back to the centre and sat in the car park again. The centre was expecting a visit from the fire brigade that day and I thought I would sit and watch them bring Wade out to the truck to see how he was going. Then I felt really silly. What if I was sprung hiding in the car park, spying? How ridiculous. So I drove home….reluctantly. I wandered aimlessly around the house trying to busy myself with menial housework. After a couple of hours, I rang to see how he was, then, at about 2pm, I couldn’t take it any longer so I rang again. They said he had woken up from a nap upset and I wanted his first day to be positive so I went to pick him up.
My heart broke as his little face burst into tears when he saw me. As much as I felt awful, I know this is fairly standard behaviour for kids starting childcare so I put on my brave face and readied myself for next week.
I needn’t have worried because other standard occurrences at childcare are….viruses!! A few days later, Wade started feeling a bit unwell and had temperature. By the afternoon he had a horrible rash and we had a trip to the emergency department at the hospital. Call me paranoid but I can’t sit and watch a temperature and a rash develop without making sure its not something really nasty. Diagnosed as Hand Foot and Mouth Virus, we spent the next week in isolation tending a very angry rash all over his body which eventually contracted to his cheeks and lower limbs.
Needless to say, we missed the next week but the week later, we were back….fully recovered and ready to get stuck into childcare….Four days later…he has a runny nose.
“It’s just a runny nose” I selfishly tell my friends who I haven’t seen for weeks as I try to hook up coffee with an adult who responds in full sentences and doesn’t need me to wipe their nose and tend to their rashes! Luckily my friends are really good at telling me I’m crazy. They politely decline my offer of smearing my snotty child all over their perfectly healthy ones which was lucky because later that day we were back at the emergency department as Wade wasn’t breathing properly.
I’m a big reader of all things Down syndrome. In the early days I really struggled with the overwhelming amount of information out there. There is a seemingly endless list of possible health issues and complications that can come with that extra chromosome. It takes a calm mind to remember that your own child is unlikely to display ALL of those issues and is not seconds away from contracting ALL the childhood illnesses out there. Over time I realised that Wade is pretty healthy and most of the stuff I read didn’t apply to him. I began to relax and to switch off a bit. When Wade started to breathe a bit strangely, my new, less stressed brain told me to relax….he’ll be fine! But then I started to remember all the times other parents had said how quickly our kids can go down hill and I recalled all things that could develop, like pneumonia or low oxygen levels.
So I rang the Nurse on Call just in case. I told her what was happening and she recommended we go to the Emergency department. At the hospital, they gave him Ventolin which seemed to help, a chest x-ray to make sure he didn’t have pneumonia and kept us in overnight for observation. He still struggled with his breathing a bit overnight but his oxygen levels stayed good and he had Ventolin every couple of hours. By the morning, he was fine.
It was then that I realised the value in all of that reading. After learning to control the anxiety about potential health issues, I then learnt that even though it can get overwhelming and intense, if I am able to absorb all the information, then set it aside, I can draw on it ONLY when I need to. I realised that if I had continued down the head-in-the-sand optimistic path, I could have waited too long to get him to the hospital which may have resulted in his condition deteriorating more quickly. Finding the balance is really important but not that easy to do!!
I now read about all aspects of DS with interest and with a purpose rather than blind panic or anxiety. At the same time I am watching and learning who Wade is and what is normal for him. I don’t always get it right and the wheels often fall off (especially when more than 3 hours continuous sleep is a distant memory!!)
Wade had three viruses in the first 6 weeks of childcare each with a different set of symptoms and outcomes that still had us racing down to the ED every time but I’m getting better at working out what is serious and what’s not. I now know more about fever management, rash identification, laboured breathing….and the look a doctor gives you when their mouth says “It’s ok that you keep appearing at triage” but their eyes say “You are out of your tiny mind….”
So…childcare….thank you for letting me go back to work and letting me love it.
Thank you for giving my child extra stimulation and social interaction that boosts his confidence and improves his development.
Thanks for slowly but surely building up his immune system with an intensive course of back to back viruses (that I catch) that clog up his sinuses and disrupt his sleep…and mine…shred my sanity and test the triage nurses ability to remain sympathetic when we turn up again and again with a new and improved virus that we (and Dr Google) have identified as a close relative to Ebola…
Thanks a bunch.