I’ll never forget the first time I left my sweet boy in the church nursery.
Our church is large. The nursery is often full of infants—and almost never do the nursery volunteers outnumber the babies.
That was the case the first time I had to leave Marcus there. He was nestled in his car seat, just 4 months old or so, starting to notice things but pretty much immobile. I gave the front desk his name, our names, filled out the necessary short form, and left my darling child in someone else’s care—a complete stranger’s care. I handed over the carseat, feeling ill, watching his confusion as I retreated without him. I practically had to run toward the choir room.
That wasn’t the worst part, though. The worst part was that I realized my water bottle—the bottle I always have with me when I sing—was still in the diaper bag that I’d left with the nursery. I hurried back in the same direction, and as I got to the room, I was already scanning every adult to see who held him. He was nowhere to be seen. Oh my God! My child’s been kidnapped! What will I do? What kind of sick person would take my baby? How could the church be so irresponsible?! I stood outside the door, searching the room for him, trying to remain calm before I entered the nursery screaming frantically…
And then I saw him. Sitting quietly, still in his car seat, the seat on the floor in a dim corner of the room. He was looking all around, his small serious face perplexed and a tad frightened. Well, of course they’d set him down, he’s not crying, other babies are—why ruin a good thing by hauling him out of that chair if he’s happy there? So he sat, observing, quiet and unnoticed while other infants shrieked and flailed.
I wanted to weep, seeing him there, so defenseless and self-consciously unobtrusive. I didn’t go in for my water bottle; I was afraid the dam would break behind my eyes and I would grab him and run to the car to take him back home where he’s safe, where he’s the only baby, MY baby, the center of my universe. He shouldn’t sit alone in the dark, not understanding why I’ve left him. I’m terrible. Those workers are terrible. The whole world is terrible and I must protect him from it all, including the bratty children who will holler and yell and take all the attention away from the taciturn, obedient babes.
But I didn’t do anything, just turned and went back toward the choir room, empty-handed and waterless (except for my watery eyes.)
Now I know why my sister cried when she put her daughter on the bus the first time.