Day care dilemma

Today Noah started day care full-time.
For the past two months he's gone a couple days a week, just to ease into the situation. My wonderful sister and other generous family members had been pitching in to take care of him since I went back to work full-time at (gasp) 7 weeks -- which, heartbreakingly, was the busy time at work -- but now myhis caregivers are either starting class, teaching, or moving across the country. We knew this was coming. We prepared. That doesn't make it any easier.We started looking for day care options right from the get go -- I knew I'd be returning to work right away. I had no choice. We found a place that we were comfortable with, that was close to my family in case of an emergency, that was bright and cheery and put him in the hands of two experienced mothers.

I knew he wasn't ready. He's not ready.

I've had not one, not two, but one-two-three-FOUR, four friends work in day care and tell me the same things:

I wouldn't put my child in day care until he's old enough to talk... If these parents knew what went on at day care they'd pull their kids out... Those poor kids are dumped here all day... The infant room is so sad... Late, neglectful parents...

I had made a mental note to never send my child to day care before 18 months -- before the socialization and school-like atmosphere is beneficial, and before he can tell me if something is wrong. I had it all planned: Work as a magazine editor, build contacts and a reputation, and then quit to freelance. It was perfect. I was on the right path.

And then life happened.

So here I am, sending my six month old off to an infant room where he doesn't see Mommy or Daddy for 9 of the 12 hours he's awake. Please, just take my baby. He's small and fragile and in need of love -- please just keep him safe for me.

No, I'm not comfortable with this. I don't feel that it's best for him. How could it be when we're ripped apart from one another? How could it be when he flails his arms and legs every time I walk in the door, his excitement breaking my heart? When he tightly hugs my neck and only wants me? How could it be best for him when he only gets to breastfeed straight from the source two times a day?

But it's the only choice we have right now.

It should be noted that as far as day care goes, I know he's in good hands. These are mothers, not college girls strolling in after a night of drinking. And for me, it's important that he's with other moms. It's not that mothers are the only ones capable of caring for another human, but there are emotions and a special kind of knowledge that only comes when you have a child. These women know the ache of being separated from their heart; the daily grip of guilt and fear and unconditional, unsurmountable love; feelings and thoughts that you just can't explain. It's like describing the taste of a strawberry to someone without taste buds.

But still, every time I walk out the door, leaving him clutching his little monkey -- knowing that he's probably looking up, smiling, searching the room for me -- my heart breaks. I get in my car and think, There has to be another way. I have to find another way. I need him.

There has to be another way.