That’s the number of days it took Sunshine to feel comfortable enough to stay in the church nursery without me. After staying with her in the nursery off and on for months, I tried a few times unsuccessfully to leave her there by herself. I never pushed, just left for a few minutes until her screams became too desperate for me to bear. It was only a handful of times and in fact, I don’t really remember when the last time was. It just seemed like she wasn’t ready and I was ok with that, so I stopped trying for awhile. There are many things I’ve had to push since she’s been home, but forcing her to stay somewhere without me when she’s not comfortable? That isn’t one I’ve been willing to do.
I am certain some people would disagree with the decision not to push her, but this is simply something that is not negotiable for me. If she is not emotionally ready to be left on her own, I am not going to force her. Sunshine didn’t have the well-attached, safe, comfortable, predictable beginning that a newborn needs. Her beginning didn’t pave the way for happy church nursery separations. And that’s on top of the fact that she cannot communicate verbally with other people because of her cleft. So although I may be willing to push her in other areas, I transform into total mush when it comes to leaving her. I don’t want her to be in a situation where she cannot communicate her needs. And I certainly don’t want her to ever worry or think that I might not come back for her. Ever.
I think about all she’s been through, and all she still has yet to battle, and I’m overwhelmed with complete compassion. There are many things in her life I have not been able to help her with. But this one thing … this is something I can help her with. Even if it had taken 1,004 days to feel comfortable staying in the nursery without me, that’s ok. Because she will always know that her mama comes back for her.
So church this past week went on like any other Sunday, except that I snuck into the nursery to change Sunshine’s diaper before the service started. I didn’t have any intention of trying to leave her in the nursery, but she had other plans! After we finished the quick diaper change, she signed “play” and indicated in a mama-just-knows kinda way that she wanted to stay. With me. In the nursery. I wanted to attend the service though, so I nonchalantly asked if she wanted to stay by herself, totally expecting that she’d say no way. When she agreed to stay on her own, it took me a few seconds to realize that I needed to react fast and get out of there before she changed her mind. I left so quickly, in fact, that I didn’t sign her in or grab a pager. So I texted the Children’s Minister (who was in the nursery at the time and knows the situation with my sweet Sunshine) where I was sitting in church, and she graciously brought me a pager and confirmed that Sunshine was playing happily. Phew. I walked out into the hallway several times during the service to listen for the cries I was sure I’d hear, but I never did.
She made it almost the entire service before she got upset and asked for me. So when the pager went off toward the end, I went running. I don’t remember the last time that I ached to hold her so terribly (aside from after surgeries), and I couldn’t get to the nursery fast enough. When her little hands clasped around my neck and she started crying even harder out of relief, I wanted to burst into hysterics along with her, but instead just allowed a few tears to roll down my cheeks. I’m sure the young girls working in the room (who were new and didn’t understand Sunshine’s separation issues) thought I was totally crazy. “Thankful” isn’t a strong enough word for how I felt. I was consumed with praise. I wanted to do cartwheels and cry tears of joy all at the same time. Because although it may be normal for most parents to leave their children in the church nursery, it meant so much more for our sweet Sunshine.