Let me begin by saying that I have a handful of women in my life who are social workers. I love them and respect them and think they are awesome at what they do. I also know what it is like to be lumped into a group about which sweeping generalizations are made. I have experienced this quite a bit as a public school teacher. The media isn’t exactly fond of us, especially in these here parts. Just like I know all teachers aren’t bad, I know all social workers aren’t bad. I also know that there are some really mediocre teachers out there and some really bad teachers out there, and I know that the same is true for social workers.
Yesterday when I got home with Baby Incredible, his social worker was standing on my doorstep. I knew we didn’t have an appointment because she never called me back from the time that I called her back to set up a time for her to come for a visit at my home. In fact, the last time we spoke, she hastily hung up on me, stating that she had to take an emergency call, after I asked her a question she presumably did not want to answer. I knew that it was 7:30 at night and that this couldn’t be a good sign that she was waiting on my doorstep unannounced.
I took a deep breath, pulled up my big girl panties, plastered a smile on my face, and greeted her. (I had been gone from home for over 12 hours, taking Baby Incredible to day care, going to work, picking him up from daycare, and going to a birth parent visit with him. All I wanted to do was eat my El Pollo Loco that I had driven through to get on my way home.) Instead of saying, “What are you doing here?” I said, “Hi, you scared me.” (Which she did. My apartment building could stand to have a few more outdoor lights.
She said her hellos and apologized, saying, “I came over because I heard from the MAT Assessor that you didn’t have enough socks for the baby and that you might need help because of the dog.”
At this point in the conversation, my myriad of bags is splayed on the ground in front of my still locked apartment door, and I am knelt down rifling through my purse, searching for my elusive keys.
Looking up at her confusedly, I say, “He has plenty of socks, and I don’t have a dog.” Nevermind the fact that the MAT Assessor had visited me like two weeks ago, so if what she said was concerning enough to warrant an unannounced visit, said unannounced visit should have happened way before now.
“You don’t have a dog?”
“No, I don’t have a dog. And I don’t know why she would say that I don’t have enough socks for the baby. The MAT Assessor asked me if I had enough clothes for him, and I told her yes.”
We walk in the door now that I have successfully found my keys and unlocked it. Baby Incredible is sleeping in his car seat; understandably, he’s really tired after a long day. As I’m putting stuff down and turning on lights, the social worker again asks me about the socks and the dog. Since we are presently inside of my yardless apartment, she can clearly see that I don’t have a dog. I reassure her about the dog anyway and go on to say that yes, I do have plenty of socks for the baby.
Now, if this were the first time that I’ve had any kind of a problem or misunderstanding since I’ve had Baby Incredible, I would be a little more patient, but it’s not. It seems that there is some kind of “crisis” at least once a week. The adults in this precious baby’s life are, almost without exception, all crazy makers. I have fielded phone calls about “distressing” things like lint between his toes (not joking) and refereed heated debates about simple pediatrician visits and every day decisions. I have endured a myriad of complaints and suggestions from all of the people who aren’t taking care of him on a daily basis, like I am, seeing his needs and likes and dislikes first-hand. None of this was an issue with Little Dude, not one of these things, and everyone raved about how I took care of him. They loved me. So what has changed? Nothing…about me.
At this point, Baby Incredible wakes up. As I’m taking him out of the car seat, the social worker says, “What would you typically do with him now?
“Well,” I say, “It’s about to be 8 o’clock, which is around the time he usually goes to sleep, so I would take him in and change his diaper and put him in pajamas to get him ready for bed.”
She looks at me with an approving nod and says, “Okay, let’s do that.”
Okay…let’s, I think. She follows me in to change his diaper.
She looks at his bum as I’m doing this and says, “Does he have a diaper rash?”
She’s looking right at his little bottom, and she has a completely clear view. This is when it occurs to me: she doesn’t know what a diaper rash looks like. As I walk her through what a diaper rash is and show her how he doesn’t have one, I wonder how long this woman had been doing this job. She doesn’t look super young. Maybe this is a second career?
After I walk her though diaper rash 101, and I close his fresh diaper, she asks me if she can see his back, his belly, and his feet. I oblige, as she says, “Okay, there’s nothing there.” What did she think was going to be there? Why did she think there was going to be something there? I don’t ask. Just wonder.
As we walk out to the living room, she says, “How is it going with the birth mom giving breast milk?”
“Her breast milk dried up,” I say. She hasn’t given me any in a week or more.
She blurts out, “That happens?” shock filling her voice.
I find myself explaining to her the details of how women lose their milk. I feel like I definitely shouldn’t have to explain this to her. I’m a single woman. I’ve never given birth to a baby; I’ve never had the first hand experience of breastfeeding, yet I know the basics of this stuff enough to know that a traumatic experience, like losing your child to the system, could definitely result in your milk going away, even if you were pumping.
She listens to me and comments that she had no idea that could happen. Then, a look of horror crosses her face, and she says, “What have you been feeding him?!”
I look at her, not quite sure if she’s joking. She looks back at me, the look of horror not fading. She is serious. I say, “Formula. There are only two choices, right? Breast milk or formula.” I try not to sound condescending when I say this, but I don’t think I do a very good job.
She laughs it off and says, “Yeah, I guess there are only two choices.”
Then she says to me, again, totally serious, “Is he crawling yet?”
She has just looked at him in his car seat, seen him in my arms, watched me change him, and looked at his back stomach, feet and bum. Plus, she is his social worker, so she knows how old he is.
I try not to look at her incredulously as I say, “He’s not even three months old yet. Babies don’t usually crawl until they are at least six months old.”
She looks at me, nonplussed by what I have just told her and says, “What is on his knee?” I have no idea what she’s talking about, and she prompts me to take off his clothes, again, so she can look at his knee. At this point, Baby Incredible has had enough and begins crying. The poor thing just wants me to rock him to sleep. As I try to soothe him with my voice, I take off his pajamas from the bottom so that the social worker can look at his knees.
“What’s that?” she says. She’s pointing at a dimple on his knee, you know, the ones that are there because babies have chunky little legs? Yeah, that.
I say, “That’s just a dimple in his leg. It’s because his little legs are chunky.”
She looks at it more closely and says, “Oh, I thought I saw a gray mark on him. I guess not.”
I don’t say anything at this point because now that I’ve had to explain diaper rash, breastfeeding, formula, and crawling to her, I’m afraid that whatever comes out of my mouth next will be less than cordial.
After putting Baby Incredible’s pajamas back on, I tell her that this is all becoming a bit much.
She asks me how many babies I have fostered. I tell her that this is my second one. She looks at me with what I think is supposed to be one of those superior, knowing looks, and says, “Well, this is pretty normal.”
For the record, one of my dear social worker friends has heard many of the details of the things that have happened since I have had this baby, and she says that this is so not normally how things go.
I tell her that I have had over a twelve hour day now and that I am tired, to which she responds, “Oh, you work?” It was at that point that I knew why she must not have learned anything in the child development classes she surely had to take in order to become a social worker. She doesn’t listen. Or maybe she listens but just doesn’t retain. The teacher in me would love to give her a reading comprehension test. I had just told her at the beginning of our impromptu visit that I had been gone all day between work and driving to and from day care and monitoring the birth parent visit.
When she finally left, I rocked Baby Incredible to sleep. He smiled at me a lot. I think God knew I needed the smiles. He is such a cute baby, with a great little personality already.
Then, I finally sat down to eat my now cold El Pollo Loco, and I put myself to bed before 10pm, even though I knew I should be grading papers for the upcoming grades due in the next two days. I had reached my limit.