Picture this: it's 5.30pm. After a busy day at work, you arrive to pick up your son from his day care. You walk in to greet your boy. Miss Seven is in tow, she looks into her baby brother's eyes and at his slightly swollen face and immediately asks him if he has been crying. Though you have started a conversation with a carer already, your ears prick up when you hear this, a sensation of alarm sweeps across your body.
You turn to your boy. Your perfect little bundle of energy and life. It hits you like a hard punch to the face when you see it.
Your boy is missing one of his front teeth. A tooth he absolutely had when he arrived at day care that morning. As you stand there, your brain works ferociously to catch up with what your eyes are seeing.
No tooth. Swollen face. Bruising. When did this happen? How did this happen? Who was there for my baby? No tooth. Why didn't anyone tell me he was missing a tooth? Why didn't anyone NOTICE he was missing a tooth? How have they managed his pain? Swollen face. Who cared for him when he was distressed? WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME?????
And as fast as you can think the words, they are coming out of your mouth, on a loop, over and over, waiting for someone to give you an answer that makes sense. But they don't. No one can. There is no explanation for any of this.
By now, panic has set in. Your blood feels as though it is running cold, but through the fog you realise you have to get your son seen by a dentist, and a doctor, urgently…
Sadly, this happened to my perfect boy Mason just a few days before his second birthday.
Following the accident I spent two weeks tending to my baby and his injuries - taking him to the doctor, the dentist, the dental surgeon, the hospital, back to the dental surgeon again – all the while, trying to reconcile with the voices in my head. Voices that screamed at me to do something, anything, to ensure no mother ever had to feel the way I had that afternoon.
I went around and around for weeks, engaging in fruitless conversations with the centre where the story remained the same – no one knew what had happened to my baby. No one saw, heard or noticed a thing. Unsatisfied, I engaged with state and federal governing bodies who assured me no laws were broken as the centre could prove it met ratios.
Eventually I realised it was all futile. I enrolled Mason in a not-for-profit day care nearby as I knew my heart could not bear the weight of him returning and lodged a claim with the centre's insurance company to be reimbursed for the expenses I had incurred as a result of the accident. And I waited. And waited. And waited a bit longer for an answer I already knew was coming.
Denied. The centre refused all liability on the grounds that there was no evidence that Mason had fallen at the centre (because no one saw anything - where were they all, I hear you ask?) and, insultingly, an insinuation that it had happened while he was still in my care and I subsequently took him to day care.
For the most part, the centre's conduct following the incident toed the line of courtesy, but was laced with a certain arrogance, knowing my complaints and threats of reporting held little weight against a corporation of its size. And they were right.
Short of taking an inventory of my son as he arrived for day care every day – perhaps photos providing evidence of all fingers, toes and teeth - how could I prove my "allegations"?
My advice to another mother in my situation? Cross your fingers, hang on tight, and pray your child comes out of day care unscathed (and with all their teeth intact!)