Living with separation anxiety

20:13

When you have a baby you will be talked to about postnatal depression. I'm so lucky, I did not suffer from PND. I was hit instead with something I thought only existed in toddlers and dogs. I have separation anxiety disorder from being away from my daughter. I wanted to write this post because there seems to be very little advice or information online, and it would have helped me massively to know I wasn't on my own.


My daughter is now 10 months old, a very happy and healthy crawler who loves music, being thrown around and laughing at the dog (poor dog). The longest period of time I have left her for is five and a half hours. While I was away, I logged on remotely to her baby monitor to watch her sleeping. I have only ever left her with my husband, other than one instance in the first few weeks when I was asleep and my mother took her out in the pram for a walk (as she knew I wouldn't sleep if I heard her cry). That means in total I've been away from her no more than six times. Twice was to walk the dog - I can tell you every time and date and circumstance.


If you've read my blog before, you'll know from my Arrival of Baby T post that a few hours after being born, she was admitted into Special Care. This is probably what has stemmed all my issues with being away from her. You'll also know that my husband and I live away from all our family. We have some wonderful friends, friends who are like family to us, but ultimately I'm used to having to 'just get on with it' because there is no one else. It's been just the two of us, the dog and the cat. Now it's just us five.

So here are some of my experiences, and the key events that made me realise this was more than just a little 'worry'.

When Little R was born one of my closest friends came to visit. As she was leaving I burst into tears. I said to her "I'm just so alone". This was probably right after the time Little R vomitted blood and she and I were taken to hospital in an ambulance. Thankfully, my husband had walked through the door 10 seconds before the blue lights turned up. And until then, it's always been enough, just Mark and I. But this has only fuelled my issues with leaving my daughter because, despite how much we Skype, our family see her less than our friends. And our friends have enough on their plates.

Once when we were visiting our in-laws, my mother-in-law offered to push the pram while I stepped into a local museum. I said I was fine, that I wasn't that bothered, and she asked me if it's because I didn't trust her. I think she said it as a joke, but the look on my face probably showed her how shocked I was she should ask. I of course said I do, but I wish I could have said the truth to her (sorry J if you're reading this now). I trust no one with her. I don't even trust myself most of the time.



Slowly over the months I waited for the anxiety around leaving Little R to fade. My other mummy friends were starting to do activities - spa days and overnight stays and the like. I kept telling myself when she gets a bit more independent that things will be different. I blamed breastfeeding for why I wouldn't leave her - I HAD to be there, just in case. But by 9 months, I realised it hadn't faded, it had probably only got worse. Just the thought of being away from her would make me feel sick.

I'd floated the topic a number of times with my friends and family, deliberately in a nonchalant sort of way. I tended to get the same kind of response, either "It'll pass", or "Oh God, I don't feel like that, that must mean I'm a bad mother!" I then realised other people questioned themselves if I mentioned it, and no mother wants to make another mum doubt herself (we're all in this together).

Then the topic of returning to work cropped up. I decided to covertly mention the 'not wanting to leave her' again on a couple of occasions where people were talking about work and was met with either "Don't you miss adult company?" or "Nursery is a fantastic thing, don't you see how good it'll be for both her and you?" The short answer is no.

I went to work for a 'Keeping in Touch' day. I say 'day', I could only do two hours max. Two hours and I made my husband come to the office and take baby to a building around the corner so I knew I could run to her in no more than five minutes if I needed to. It felt like I was having an out of body experience - I'd deliberately worn a watch for the first time in months so I could reassure myself it's 'not long left now'.

It turns out, there are many mothers who feel like this, but they just don't speak up for the same reasons I didn't. I assumed since I have no one else to leave her with, it was just the norm for me, but that's OK. As time passed, it seemed less 'normal' and more unusual for me to not leave her. And finally, the big one: that no mother wants to be away from their child unless they have to.  After all, nature designed it to be that way. It's just that what I see as 'have to' circumstances are not what others see as 'have to'. But that is something tangible to work on.

Some days are terrible and some days are much better. Most importantly, I've learnt that it's OK to not put a timescale on it, to say no when I feel like I'm being pushed, just so long as I keep trying, one baby step at a time.


x

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