I have anxiety even thinking about writing this. Where to start, how to explain and how to give it the justice it deserves? Separation Anxiety raises its ugly head at some point during most baby/toddlers/preschoolers lives for a few days, maybe a few weeks or a month or two. Now I’m not belittling that time for any mother, separation anxiety is horrible for any parent.
However the type of separation anxiety I’m going to be talking about is on a whole other level.
I don’t actually remember the day it all started, in some ways I think it was always there. The earliest time I can remember was probably when Evie was about 4 weeks old, my family came over to visit the new member of the family. The excitement was high, a buzz of happiness as all the family came together to meet our little Evie. There was probably about 10 of us in our living room so when Evie started to scream when handed around the room I didn’t think much of it. The noise was extreme and it was quite a hot, sticky day, it was all just too much for her, right? Obviously she just wanted a cuddle from Mummy or Daddy for reassurance.
This progressed over the following few months to the point where at 4 months old Evie would be held by no one except for Mummy and Daddy; no one could even sit next to her, smile, have eye contact. She would just scream uncontrollably and could only calm her if we left the room/soft play/class, wherever we were.
If someone walked into the room she would just sob her heart out, not just for a few moments, we’re talking a good 20 minutes.
I have to be honest it made stress levels high in the house. We found it hard to visit family, go on play dates, generally leave the house at all. I would apologise to every body I saw making excuses that she was tired, teething or unwell when Evie screamed her head off when they approached.
If out on playdates, soft-play, the park or anywhere really, if I was on my own with both kids, it was just pure stress. I couldn’t spend the time with Louie that he needed. Louie is only 17 months older than Evie so still needed a lot of one on one, attention and help with most tasks.
At 5 months old I left Evie with my Mother in law at nap time. Evie always used to sleep for at least 2 hours so plenty of time for me to get my hair done and be back before she knew any different. 40 minutes into my hair appointment with a head full of bleach I get a phone call from my Husband. Evie had screamed uncontrollably for 30 minutes, nothing would calm her down and consequently he had to rush back from work as his mum was panicked as to what to do. I left the hairdressers with a full head of foils to race back to relieve my Husband and Mother in law.
It was at this point I pretty much decided I wouldn’t go out unless I had to. My stress levels were at an all time high, sleep was zero and I basically had to carry Evie around for 15 hours of the day.
It’s hard to explain the extremeness of her anxiety, friends used to say ‘I’m sure it’s not that bad’ then we’d meet and they would actually look at me with that ‘I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you look’.
I remember the first time I left Evie without her crying. I braved a play date, Evie was 13 months old at this point. I was potty training Louie and had accepted that I would be taking Evie with me every time Louie needed a wee. I’d got the pulling of his pants and helping him onto the toilet with Evie balanced on my hip down to a fine art.
On this particular day Evie was in her high chair eating when Louie decided he needed a wee. Evie was covered head to toe in some sort of Lentil and carrot purée. It would have taken me a good 5 minutes to clean her down, whip her out and run to the loo with Louie. At this point in our potty training journey (week 2) there was bound to have been a puddle on the floor as waiting longer than 30 seconds was pushing it.
It was then that my friend Nicola bravely turned to me and said ‘it’s fine, leave her with me, if she cries then you know you’ll be back in 5’
So that’s what I did, left Evie with my brave friend. I have never whipped Louie’s trousers down quicker, it could have been in the Guinness book of records.
When I returned and saw Evie was still happily tucking into her Ella’s kitchen pouch and wasn’t crying a wave of relief come over me. I sat down next to her and cried my heart out. I couldn’t believe that there was hope, hope that one day I could leave her without stress or worry. Now I just want to add, of course I would hate seeing Evie cry but I also would feel incredibly guilty that one of my friends or family would have to deal with it. The tears with be off the chart and would not stop until I returned, no matter would they would do to comfort her.
Unfortunately it was another 3 months before there was another occasion of leaving her without copious amounts of tears. I tried 5 minutes here and there with my mother, my friends etc popping into the other room to make coffee, popping to the shop all to a screaming Evie.
It was when Evie turned 18 months that we started to see a big difference for the better. At Christmas Evie sat on family members laps for a few minutes happily, she could now be in the room with others and be talked to most of the time without tears. We started to see big changes for the better.
Where are we now? We are in a much better place, we still have bad days but the good most definitely outweigh the bad. I have left her with my Mum a few times for half an hour here and there and things are getting easier.
Evie has also started preschool last week for 2 mornings a week. It was a really hard decision, one we put off a couple of times but we knew that it would be something that would do Evie the world of good.
We are only coming into week two and although she has cried during her time there, she has also had some good times at preschool, it’s not all been tears. The preschool have been amazing, sending me videos and pictures showing me the good times, calling me to reassure and working with me to get a happy and settled Evie. Although I know we probably have a few months of hard times to get her in a good place, a place I can leave Evie with no worry I now know it is in the future. Unless you have been in our boat you won’t understand how amazing that feeling is, that feeling of relief.
Have you had a similar journey? I would love to hear from you.
O, and yes, Mummy in the Know is back in the blogging game! Expect to see more of me soon! X