Overcoming Separation Anxietyby Amie MacKay
“Don’t worry you’re a good mum, you’ve just got a bit of separation anxiety” Those were the words that came from my GP and everything made sense! I wasn’t a bad mum and I wasn’t going crazy. I just had a bit of separation anxiety, well quite a big bit if I’m honest with you!
Before I had Heidi, I had never heard of separation anxiety, I’d suffered with anxiety before my pregnancy, but I had no idea of how bad it would be after I’d given birth! After she was born, I had this overwhelming sense of anxiety and fear when it came to be being apart from her. I never ever wanted to be apart from her. I had finally gotten my baby and I was never letting her go. I had to spend the night in hospital after I’d given birth, and I didn’t sleep, the first night my girl spent in this world was in my arms and I stared at her the entire night, did not sleep a wink! I couldn’t, I was on cloud 9, I finally had my beautiful little miracle and she was PERFECT. I remember saying to the nurse that I needed to nip to the loo and asked if she could just keep an eye on my sleeping baby, I came back to find her little cot empty and my heart sank. I ran to the nurse’s den and asked where she was and the nurse, I had spoken to had her, giving her a wee cuddle, she was fine. I was not. I remember being angry in that moment, the nurse said to me “it’s ok sweetheart, I’ve got her you go and get some sleep” I didn’t want to sleep, I wasn’t tired I just wanted my baby. So, I took my baby and spent the rest of the night content in my own wee world. I was going to keep her safe. That was my job because I’m her mum.
I think I picked up quite quickly that something wasn’t quite right, and to put my mind at ease I spoke to my midwife and my health visitor who had no concerns about PND or anything they just put it down to me being a new mummy. Which made complete sense! However fast forward a few months, I still hated the thought of being away from her.
I exclusively breastfed, I did until she was 21 months, Heidi point blank refused a bottle and a dummy, I was her source of food and comfort and I used that as an excuse to not be away from her, she needed me, and I needed her. She wouldn’t go to sleep without boob, so I couldn’t leave her. So, her staying over at her grannie’s or spending the night without me was just out of the question.
We moved Heidi into her own room when she turned a year old. She slept fine, I didn’t, I still woke multiple times to make sure she was ok. She was still in the same house but in a different room and my anxiety was ridiculous. So, I decided it was time to see what help I could get, feeling this way all the time wasn’t ok. I went to see my Dr, she told me it was separation anxiety and it was normal and more common than I thought and not to be so hard on myself. I needed to hear what she told me as I had convinced myself I was going mad. I also had so many people tell me that I would delay her development, cause separation issues for her in the future, I had lots and lots of comments, each one made me feel as though I was failing my little girl. Which made it worse. I was a bad mum and I didn’t know how to stop my anxiety.
I had a good chat with my Dr, I literally talked and cried (it’s amazing how much a wee chat can help and make sense of things) and she helped me understand what was happening and why. The reality was my anxiety had never actually left me, I spent my entire pregnancy anxious, I was told at the age of 19 that I wouldn’t be able to have children, in 2015 I fell pregnant and sadly lost the baby so it was inevitable that when I found out I had been lucky enough to fall pregnant again that I was going to be a bit on edge. It had all stemmed from there, now I don’t know about all of you but I’m my own worst enemy and in my head I had failed our first baby, I couldn’t keep it safe so if I couldn’t keep a baby safe and well when it was inside of me I was going to make damn well sure that my miracle baby would be absolutely fine. I couldn’t let down my husband, our families or another baby. I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it.
So, in my head that meant being with her all the time. Obviously, this wasn’t practical, and it had started to really get me down feeling that way all the time. I was paranoid everyone would be right, that her development would be delayed, and she’d have issues. I knew I had to do something. Baby steps were key! I started off by leaving her for a few minutes with my husband, mum or mother in law. Going for a walk, or if I had to nip to the shop and for follow up doctor appointments and I just gradually built up the amount of time I was away from her. Each time I came back Heidi was happy, safe and content. Each time I left her reassured me more and more. She was fine. One day it just clicked, of course, she was fine because the people I was leaving her with, loved her just as much as I did.
Just in the last few months I’ve felt so much better, to the point that we’ve had overnight stays apart! I never ever thought I’d get to this point!! She’s had sleepovers with both of her Grannies and both times Heidi has come back, so excited, happy and full of stories. Don’t get me wrong, the first sleepover was hard…. for me. But she had a blast and that’s what matters. She was so excited and happy, so I was happy too! This weekend my hubby took me away as a birthday treat, big step! As both my mum and my mother in law live in the same village as us, so if anything did happen or if she wanted home we’re not far away. So, when my hubby said he was taking me away I was excited but a little nervous! It would be the longest I’d have ever been apart from her. Turns out I had nothing to be nervous about! We had the best time away; it was so lovely just to have some quality time just the two of us and Heidi had such a great time with my mum! Seeing her wee happy face as she was telling us what she’d been doing was worth every minute of being apart from her. She had made special memories with her granny and we had some well needed couple time. Win for everyone!
So, to the mummies out there, if you’re suffering from separation anxiety, I’m here to tell you it’s going to be ok! It does ease, it does take time, but it does ease! The reason I wrote this was because I felt so alone suffering from separation anxiety, I didn’t know anyone else who’d suffered from it and I don’t want anyone else feeling the same way as I did. Please know that you’re not alone and that you’re not a bad mum!! Try not to listen or dwell on people’s negative comments. I’m hoping that one day that all woman will build each other up and not tear each other down. Just remember that nobody knows you or your child better than you. My advice, speak to someone, don’t keep it in, I’m lucky to have had a great doctor and supportive family and friends. Take baby steps, but don’t push yourself too much, always do what feels right for you and I promise you will get there! If you’d asked me 6 months ago about leaving Heidi overnight, I would have said there was no way.
Keep your chin up and keep going! You’ve got this Mumma!!