Thursday, February 7, 2008

Separation Anxiety

Most babies will go through a phase called "Separation Anxiety" that usually begins around 6 or 7 months of age according to the parenting books. Molly has started to show signs of separation anxiety from more night waking to crying if I give her to someone else to hold, even if that person is one of her primary caregivers. Though this is a new behavior for Molly I wonder if it is really a shifting of the anxiety over separation from mother to child.

You spend nine months with this little person inside you as if you are one. You breathe, eat, and get rid of wastes for them. In an instant they become separate from you through being born. This new physical separation is anxiety provoking. Where you once took care of their needs without effort, you suddenly have to learn how to help this person eat, sleep, play, and interact with the world around them. In addition, you have to let other people hold them! When I first brought Molly home, it was painful for me to let other people hold her because I wanted to hold her (Husband excepted).

She slept in our room right next to me for two weeks so that I could put my hand on her easily from my bed. When we were ready to move her to the crib, I had anxiety about her being so far away. I worried I wouldn't hear her if she needed me. Separation Anxiety.

When she was two weeks old, I left her for the first time for an hour. I cried all the way to my meeting and called my mother every 30 minutes to check on her. Separation anxiety.

Now that she is older, I can put her to bed or leave her for the day while I am at graduate school and I am not so anxious about it. I have gotten used to the idea that she and I can be separated from one another and still be together. It has taken Molly longer to realize that we are no longer joined together. Now that she is figuring it out, the separation anxiety has shifted to her. The only difference between us in terms of this anxiety is that I always had the power to return to her whenever I needed. Because she cannot walk, talk, crawl, or drive a car, she has to trust that I will come back to her. I do think she trusts this now, but it must be hard not to be able to figure out how to get back together with the people you have being separated from.

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