The Beginning of Separation Anxiety

About thirty minutes into my workout the gym’s loudspeaker kicks on and I hear, “Could Oliver’s mom please report to the playroom.”

I’m half way through my 5 mile run and for the first time in a long time, I’m feeling good. No side stitches, achy feet, stiff legs, or sleep deprived muscles to slow me down. I resist hitting the stop button on the treadmill. Surely they must be calling for the other Oliver’s mom.

“Oliver’s mom to the playroom,” the loudspeaker beckons again. Sigh.

When I enter the playroom I instantly hear that familiar ear-shattering wail, only this time it has a slight edge of panic to it. One of the new room attendants is walking around with Oliver swaddled in a blanket. When she sees me I watch the panic on her face turn into relief.

She hands over my screaming bundle of joy and like magic, silence. Oliver’s face softens, his body relaxes and he looks up at me and smiles like, “Hey mom, it’s cool; I’m all good.”

I fear we are entering the uncharted waters of separation anxiety. Most babies hit this developmental milestone around 8 months old and it can last up to around age 2. At 6 months old, Oliver is just an early bloomer. I say it’s a testament to his acute perception and love of mom.

I’m all about the positive spin.

On one hand, it feels really good to know I’m Oliver’s #1 person and at the center of his tiny universe. On the other hand, boy does this add another level of complexity to our already complex way of getting through the day.

In search of answers I scoured the Internet for ways to lessen separation anxiety and stumbled across an article about cultural differences in parenting between the United States and Africa. The main takeaway: carry baby with you at all times everywhere you go and breastfeed constantly.

Hmmmm… yea I don’t think that’s going to work for me. Oliver might be spared separation anxiety but I’d be suffering from way-to-much-time-with-baby anxiety.

And I’d start to smell really bad from my lack of showering.

I’m more about the practical advice: leave baby with familiar care providers, spend time with baby in new environments before leaving, practice leaving and coming back while at home, and implement a calm and consistent exit.

And the most important advice of all: like all other trials, it’s only temporary. For now, I shall relish in the high-pitched I-love-you-mommy-you’re-the-best and please-don’t-leave-me wail of my baby.

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7 Tips For Coping With Colic

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By now you have spent hours scouring the Internet for advice on how to calm a crying baby. You have read every article about reducing colic and repeatedly attempted the magic five S’s (swaddling, side position, swinging, shushing and sucking) like there was no tomorrow. Yet still, at this very moment, your little devil…I mean angel is screaming his head off. Happiest baby on the block my ass. What’s a sleep-deprived, going insane, ready to chuck the baby out the window mother to do?

Besides curling up in a ball only to emerge when your little one blows out that first Birthday candle, there are some practical things you can do to make dealing with a colicky or fussy baby more bearable. These won’t soothe your baby one bit, but they will help you keep your sanity and live to see another day.

1. Invest in a pair of earphones and some sort of MP3 player and listen to music or an audio book while you are trying to calm your baby. I had ear indentations from my I-pod shuffle for the first couple months of Oliver’s life because I used them so much. My reasoning—I could walk around the apartment bouncing a crying baby and slowly lose my patience from endless wailing, or I could rock out to my Disney tunes (You’ll Be In My Heart from Tarzan is a tear jerker for new moms) and remain calm until Oliver finally conked out.

2. Elicit support from anyone and everyone so that you can get a break from the baby. Okay, so it might be a bad idea to leave your newborn with the 8-year-old neighbor whose only babysitting experience is with her American Girl doll, but once that kid hits nine, it’s on. If you’re like me, it’s hard accepting help from others, but learning to say “yes” when someone extends a hand has been a lifesaver.

3. Get out of the house. Take your screaming baby and go for a walk in the park or do a few laps around the mall. Dare those strangers to glare at you with disapproving looks. I was terrified to take Oliver out in public at first because I didn’t want to risk a meltdown in front of people….because you know, babies are never supposed to cry and if they do it’s because you’re terrible mom. After finally mustering up the courage to get out, Oliver decided to start up his ear-splitting scream while I was waiting in line at Starbucks. (I personally like to think he was pissed that a coffee cost $5. “That’s my diaper money mom,” I imagined him crying.) Instead of ditching the line and retreating to my car, I waited and ordered. People may have been staring, but the only thing I saw on their faces was understanding and a bit of pity. The woman in line behind me leaned in and looked at Oliver’s crunched up, beat-red face and commented, “oh he’s so darling; it’s gets better, I promise.”

4. Stop comparing your baby to other people’s babies. This is the habit that caused me the most grief the first few months. I kid you not; EVERY baby I saw while out and about with my fussy little guy seemed like a perfect angel in comparison. I would longingly look at the baby hanging out quietly in his car seat while mom and dad enjoyed a dinner out or the baby contently laying on the grass at the park while mom read a book and think, “why can’t my baby be like that.” I had to remind myself that Oliver was a unique baby with his own personality, and one day very soon I would be celebrating his differences, happy that he isn’t like every other baby.

5. Connect with other moms who have gone through or are going through a similar situation. Whether it’s on the Internet or at a local mom’s group, finding another person to share in your struggles is a great emotional crutch. Swap phone numbers or get together for a play date so you can vent in to someone else who understands. Just be careful not to spend too much time dwelling on the negativity, as the more you focus on how difficult things are the harder it becomes to appreciate the fleeting blissful moments.

6. Give yourself permission to feel “negative” emotions. Are you frustrated? Angry? Annoyed? Ready to cry right along with your baby? It’s okay. You don’t have to be the mom that professes to always love motherhood. You can have bad days and feel “negative” emotions and still be a good parent. Taking care of a baby is a marathon feat. Taking care of a colicky baby is an ultra-marathon through Death Valley in the summer kind of feat. You’ll survive, but it doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy every moment.

7. Wine…lots and lots of wine (I’m only slightly kidding)

For another great resource check out the fussy baby site.

Letting Go of 2012

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Last night instead of ringing in the New Year with champagne toasts and midnight kisses, my husband and I were firmly planted in bed by 10pm and asleep by 11pm. Now that’s a party!

I should confess that neither of us were ever the party till you drop type. We spent the last few New Years Eves playing board games at home with friends or curling up on the couch at my parent’s house watching other people live it up in Times Square. So in bed by 10pm wasn’t too far fetched a plan, baby or not.

But yesterday as evening set in, I found myself wanting to get out of the apartment. I didn’t like the idea of being tied down by a 5-month old baby who, if we were lucky, would be sound asleep by 8:30pm. It’s the age-old problem of the wanting what you can’t have. In past years I was perfectly content with a quiet night at home, but now that quiet was my only option, I wanted anything but that.

Why is it that the moment I’m forced to do the thing I would willingly choose to do on my own, I become resentful? Or as my husband would say, you have to do what you want to do, whether you like it or not!

When I was pregnant I remember my sister-in-law telling me that kids make a great excuse to get out of undesirable social outings. You’re feeling tired and don’t want to meet up with friends for dinner? Sorry, can’t make it…baby. You cringe at the notion of having to attend your mom’s uncle’s nephew’s something or other? Sorry, can’t make it…baby. You think your ears will implode if you have to listen to Aunt Betty recount her gall bladder surgery one more time. Sorry, got to go…baby.

Now that I have my little built in excuse with me all the time, I find myself wishing I didn’t need an excuse at all.

I think most new parents have these thoughts from time to time. Just do a google search for “missing my life before baby” and you’ll hit upon numerous message boards where new moms and dads lament their lost freedom. It doesn’t make you a bad parent for feeling a bit nostalgic for your pre-baby life; it just makes you human.

The problem that can arise, however, is that we spend so much time longing for our old lives that we are incapable of enjoying the ones we have now. I know I’m guilty of this. Last night instead of having fun blowing raspberries on my son’s tummy and eliciting laughs with silly sounds and faces, I spent much of my time daydreaming about what my baby free night on the town would look like.

And the moment I started longing for the past, the present suddenly became a whole lot bleaker. I want to stop doing this…stealing joy from the now in order to fuel my daydreams of the past. This morning when I woke up I resolved in typical New Years fashion to make an honest attempt to only focus on the present moment. I want to find gratitude for what I have, not what I had. I want to be happy with what I am doing, not what I did.

2013 has the potential to be a great year. I just have to make a conscious effort to stay in it.