Separation Anxiety or What?!

slarhaeplus1September 16, 2006

In August of 2004, I had a perinatal loss. I was 22 gestational weeks pregnant and our baby girl (Hannah) was born too early. She lived for 1 hour and 26 minutes and died in my arms.

I had weaned my younger daughter, Rachel, at 12months old when I was along in my pregnancy with Hannah. Rachel was 15months old when we had our loss.

I very much wanted Rachel to be my "baby" again, but even though I desired to unwean her, I left her to her sippy cups. However, I did baby-fy Rachel again by holding her, snuggling with her and just basically keeping her as my little shadow. In retrospect, I realize I wasn't extreme, but yet, it wasn't natural either how much I focused on Rachel during my time of grieving.

Today, Rachel is 3 1/2 and we are expecting another baby. This will be my sixth pregnancy, my fifth living child. I have toddlers and teens, 16DD, 14DD, 5DS and 3DD (Rachel).

Rachel cries if her older sisters go to bible study or dance practice or to a friend's sleepover. She is inconsolable for a spell and then she's better. She cries if I leave to go to the grocery store or to run errands. And she mostly cries for her Daddy. She cries when he leaves for work, or if he goes anywhere (even outside to get the mail or to go to the garage). If I take Rachel and all of the children to go somewhere, but my husband stays home, Rachel cries and cries. She wants him to come with us. If I'm laying in my own bed and she comes to lie down with me, she wants her daddy with us, too.

Her crying is extreme to me. She wants all six of us (her four sibling and 2 parents) together all of the time. Especially her daddy (he works, I'm a stay at home mom).

My husband and I have soothed her and spoken to her and we do not cater to her outbursts. I will drive away with her bawling in her carseat with her crying for her daddy to come, too. But first, he'll climb in the van and give her hugs and kisses, high fives and giggles, all the while reassuring her, he'll be right at home when she returns. And when we do return, he'll say, wow, I missed you - tell me all about what you did and I'll tell you what I did!

When I drop off her sisters to wherever they are going and she bawls, we all hug, kiss, blow kisses, say I love yous and then comes the parting. She never fails to cry, but I do drive off. I'll sing a familiar song with my son (Barney, etc.) because ignoring her works best sometimes - not trying to croon to her all the time and soothe her. Crying equals attention. Sometimes we all just ignore it. Sometimes we definitely are attentive.

I have no idea how she will react when this new baby comes. I'm due next April, so there is plenty of time to acclimate her to the idea of another sibling. And I do a child care in my home (no babies under a year, but some a year and a half). Rachel says I'M your daughter and "I" was your seed in your belly - NOT Emma (or whoever, if I snuggle with them). And I'll reinforce that and agree and ask her to share my lap and help me play pat a cake, etc. with the younger one.

I'm very very concerned about her crying spells during separation. She wears us out sometimes. And while we don't do her bidding, the crying is really annoying.

Any advice?

(P.S. This is the first time I've ever addressed this to anyone, not even her pediatrician, so I guess I wrote a book!!)



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Has she been evaluated by a peditrician? Does she resist change of all sorts? Is she social with other children? Is her language up with expectations of kids her age?
It could be just childhood insecurities, or it could be some thing like ausperger's syndrome.
Linda C

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 5:53PM
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Hi Elaina
You mentioned that when your baby Hannah passed away, you got very close to Rachel and that she became your little shadow.
I think Rachel got used to and really close to you all, that now that she sees everyone going about their business, she is used to all attention. She probably feels insecure and that's why she wants all of you together all the time. She is very attached to you all.
I don't think there is anything wrong with her. It's going to take time for Rachel to get used to seeing everyone doing different things and going to work or school. Just reassure her that she is loved and that daddy will be home later and that her older sister will be back later from school.
I think what would help is giving her a wallet full of pictures, or make a small hand size book with pictures in it of the family, and everytime she cries or stays crying give her the picture book, and tell her that you all love her very much.
Before Rachel's older sister leaves, have her give Rachel a big hug and a kiss and have her say,"I love you." After that just have her leave without staying and saying goodbye. The goodbye will make it harder for Rachel.
I hope this helps you in any way. I have 3 children. 3yr.old boy, 5 yr.old girl, 8 yr.old girl.
May God bless you and your family!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 12:22AM
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DH had major health issues, and when DD was 11 months old, we had to be separated from her a lot while he was in the hospital for a full month, gravely ill.

After he recovered, we overcompensated and ended up with very similar separation anxiety issues (she's 8 now and they still surface from time to time) :-)

If she was slightly younger, I'd suggest that as a family you play hide and seek, because in young toddlers with separation anxiety, it gets them used to the idea of when mommy is gone she always comes back. (it worked when DD had a spell of separation anxiety but she was far younger than 3).

I think she needs verbal reassurance that you'll "see her in a little while" with the hugs goodbye. Also at the age your daughter is, I liked the "kiss the palm of her hand" technique. I'd kiss her palm, and fold it up and tell her she could carry my kiss there all day. I'd also let her kiss my palm, and I would hug it to my heart and say that I would carry it with me, too.

Simple encouragement will help. And with the new baby on the way, it could just be your closeness to her combined with the sibling adjustment issues babies in the family always have.

((Hugs)) and good thoughts your way!!!!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 8:36AM
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