Separation anxiety: The mama's, of course, not the kid's

We've been having a rough time over here the past few weeks. The mood around the house is often tense and slightly antagonistic. Anthony and I haven't exactly been fighting, but we're not exactly warm and fuzzy to each other. I'm doing my best to be kind and understanding. It's working, but barely.

So, last Friday, we'd been butting heads all afternoon- reservedly, of course, because we never really lose our shit completely on each other - and Hollis had spent the last hour or so bawling his eyes out because we'd brought him inside and made him stop playing with the garden hose. Anthony and I had silently called a truce and were focused on feeding Hollis and finishing up our own dinners when we heard a knock at the door.

Of course, I thought, it's probably Mom or something and since I told her I'd rather have her pop over unexpectedly than have her use her cell to call me en route and cause a wreck. I was right, but it was also Terry. Their faces were beaming when I opened the door.

"Hi!" they chorused, "We're taking Hollis for the night! You get the Volvo, we'll take the Mitsubishi with the car seat."

And in they rushed. Over the next five minutes I ran around packing his overnight bag, explaining his current mood, making sure mom had the children's Tylenol in case his teeth hurt that night and here, take this snack and this snack, and this sippy cup for his water, and "do you have stuff for his breakfast tomorrow??" My mom assured me they had everything under control and to just relax and enjoy a night off.

Hollis was in heaven in Grandma's arms and squirmed away from me when I leaned in for a kiss. I'm not even sure Anthony was allowed to touch him (Anthony's been low man on the totem pole the past couple of weeks, poor fella). They slipped out the garage door in the kitchen and I was standing next to the bar suddenly bereft.

The car hadn't even started yet and my face screwed up and I began crying.

Anthony saw me and said, "Aw, sweetie. It's such a nice thing they did!"

I shook my head understanding that he thought I was crying because the gesture of them taking him for a night was so sweet, "No, I miss my baby!" I murmured and covered my face and cried harder. He came over to me immediately and wrapped his arms around me.

"Aw, babe... I thought you were verklempt at them coming to take him!"

I shook my head against his chest.

Then I heard the engine start up and the car pull out of our garage and knew Hollis was on his way. More tears.

When Anthony released me from his embrace we both went through the motions of cleaning the kitchen. He stopped after he'd brought the dishes over and I continued working in the kitchen. We then proceeded to argue about the dishes, then argue for an hour more about our navels.

Throughout our arguing and intense follow-up discussion I kept thinking, "I'm sure this isn't what Mom and Terry expected us to be doing," but much like a bubble bath together might help us connect on a romantic level, Anthony and I needed to iron some shit out in the real world, too. We came to an amicable end and I got up to get ready for bed.

While in my room I heard the soft hum of the baby monitor and started to cry all over again as I turned it off. I kept thinking about Maddie and her parents and how cavernous my heart would feel if I should ever lose Hollis permanently instead of just to two loving grandparents who decided they were finally up to the challenge of an overnight stay. I sucked it up, thought how wonderful a thing it was to feel this kind of love and sat down to the computer to call my sister.

I told her what Mom and Terry had done and immediately got choked up all over again. Totally seized by emotion and tears like a freight train - no warning, nothing. Just THERE. In my heart, on my face, everywhere. My sister, albeit lovingly and with some amount of humor on her part, chided me that I was being ridiculous and "It's only one night. Don't ruin your night off," or something to that extent. I reminded her that I had also been weepy for the first few hours of my trip to see her in January without Hollis and that I was fine, I just couldn't help it, I MISSED MY BABY.

I can't explain this thing that ambushed me and wrapped itself about my, otherwise, logical, independent, and rational self. It was like it only left me a crack to see through and a hole to breathe. I couldn't even look into his room for HOURS after he'd gone.

I'm sure it didn't help that I was already on edge with Anthony, despite the fact that we'd hugged it out and bumped fists. I felt raw and nervous. What if Mom didn't hear him choke in the middle of the night? What if Terry snored all night and Hollis didn't sleep a wink? What if they didn't have anything to feed him for breakfast? What if he didn't sleep enough? - we had a big play date planned the next day during his regular nap time. What if? What if? What if??

Eventually, I relaxed and even went in Hollis' room to tidy up with nary a tear. - Ok, well, maybe a thickened throat. - I went to bed with earplugs in, guiltless about this little luxury, and slept like a rock.

I remember thinking how ridiculous mothers were who cried and wept over missing their kids. Oh, boy. What a shit I was. When you are with someone, ANYONE, every day of your life you miss them. Remember the tears at the end of summer camp?? Or before you went away to college? Hell, I cry when Anthony is gone and he's grown man whose reliance on me is minor at best. So, OF COURSE I'm going to react strongly to my baby being whisked away from me for an overnight excursion. I think about Hollis and his needs, wants, and feelings every waking moment. No joke. I have to to ensure his survival.

The first few times I left the house without Hollis were tough. I kept expecting to hear a baby gurgle and coo and my mind raced over check lists for baby (do I have enough wipes? diapers? change of - oh yeah... he's not with me...). Going out with friends felt odd. I'd blink my eyes as if I'd just left a dark theater. I couldn't quite adjust to the baby-less feeling. Something was missing.

You might think I'm this crazy, over-protective mom who has no life, who can't decipher where she ends and her kids start and you'd be so freakin' wrong. But, if you do, then so be it. The truth is that I very much know where I end and my kids start, but the process of disengaging myself from the hyper-vigilance required when a child is an infant to a more secure stand-and-watch position is not something that happens overnight. It happens in conjunction with his growth. I think I'm spot on. Er - I hope I'm spot on, at least. I hope my feelings are in line with reality.

The next morning when I went to get Hollis he saw me and yelled, "Neeew!" and ran the opposite direction to Grandma - not exactly the welcome I was hoping for. But, he didn't want to leave, so ok. He cried a bit, but then was fine once he was strapped in his seat. He was in my jurisdiction again and I felt more at ease.

I also felt immense pride. My baby is securely attached. He can leave me and Anthony with confidence and balance. He can re-enter his life with me without penalizing me for "abandoning" him. He feels safe in his world. He trusts trustworthy adults.

I will gladly cry forlornly in my living room a hundred times over, take shit from my sister for over-reacting, and fight with Anthony over stupid crap with utter abandon because there's finally no little person around a thousand times over if it means I get to keep witnessing my little caterpillar growing his beautiful toddler butterfly wings and fluttering away.

It's a thing of wonder and beauty to watch him confidently return to my arms, my sweet, baby Hollis, he who has made all the puzzle pieces finally fit together just by being. And I'm not ashamed to admit it.


  1. What a nice post. I know that sensitive raw way you were feeling - anything can make me cry when I feel like that, and I will say things I don't mean (funny, I never felt emotionally exposed until I met my man, and I have cried more ever since, but in a good way). I envy you a night off - but then again, I don't, because I can't yet imagine spending a night away from my baby.

  2. First off, I would KILL to have my parents do that - the minute they were gone I would dance my ass off, order chinese food and drink plenty of VINO. Having said that, I totally hear you and am the same way. I've had to be away from my son for an entire day before and I thought about him the entire time, wishing he was with me. I think once kids fill this little mommy spot in our hearts, its hard to find them far away from us for any given amount of time. Of course my hubby thinks I'm just being ridiculous (like your sister said with you) but I quickly remind him that if he had birthed that child from his womb, he would understand my "pain". That usually does the trick. You're a good mommy :)

  3. Jessica, thus post was amazing and I can totally totally relate. I hate even being home alone without the boys, and I too even have a hard time going into their rooms. Overnights without the kids are not easy for me, either. We are very much identical! And even though my boys are beyond in love with and attached to my mom. I still feel sad! Do you think with time it will get easier? Who knows... But we survived, huh? By the way, I am reading/writing this on my iPhone! My computer was sucky today.