Q&A: separation anxiety + pregnancy = FAIL

Poor Andrea writes:

"This is a two-parter.

First, the separation anxiety:

Myalmost-12-month-old baby girl is going through a rough patch of almost impossible-to-handle separation anxiety. She has always been a "clingy" baby, and she is very attached to me (I am her full-time care-giver), but now she will not let me set her down and leave the room for even a second to pee, eat, prepare food, take care of our animals, take care of myself, whatever. I do all I can to wear her around and include her in my activities, I talk to her and sing to her constantly, I play peek-a-boo as I leave the room and her response to being left  is still hysterical screaming, following me  and crying while pulling at the baby gate with all of her strength.

Baby will play by herself at times during the day, but after a few minutes, if she notices that I'm engaged in something else, she gets upset and demands my full attention.  She will not let her beloved "Dee-da" (Daddy, in case you couldn't guess) take her from my arms or even pick her up when I'm in sight. She will not go to any family members or friends. She certainly can not be "babysat" without complete and total meltdown. AND she's still nursing. A LOT, demanding "Mama -Nana" every time she gets in my lap.

This has been going on for about 3 weeks now. And yes, it could definitely be teething-related (no visible signs, but she's due for some new teeth), and it could also be exacerbated by the fact that she's had a bit of a cold for the past few weeks.

The good news is that she's a great nighttime sleeper (12 hours straight, no waking) and a decent napper (2 or so hours during the day), and developing well in all areas with no other "issues" to speak of. I know I have it pretty easy and that this supreme clingy stage *should* pass. This brings us to part deux...

Then, ME:
What makes the first part so hard is that I am newly pregnant and oh-so tired, moody, sore, nauseated, constantly hungry, name any pregnancy symptom you can think of.

I would normally be very happy to sit and play with Baby, read with her, carry her around in the ergo, and be there for her constantly. I actually WANT to do all those things. I just physically and emotionally CANNOT. I really need some time to sit on the toilet in peace, to drink my tea in the morning, to make and eat meals and to just calm down a bit.

I have this crazy cocktail of hormones in my system and I am having a very difficult time controlling my emotions. It is honestly like nothing I have ever experienced before (much more intense than my 1st pregnancy) and I am beginning to feel totally unhinged. In the past few days, I have had to physically leave the room on numerous occasions (with Baby following and crying behind me) to go scream into a pillow. I have impulses to just put her in her crib and run away somewhere and sleep for 24 hours straight. I do not want to take my emotional state out on Baby. I do not want to be a bad mom. I just want a few minutes to just relax that isn't naptime-- naptime is for making dinner and doing laundry and all of the other things that are piling up around me.

So the real question is not just how do I deal with the separation anxiety (all hints and tricks appreciated there), but how do I regain control of my emotions and retain my sanity while doing what's best for  Baby?"

Aw. If I were a Big Hug kind of woman, I'd give you a Big Hug, because this just sucks. And a lot of us have been there.

Now I'm going to tell you The Secret That Good Mothers Know:

When we figure out what's best for our kids, we take ourselves into account.

There are all sorts of cliched phrases to express this idea--from "Put your oxygen mask on first" to "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"--but there's a reason for that--it's true.

So what I'm going to tell you is to cut yourself a break. You are sick. Yeah, pregnancy is a normal condition, but nausea, fatigue, soreness, etc. are symptoms of illness. So you're experiencing this as illness. A serious, ass-kicking illness that you can't escape from.

If you had the flu, no one (even yourself) would expect you to be at the beck and call of a clingy toddler in the middle of some truly ferocious separation anxiety phase all day long. We'd all tell you to hire a mother's helper (a teenager who can play with the baby while you're in the same room on the couch trying not to vomit), or at the very least just leave the baby safely in her crib while you go take 5 minutes to be alone in the bathroom with your cheek pressed against the cool tile on the wall.

You may think that she needs you to be with her, focused on her, all day long because that's what she's crying for. What she really needs is a mother who can hold it together as much as possible under the circumstances. Even if that means that she has to wait for you, or cry because someone else is with her sometimes.

Figure out what the things are that make you most want to jump out of your skin, and see if there's a way not to do them. Even if that means that your daughter cries while your husband does them, or you have to walk out of the room for a few minutes while she cries. You have a whole year of love and care in with her, and these next few weeks are just a teeny part of the conversation you have going with her.

Does anyone else want to commiserate with Andrea about how much the second pregnancy can suck? I can remember thinking my son would have been far better off with anyone but me during the first-trimester days when all I could do was lie on the couch and moan.