Tuesday, 19 July 2011

I want my Mummy: When Dad Just Won't Do

Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation ~ Kahlil Gibran
The last few months have been tough with girl Earthly, really, really tough. What we thought must be a short phase of physical discomfort has extended to weeks and weeks of traumatic bedtimes, sleepless nights, and too-early mornings. I have been scouring my memories of boy Earthly's babyhood for a glimmer of something similar, but they were such different babies that it is difficult to compare. 

I think at the time, we just got through it (somehow) and then forgot all about it. But I do remember now that we had real problems getting boy Earthly to "attach" to his Dad. He just wanted me, ALL the time. Of course, I have the boobs and therefore I hold the prime comforting tool. Typically this made Father Earthly quite distraught; he wanted to help, to give me a break, and to bond with his son. But his son didn't appear to be interested!

The same is happening with girl Earthly. Except it actually seems worse, somehow. We've always known she is more easy going than her bro, until the point when she gets cross and then she blows it. So while her brother always seemed pretty grumpy, girl Earthly goes from nought to sixty in about 2 seconds. And Father Earthly is currently having to bear the brunt of that...

Perhaps I'm looking in the wrong places but I just can't find much helpful information on this kind of separation anxiety: all the advice typically deals with separation from both parents, not one or other. And it's not like our babies never get to see Dad - he is around and physically 'there' for them far more than most I would say. I wonder if the problem is related to breastfeeding, but browsing some forums I've read that some mothers have had a similar issue with formula-fed babes. 

So what's going on? And why is there such a lack of information on the subject? All of the stuff I've read on separation anxiety talks about the separation from those who are familiar (i.e. parents) and the anxiety shown amongst strangers. Well, both my babies have always turned winning smiles upon strangers and really don't have a problem being held by friends and other members of the family. But they don't like to see me disappear

Currently, our nights go like this:
1. Bedtime for both kids. Boy Earthly goes without a fuss. Girl Earthly has a last feed and I try to get her to wind down. Sometimes I just try and cuddle her until she falls asleep, at which point I stick my pinky (if needed) in her mouth and try to place her down on the bed.
2. Girl Earthly knows what is happening and fusses. She wakes up fully and starts to cry. At this point I've tried everything, from rocking and singing to passing her over to Father Earthly, and in some moments of exhaustion, simply leaving her to see if she'll self-settle. NOTHING WORKS.
3. It's now well past dinner time and we've been trying to get her to sleep for about 2 hours. If we leave her she cries like a banshee. If we try and comfort her in any way, she cries like a banshee. We take it in turns but Dad struggles more than I do because she just wants me. With me however, she decides it's time to play and "isn't this jolly mummy? Just you and me, we could have a party!!" I get cross and hand her back to Dad. After some time, both of them fall asleep.
4. If we can both still be bothered, we have dinner between 9-10pm, try to relax for an hour and then fall into bed. Otherwise we just fall into bed - knowing it's the best sleep we'll get all night.
5. Girl Earthly wakes up any time between 10 and 12. I feed her and usually manage to get her to go back to sleep, though rarely in her cot or hammock any more.
6. Father Earthly and I have started sleeping separately, as girlie was fussing and wriggling all night long, pushing me out of bed whilst trying to get closer and closer to me, but never settling. Now he takes her until she wakes for a feed. I feed her and leave them again.
7. After every night feed girl Earthly wants to stay with me and hates to see me go. She fusses with Dad for a while, but will usually eventually get back to sleep.
8. At around 5 or 6am, she awakes and won't go back to sleep. Often she will fuss and cry for an hour or two until her brother wakes up, at which point she almost always settles and goes back to sleep for another few hours - all by herself! This is both infuriating and a relief.
And all this after months of simply settling her, putting her in her hammock, and having her wake a few times for a feed but going straight back to sleep (in her hammock) and not waking until 8am or so.

The last few weeks have involved all kinds of measures in a vain attempt to relieve the situation. Father Earthly has taken her on many a drive in the middle of the night, and ended up sleeping in a car park somewhere for a few hours. I've also tried having her on my own all night, thinking she just needed more of me, but to no avail - neither of us slept. Father Earthly has tried taking her on his own too - we tried this with boy Earthly when we had a similar problem and it worked. It didn't this time!

Have any of you experienced this form of maternal separation anxiety? How did you cope and did you ever figure out the causes?


  1. onelittlebuffalogirl19 July 2011 at 22:44

    I have no wise words but sending big big hugs! XXX hang in there mama! ooh just a a thought but how about a kinesiologist or some other alternative therapies?

  2. Dreaming Aloud20 July 2011 at 19:48

    she sounds similar to our girlie number one - tho never got as far as sleeping in car parks - poor father earthly!

  3. Thanks Motherfunker, I am in much need of hugs right now!! A couple of friends have sworn by craniosacral therapy but I guess I'm just not willing to throw money at the problem - I'd rather be able to figure it out as a parent... but then that's obviously not working!

  4. Ha, yep. So far I've heard that this is typical of girls... hmmm. Is this the beginning of the tricky road called "mother-daughter relationship"? What did you do and how long did it last? Or do I not want to know?!


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