Separation Anxiety; When does it end?

You know that unpleasant feeling every Sunday evening knowing that tomorrow would be Monday? That mixture of anxiety, panic and trepidation that would ultimately result in not being able to enjoy a good dinner on a Sunday night. This comes very close to what I feel during evenings when I know I’m working away from my toddler the next day.

Yes, I admit that I still experience maternal separation anxiety despite more than half a year of being back to work. This construct that describes a mother’s experience of sadness, worry, and even guilt during a short-term and temporary separation from the little one has been my “Sunday evening” plague the past months thus far.

I’ve been told by those around that I seem to express more unease than my child. I don’t disagree. I  acknowledge that while my child’s separation anxiety is developmentally appropriate and in fact a major milestone for his age, mine on the other hand is a setback for both our progression since I look for any reason to get him to cling to me, the way I expect him to. I am the needier one it looks like.

Don’t blink, they say.

For this reason, I read forums and articles on the topic as a self-help measure to make it easier. Otherwise if I don’t do something about this, then there’s no moving forward. The following are condensed pointers gleaned from all that reading. These help me cope with my apprehensions and I hope it may do the same for others who are undergoing a similar phase.

Accepting the emotions.

I had to acknowledge the fact that what I am experiencing is totally normal. All moms go through this juncture. Mothers are hardwired to be overprotective. Our brains tend to go into overdrive that leads to excessive worrying which then manifests into stress. So the goal is to effectively manage the paranoia and catastrophic thinking so both mother and child can ultimately be healthily independent on our own.

Recognizing the anxiety and putting a name to the feelings means you are starting to conquer these.

Sharing these emotions and sharing my “playbook”.

I found that verbalizing what I am feeling to my partner and my friends can be effectively validating. Simply voicing out my issues as opposed to keeping them bottled in lessens the anxiousness.

Sharing also means telling your playbook or how you go about your daily routine. Listing the major or even minor things that involve the care of the child makes me feel assured that he will be alright when he is being tended by others. So expectations like the number of naps he takes, allowable screen time duration, food preferences and the likes are communicated. Knowing that his day will be approached similarly gives me that added comfort.

Starting small.

I went back to work on part-time basis, still am. After a year of being each other’s world, it just did not seem right that both our lives will dramatically change overnight. I started small to build both our confidence and gradually lessen our mutual interdependence.

This is working very well for my little one as I see that he thrives in the care of others, especially with the grandparents.

Writing it down.

Same thing with sharing these feelings, writing them down–putting these into words outside my mind, feels like giving them space outside my brain. Not having these feelings fully reside inside means lesser chances of having negative and irrational thinking patterns.

Good old-fashioned acceptance, again.

Worrying is inevitable. As my doctor told me pre-birth, you never stop worrying about your babies until they turn 21. I doubt I will stop worrying, ever.

So since it’s going to be second nature, there’s no other way but to move forward. Don’t discount the feeling, ride the wave. And sail on with ease.


We have to recognize that maternal separation anxiety may root from some underlying issues and past traumas. My biggest takeaway when I experienced a personal trauma was that it’s perfectly okay to seek professional help. The hesitance stems from a cultural stigma against mental health. Breaking away from this unhelpful perception liberates one from the holds that restricts opportunities of bettering oneself emotionally.

Seeking therapeutic support for mild to extreme cases can help one navigate these experiences better so ultimately, one can have power over these anxieties.

These are but a few of the things that personally help me deal better with the separation anxiety I experience when being away from my child. I don’t deny the fact that I still get obsessive at times. This means asking my husband photos every hour or so when he is the one in charge of our kid for the day. I think I am allowed this pass.

Note: This has been in my drafts for a couple of months now. Pre-posting, it finally happened. That day when the grandfolks picked my baby and he waved bye at me with his pudgy hands then blew me a kiss. He’s grown! It’s really true what they say. They grow right before our eyes. So every moment should be savoured, the calm and the turbulence alike.

A Letter To My Son

We just got you down to sleep for the night and though every nerve in my spent body is ready to shut off, I know I’ll be spending the next couple of hours just listening to your breathing. So I will take this moment to pen my thoughts, for you to read somewhere down the road.

I was telling your father awhile back that a few nights ago, you were sound asleep beside me and yet I was missing you so much. Your steady breathing felt loud in our dark bedroom but I was missing you tremendously. I had to turn on your Totoro lamp so I had more light to gaze at your very peaceful face. Your dad said it was my mama senses kicking in. I guess. These days I am pensive, introspective and learning a lot because of you. It makes me realize that I need you more than you need me my love.

Minutes before all that hair got sheared. Anakin at three months has been grabbing everything. Hair included.

It hasn’t been too long since you came into our lives but even before you were here, the plan to have you retaught me so much already–belief, healing, hope and faith. Our journey prior to having you involved losses, grief and trauma so it was truly a test of faith on our end whether to lose or cling to hope. Hope and faith evidently held on because we finally have you. You were already so much loved even before your existence.

Being a new mom at this time and age came with a lot of challenges. But I am in awe of how I grow with you every single day. Our long quiet hours together as I said gives me a lot of opportunity to be contemplative. Whilst staring upon your angelic face, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. We must have done something right in this lifetime to be blessed with someone so precious. You made me redefine happiness. Before you, I was always in constant pursuit of it. I felt it was elusive, that I had to constantly work for it. But now you somehow solidified it and made it permanent.

You also revived a lot of values that I seemed to have forgotten–forgiveness, acceptance and enlightenment. Your mere existence heals wounds, bridges gaps, and strengthens relationships. Everyone’s love for you makes us love each other even more. That is such a beautiful thing.

During these long hours you are teaching me patience, slowing down, and being in the moment. Though I cannot wait to have all these adventures in the outdoors and the world with you the soonest you are ready, I know I will intensely miss these calm moments when it’s just you and me–you lost in your dreamworld of rainbows and puppies and I lost in wonder just looking at you. I know this phase with you is fleeting so I am embracing these slow hours.

You evoke powerful feelings of care and love. How can someone so tiny stir such immense emotions. Without any hesitation, I will do anything and sacrifice everything for you. Thank you for letting me know that I can be selfless.

Thank you my son for teaching me to be more appreciative–to be more grateful for the little things. For teaching me to be kinder, to act with more compassion. Thank you for reschooling me on all these values, for making me better, for giving me more purpose.

And so I slowly inch closer to you so I could have that calm that only your gentle breathing could bring. You are growing right before my eyes everyday as I also grow with you. I do need you more than you need me.

It Does Take a Village (Musings of a First Time Mama)

When I was pregnant, I read a lot about babies and parenthood as much as I ate Doritos with grapes (yeahp, these two at the same bite). But when the baby came, most things I thought I learned from all that reading did not necessarily become useful as I ended up turning to firsthand advice from every super mother I know (who is basically every mother. Yes mama, you are amazing!) It just feels more valid and more reassuring when I hear it straight from a momma herself. And yes, I have been listening to a lot of mothers. A villageful of them.

I learned that the best thing to have when having a baby is not that adorable set of onesies or that fancy sterilizer. The best thing to have to successfully raise a baby is a village.

Art Work by James Gabriel Wandag

You lose your brain for a while especially during the early stages of parenthood. It’s akin to climbing Mt. Everest with zero conditioning. But your village makes sure you don’t drown or get lost in an avalanche. Your village is there to remind you that life is not all about poop and spit-ups and having one boob out at all times. They are there to reassure you that you are imperfect and have human failings when you start getting too hard on yourself. Though early motherhood proves challenging, your village reminds you it’s a finite period and you should therefore embrace it.

I felt clueless and scared navigating the hows of baby care and even self-care during the earlier days. That Youtube instructional video on how to bathe a newborn felt gibberish. My village had to physically show it for it to make sense. I never knew about breast pads and nipple creams. My village made me aware that I can do something about leaks and sore nips. I panicked over every rash that I notice on my bubba. My village assured me that these are common for newborns and that I’m like every other mama who overreacts to anything when it comes to our babies. My village fed us with hearty broths, showed us how to swaddle, how to do a proper latch, gifts the baby with diapers and clothes and cuddles, and gives me a break from feeling isolated when they visit or chat me up online during this so-called fourth trimester. My village even enabled me to follow tradition when they came together for my baby’s native name giving ceremony–this is really one for the books. My village made sure that that my baby was doing okay, that I was doing okay, and reassured us that we will be okay.

Although being with my village has proven to be a challenge with the restrictions and protocols this pandemic, I’m still beyond grateful for everyone who visited, reached out, shared advice, listened and supported (physically and virtually) our little family in the early stages of our parenthood. Thank you family, friends, social media forums and health websites for being my village. And we know you’ll be there with us moving forward. Wink, wink.

The Things No One Tells You (Musings of a First Time Mama)

Note: This was written with a beautiful baby boy sleeping in my arms. It was done in installments–after a burp, after a bath, etc., and was completed at 3am when my little bub decided to wake us both up just because he is the boss.

I heard superwoman stories about my Alapo’y Banayan when it comes to giving birth. On the onset of labor, she’d supposedly tell her older kids to go take naps. She then delivers unassisted, wakes the kids up, tells them they have a new sibling to help take care of, and goes about doing her chores like nothing monumental just happened. Much of that narrative may be exagerrated but after personally experiencing a long, arduous birthing journey, no way am I going to downplay my grandmother’s unbelievable feat of successfully delivering 10 children at a time when midwives, hospitals and epidurals were not necessarily part of the birthing process.

Igorota woman with child. Circa 1901.
Photo colorized by Bilog Bilugan 2017

I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy just over a month ago. These days my hours are spliced into feeding, burping, nappy changing, non-sleeping, repeat–most times feeling like a zombie but marvelling at the strength and energy that does not seem to deplete just because the mere sight of this tiny creature that I call my son recharges what could otherwise have been a thoroughly spent body.

Even before beginning to talk about the highs and lows of labor and hours of strenuous pushing, I wanted to say something about my pregnancy woes that tend to debunk some notions about being pregnant. We often hear about the pregnancy glow, but whoever came up with the phrase must have taken some rainbow supplements as I on the other hand dealt with a barrage of swelling, headaches, bloating, constipation and the overall feeling of being downright fat and ugly. And these just become minor discomforts when you’re constantly navigating emotional turbulence.

The dramatic breaking of water that we see in movies does not always happen. So is the fairly poised new mom who after a few pushes and screaming gets a naked crying baby plopped on her. Birthing seems like a breeze. Although that’s undoubtedly downplayed and is not the expectation, the birthing process is way more complicated. No amount of research and classes could have prepared me for what actually happens in those delivery rooms. I would not dare go into details. Just that like the actual delivery which was messy, raw and intense, so were my emotions throughout that seemingly endless experience. Suffice to say I absolutely forgot the ‘inhale, exhale’ process but managed to unleash the monster inside me who was ready to breathe fire on anyone I fancied every time those horrendous contractions came.

We women are very lucky these days as we are spoiled with all sorts of medications to make the birthing journey with the least amount of pain possible. And despite being initially heroic thinking I could just do with the laughing gas, I ended up abusing the drugs. Those moments, I became an addict. All my resolutions were thrown out the window as all I could think with sobriety was “Give me mooooore!” Which makes me wonder how in the world did my grandmother deliver those babies, all ten of them, without even a single drop of morphine to dull the pain away. That woman is unbelievable!

Don’t even get me started on what happens after birth. Your body becomes delicately foreign to your own self after. No one really tells you about more swelling,the seemingly nonstop bleeding from your lady parts, cracked nipples, hemorrhoids, incontinence, immobility, more constipation. Plus, you still look very pregnant. On top of these, you have to deal with baby blues or worse, postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is real. Though you are over the moon with the blessing you’ve been praying for a long time, sometimes you just don’t have control over the surge of loneliness or just an overall feeling of helplessness that comes over you. But you can’t complain. You’re just driven by this unconditional love for someone. Immeasurable love that nothing’s more important than his well-being. But I cannot emphasize enough that PPD is real and this should be recognized and talked about more often for awareness, enlightenment, and support when it is due.

Your body is different from that of another woman. I was so worried when my pospartum healing did not go as fast as I thought it would, especially when you see others making it look like their delivery was a walk down the park. I had feelings of guilt and inadequacy as I felt like I should be doing more for my little one but my aches and pains hindered me from doing so. I had to be reminded constantly not to be so hard on myself.

You’d think you’ll have plenty of time to do things and tick off a couple of tasks or goals that are overdue as a sleeping baby can afford you all the time you need. But very soon you’ll realize that getting the opportunity to take a five-minute shower is a luxury itself. On that note, I have to remind myself daily that sleep is more important than a clean house.

Giving birth is transformative. It changes you from a woman to a mother. It profoundly affects how you feel about your body–whether the experience was empowering or disabling. It either makes you feel like you can conquer the world or you feel downright inadequate.

Those are but a few of the personal realizations that I’ve discovered whilst cruising the calm and turbulence of a first time mom. Now I have found a more enlightened respect and awe for mothers. From being pregnant to giving birth to taking care of a new human being involves herculean efforts that women amazingly accomplish with little to no sleep at all.

Motherhood entails a lot of responsibility and utmost commitment but never should we be pressured by anything or anyone. What works for others may not be what’s best for you. Be reminded that you are doing great mama! You do you!

And although being a mom comes with a tremendous amount of work, it is truly a gift and a privilege. Everything about it should be embraced. Yes, flabs and stretch marks included.

I have a million things I need to learn for someone so new at this. Not everything has been pleasant as I realized when I crossed those bridges but if blessed with another opportunity to have another go through the whole shebang with the promise of another precious being, or two, oh yes I’ll do it again. In a heartbeat. Well maybe not the ten babies like Super Granny had, that’s pushing it.

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