My Clingy Toddler: Dealing with Separation Anxiety

If my 14 ½-month old son can Velcro himself to me, I’m pretty sure he would. That’s how attached he is to me ever since he was a tiny baby.

I always thought it was just a phase since he was only 6 months old. He wanted to be held a lot and would panic when he doesn’t see me in the room. Everything I read said it was normal for babies to be attached to one or two people – usually mom and dad – and separation anxiety was a healthy part of their development.

But when he turned one, I saw how other kids around his age would just forget about their parents and impatiently dive into toys and anything they can get their hands on. During his first birthday party, I looked at the little kids running around our house, then at my baby stuck to my hip. I know I shouldn’t compare my kid with others, but I couldn’t help it – I was hit with a huge pang of envy.

“He’s probably overwhelmed by this many people,” says one of my friends whose baby is so independent, she even feels ignored sometimes. She may be right, because my son doesn’t exactly get to be around people often.

“Maybe he’s just tired,” says another one. I could think of about 35 other reasons why this boy just won’t let go, and they could all be true. Still, for a while I questioned my parenting skills and asked myself, “why is my baby so clingy?”

These thoughts screamed in my head especially when he and I went to visit our family in another country – family he had no awareness of. Each time I left his sight to go on a bathroom break, he would wail like he was being tortured, only stopping the waterworks as soon as he was in my arms.

It didn’t matter how many people were more than willing to lend me a hand and watch him for a few minutes so I can at least shower. He would refuse to survive without my physical presence.

I knew this was going to happen – after all, we were in a strange place with oddly hot weather and a completely different time zone that threw off his schedule. Everything familiar to him was pulled off his feet, plus he got sick right after we landed, so I knew we were going to be in for a rough first few days.

Unfortunately, it lasted more than a few days. I was so exhausted and at my wit’s end – this vacation without his dad was turning out to be a bad idea, mostly because the break I was looking for backfired on me.

Somehow, we survived even before my husband finally arrived. Milo eventually warmed up to his grandparents, aunties and uncles, playing with them and walking around other places even without me in the room.

He would sign to them, babble and dance to their songs, and behaved perfectly fine as long as they didn’t attempt to take him away. And when he met his cousins, they played as if they’ve known each other all his life to a point where he wouldn’t even care where we were.

More importantly, I had to make some changes in perspective. Instead of “taking a break” from baby care, I decided to think of this whole trip as a long bonding experience and an adventure for me and my son. Though I desperately needed a break, I told myself this wasn’t going to last.

Before I know it, this boy will not want to hold my hand anymore as he learns to walk on his own - I will be the one running after him. Someday, he’ll refuse to kiss me as he runs to meet his friends. And someday, he will be keeping me out of his room… and then all I will have are memories of him as a little boy who couldn’t be without me.

So instead of pushing him to be independent, all I really needed to do was to cherish this short time that he is a baby, because it will be over soon.

See, my mommy instinct now tells me I am right. Since he has mastered his walking skill, he has become more and more independent, venturing into big open places, eager to explore. And when there are other kids around, I turn into wallpaper or a little shrub on the side. Independence is slowly growing into my boy.

Now, the bitter-sweet countdown begins.


First Birthday Surprise

*March 21, 2009

I had a vision for the day my son turns one – some balloons, good food shared with guests bringing gifts and eating cake. Unfortunately, his celebration didn’t go exactly the way I planned.

On the Thursday before his birthday (which fell on a Saturday), he started with a runny nose and a mild cough. Friday morning, he was wheezing, and by noon, he was breathing rapidly. Good thing Nino was home, because we took him straight to his pediatrician.

After a couple breathing treatments, doc said his oxygen saturation levels were still dangerously low, and she feared he could have pneumonia. PNEUMONIA – the day before his birthday.

I never thought my baby could develop pneumonia in one day, but he did, because his lungs are tiny and there is not much room for virus or bacteria to move around. He didn’t even run a fever, so his diagnosis really came as a shock to us. He was admitted that same afternoon, which also meant we had to cancel his planned celebration.

But we decided not to let the situation stop us from celebrating.

Nino picked up the balloons we ordered and tied them to his bedside. Our good friends, Mayick – who happened to be in LA for work – and Toni brought pancit malabon and Jollibee Chicken Joy for merienda. The nurses were also very sweet and accommodating, and even gave him a cake (which I ate, coz he was allergic to dairy), birthday bear and toys for presents, knowing it was his first birthday.

Thankfully, he felt better on his exact birthday, well enough for him to smile on the camera even with oxygen strapped to him, and well enough to enjoy this day despite everything he had to be put through.

Though I never envisioned a hospital bed in Milo’s first birthday celebration, we still got to have balloons, yummy food, guests, gifts and cake, too, even if it had to be in the same hospital where he was born exactly one year ago.

Of course, we still pushed through with his parties at home, – we just had to postpone everything two weeks later. What a way to mark Milo's first birthday...

“Life has a funny way of helping you up when you think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up in your face…” – Alanis Morisette


Missing You, Blog

It’s been almost 6 months since I started my blog hiatus, and it’s not because nothing has gone on, but in fact because of the exact opposite.

I have experienced having my son admitted in the hospital for pneumonia on his first birthday, working from home part-time on an ongoing freelance gig, flying with a 1-year-old boy by myself – trans-Pacific, no less (that's a 14-hour flight with a 4-hour lay-over, followed by a shorter 2-hour flight) – and all the while fighting not post-partum depression, but being-isolated-and-away-from-family-and-friends depression (is there a label to that?).

It’s been a very busy first-half-of-the-year indeed. There were days and weeks when I would lay awake wishing I was blogging about thoughts in my head instead of lying to myself that I was asleep. And while most of these happenings deserve their own entry, I know I will never have time to write all of those (I never did), so to catch up with myself, allow me to combine some of them here:

Mommy instinct and attachment parenting
I didn’t know our style of parenting had a name, until I started seeing the term “attachment parenting” on everything I read that I related to:
Our baby slept on our bed from day one (co-sleeping).
I breastfed exclusively to build my milk supply (exclusive breastfeeding or EBF).
I (or my mom or my husband) carried my baby around with me all day using a sling (baby wearing).
And we placed him on the potty as soon as he learned to sit up on his own (elimination communication).
All these were instinctive to us, to me especially. And regardless of what other “experts” say or what other well-meaning relatives and friends tell me, I wouldn’t parent my kid any other way.

Satisfaction Not Guaranteed
I turned 30 in February, and it was perhaps one of the most depressing seasons of my life. Not because of my age, but because I felt so unfulfilled. And so guilty for feeling unfulfilled despite having a loving family – my darling husband and my adorable baby boy – and being blessed to have the choice of staying home to raise my kid.

But it was hard to admit that I wasn’t content with my life, because seeing your baby grow up right under your nose was supposed to be rewarding. Why was I depressed?

Maybe because I wasn’t earning a single penny the way I did all my life, while my friends were being promoted and succeeding in their endeavors left and right. I felt so left out – not to mention rusty. I couldn’t admit that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this new job because I couldn’t deal with the guilt of working and having a stranger raise my baby.

Maybe because I didn’t enjoy doing chores and keeping house. I felt like my time should’ve been spent trying to find ways to earn money or connecting with people from the outside world.

And maybe because I felt isolated, having no or little support here when I knew I couldn’t even count my family and friends overseas. Then more than ever, I felt the necessity of having emotional support.

But really, why was I still depressed? I guess my friend said it best: because there is more to being a woman than being a wife and a mom.

Dealing with Food Allergies
After a scary trip to the ER when my son was 8 months old, we soon established that he had a lot of food allergies. On his 12-month checkup, his blood panel revealed allergies to cow’s milk protein, wheat, soy, eggs and peanuts. We also had lots of hits and misses with other food, with the misses being fish, shellfish, squash, peas and lentils.

Thank God for the Internet, or I would have pulled out my hair trying to think of what to feed him. I learned to make our own baby food sans allergenic ingredients from recipes online. Plus, I learned to bake a dairy-less, egg-less chocolate cake for his first birthday celebration -- with frosting!

We are still hopeful that he will eventually outgrow his allergies. After all, he is still just a baby. And then maybe one day, I can gladly share with my crème brulee, ice cream, peanut butter, shrimp pasta...

Shopping for Baby Shoes
Shocking. That’s what I think of the prices of a pair of new shoes, whether they are for babies learning to walk, or those already walking. I can also say insane. Why would I purchase a $40 pair of shoes for my baby who will be using them for a couple months AT MOST? I don’t even buy shoes over $30 for myself, and I use mine for well over 5 years. And yes, I’m a cheapskate, but still, $40?!!!

I guess the only reasonable place to buy shoes for a baby is on craigslist, Salvation Army or Goodwill for second-hand shoes, or on Gymboree or Old Navy sales. Better yet, find a friend with an older baby. Nothing beats hand-me-downs.

Jon and Kate Plus 8
I discovered their show while I was on maternity leave. At that time, the twins were only 6 and the sextuplets were 2, and were they a sight to see. Loving their show even prompted me to record all the reruns including the first 2 specials about their family.

What drew me to watch them was the fact that Kate was (at that time) managing a household with 8 kids like a well-oiled machine, while I was going crazy with 1. And the fact that I secretly envied them, because as much as I wanted a big family of my own, I knew that it was going to be impossible if we stay here in the US. Impossible for me physically, mentally and emotionally, because raising a family without the proper support group can be deadly.

Sadly, their show has spiraled downhill because of the alleged scandals the couple now faces. It’s unbelievable what mainstream media can do. But I do wish they can come out of this with their family intact, even if that means I will have to stop seeing those adorable little faces I see every week.

Whew! I hope your eyes didn't bleed. This is barely even half of what I wanted to write. I can’t believe my head didn’t explode. But there is more to come...
I’m a new mom and this is my story. I’m sharing with you my moments of joy, tears, excitement, and every other emotion that comes with being a mom, whether you’re a new mom yourself, a veteran mom, a mom-to-be, even a dad-to-be. Learn from my experience, or reminisce about your own. Welcome to this mom’s world!