Hi everyone - Sorry in advance if this is long. I'm not around here much in part because computer time is so limited these days but I really valued this community with my first baby. Now DS2 has just turned one and we both could really use some help. He has what I believe is really quite intense separation anxiety. Since about 3.5 mos, he has needed to be physically touching me pretty much all the time. He can play independently or with DH or DS1 for a few minutes at a time but rarely can I be out of sight. Even when I am actively interacting with him (ie. playing at passing a ball back and forth), I can rarely go more than 3 feet away before he bursts into tears, truly full of fear. He won't let anyone else hold him hardly ever, including DH and family members he sees often. He'll smile for DH but clings to me desperately when anyone else comes near. He can sleep on his own (nursed/cuddled down) but only for 30 mins or so then he screams in terror when he wakes up and realizes I'm not there. Even DH can't calm him if I get up to go to the bathroom at night, DS always wakes up the moment I roll away from him and he wails unconsolably until I come back.
All that said, as long as I am right there (and I mean right there), he is a super happy, giggly, flirty, charming little dude who eats and sleeps well and has no health problems that we are aware of. He has never suffered any trauma (though I am now quite certain he was abandoned by his mother in a past life!) and his older brother is mostly very gentle and loving, with the exception of the usual toddler ball of energy stuff. I know that a certain degree of separation fear is normal as babies start to get mobile and explore their world but my DS seems to be far far more extreme than anything I've read about in books.
I'm a SAHM and consider myself very AP in general - I have always embraced baby wearing, co-sleeping and being together 24/7 so in general I am able to give my son what he needs. However, it is emotionally and physically draining. I literally have not been by myself for more than three minutes at a time for almost a year. Nor has DS1 had me all to himself in that time and that is also taking a toll. DS2 is on me in an Ergo up to seven hours a day sometimes. More importantly, I'm starting to get really worried about my son's fears. I don't know how to help him to feel better about his world. I don't even know if I should be doing anything to help him at this stage, other than just going with the flow and responding to his needs. However, no matter how close I try to be all day, there are always a few moments here and there when I have to step away (never sneaking away, always making eye contact and talking to him) and this absolutely devastates him - I hate that he feels this way repeatedly even if it's only for a few seconds each time.
I'd love to hear from others who are going through the same thing or who have in the past. What were your coping mechanisms? Was there anything you could do to help your baby feel better and increase their independence? Did this degree of separation anxiety resolve itself or did it lead to other anxieties later in their development?
Thanks so much for reading this far and I really appreciate your thoughts.