a blog about raising a daughter with cerebral palsy and learning unexpected lessons along the way

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Gym

We have a gym just minutes away from our home. It's a decent gym with a nursery where kiddos can play while parents workout. And what's even better, my sister is a fitness instructor there so guess who gets to work out without forking over the price of a membership? It's really nice.

But, there's only one problem.

Oia hates the nursery.

Workouts are an hour. It's the only me time I get. On average, just twice a week. Since Rob is rarely home before 6pm, I have no choice but to take Oia to the nursery. It's not a busy gym and most times Oia is the only child, maybe occasionally one other child is in there at the same time. You'd think that would be the perfect scenario for her; an adult all to herself but noooooo...

The moment I walk into the building, her demeanor changes. She squeezes me tighter, she looks with caution and knows something is up. I know most kids her age experience separation anxiety but this to me seems extreme.

I never make a big deal that mommy is leaving or that I'm going 'bye-bye'. I feel the best approach is a stealthy one so the drop off is loving but quick. (I have tried to stick around in the nursery to play for a few minutes before leaving but that didn't work either). Instantly, she's screaming. Screaming bloody murder.

The workout studio has a two-way window into the nursery. Little ones can't see into the studio as the window is too high but I can peek over and check on Oia as I feel necessary; which is all the time. When your child is crying inconsolably and the reason is because you left, it's very hard to concentrate, much less enjoy anything you are trying to do. In addition, when you hear your child screaming through a wall and over the blaring workout music in the next room, you're heart tells you to skip the workout and save your baby. But how in the heck do you help your child overcome a severe case of separation anxiety when you swoop in right away with rescuing arms?

So what is supposed to be enjoyable for me is far from it. It's an emotionally draining hour for the both of us. My mind wonders here, there, and everywhere the entire time. I'm analyzing the situation. I'm thinking... Is this time for me really worth Oia's misery? Is my daughter interfering with others who are here to work out in peace? Should I just stop now? Dear God, what triggers a seizure? Could it be emotional stress from screaming at the top of your lungs for an hour? What in the heck is she going to do come August when I drop her off at preschool for a few hours? Oia needs a healthy mom, right? Stay here and stick this out, she'll be fine. Maybe if I give it just 5 more minutes, she'll be alright...if not, then I'll leave...just 5 more minutes...

And 'just 5 more minutes' after 5 more minutes turns into an hour later. I make it through the workout and Oia's still crying. Once she sees me again, she still can't completely calm herself down. She wraps her little arms around my neck and hugs me as tight as she did just before I left her but with a red and runny nose, bloodshot eyes and tear covered glasses; she is crushed. Absolutely crushed. I always thank the staff for their patience but they swear it's no big deal to them, even asking to bring her back and try it again.

I've taken Oia now about 5-6 times. Other times, Rob comes home slightly early which saves her from the hour of torture. Each time she goes through it, it's the same outcome and it doesn't appear to be getting better anytime soon.

Everyone says 'Oh, she'll get used to it'....but when? Preschool is roughly 8 weeks away.

Tough love sucks.


  1. OH Mo! Poor things, both of you! I know your heart is breaking for her, Mo! I don't know what to suggest. Just some hugs from down a little down south....Maybe try shortening it and doing it more often? Just throwing out ideas?

  2. Tough love does suck, but as you say, separation is inevitable so you might as well practice when it is worthwhile. People have to remind me to do things for me, even if it takes me away from my girls (I have a lot of guilt over being a working mom) and so I will remind you the way my people do for me - sometimes you really need to do things for yourself. It helps me that when it is something like exercise that I can tell myself I will be a better mother if I am healthy enough to do the job well. Hang in there Mo, and really she will get used to it. Really.

  3. I do think separation anxiety will change with more exposure...meaning, she will get used to it EVENTUALLY. But you have a real concern with the "what triggers a seizure?" comment.
    Since you've done this a few times, can you relax and decide her screaming won't cause a seizure? That's a great piece of information, right? Also...as another plus side, her screaming will only increase her vocal exercise. We used to be thrilled when E would scream, b/c she was mute so long and her speech was so delayed. We called it "increasing her breath support" as a euphemism.
    Would it help if you did go at a busier time? Maybe with more kids she would want to be around them--and forget about crying so much?
    I know this breaks your heart. I hope it gets better soon.

  4. I've read through quite a bit of your blog - Oia is absolutely beautiful! I'm looking forward to following your story.

    As for the separation anxiety - I have no advice. I can imagine how hard it is for you but you're right that you need to take time for yourself and she'll need to cope with separation eventually.

    There is a little girl who has been in the same daycare group as Bennett since he was about two. I remember that she would be crying every morning when I dropped Bennett off and usually still crying when I picked him up 3 hours later. After about 4 months it started to change gradually and now she never cries and is always smiling and quite happy to be there. I doubt that story is of much help but I just wanted to let you know that sometimes is seems to take a while for some kids to get over the separation anxiety.

    I hope it gets better for you soon...

  5. STICK WITH IT! It's normal for her to have separation anxiety, but she will learn that you always come back. Even MORE important, you NEED that "me time". It's vital to your emotional health, and working out is soooo good for you.

  6. Well, preschool will help if nothing else does!

    It's always hard when our kiddos are sad--I would just keep explaining the situation to her and hope that eventually thing improve.