A letter to the highly sensitive new mother

Hi there.

It’s Anna. I see that you’re in the first three months of motherhood. You might not know me, but I’ve been in your shoes. And I want you to know:

I see you.

I see the giving and the giving up that you are doing. Giving your time, your energy, your love, your sleep, your body, your patience. Giving up your hot meals, your warm coffee, your sleep, your “me” time, your ease, your planning, your regrouping time, your self-care.

I see you giving every last inch of everything you have.

Because you have to. And you want to. And because you chose to, you feel like to have to want to. But some days, more wanting to, you’ll have to.

And of course you love your new little being. Of course. That is not in question.

You are sensitive. You have needs – needs that probably include lots of time to yourself, a solid nine hours of sleep, quiet time with tea and a good book, a yoga practice, silent walks in the forest, a cup of coffee with a good friend, wine and a good cry, and on occasion, a season or eight of Grey’s Anatomy.

You need time to yourself to recharge.

And now, as a new mother, you get none.

There is no time alone. There is no time when no one needs you. Someone always needs you. And if it’s not your adorable and lovable new infant, it will be your partner. Who needs you to feed your infant. Needs you to change your infant. Needs you to tell him how to pack the diaper bag, or cook lasagna, or talk about work, or call his mother, or write a shopping list, or dress your child, or bathe your child, or all of the other things that you instinctively keep track of.

Your child will cry and you will wonder what you did wrong. Because you’re the mother. Is it your milk? Did you eat something weird? Is he reacting to caffeine? Is it the new vitamin? Oh, it’s a Wonder Week. Or a growth spurt. Or some other sort of new phase. You will figure this out because this is who you are.

I see the mental labor you are doing.

You will hold your baby while she cries. You will find all the ways to soothe him to sleep. You will start to know, without knowing how, just what comes next – to stick out this strategy or try the next one. But it might feel all fuddled for a while. That’s okay. You will become the entire world of your child, her environment, his landscape, while losing your own.

I had always heard the sayings about the sacrifice of mothers, but I never understood it until I stood inside motherhood myself and banged my fists against the cold, isolating walls hung with pictures of my adorable child making feel guilty for not loving every moment of it.

I see the emotional labor you are doing.

Maybe you’re incredibly in love with everyday. Or maybe you are just holding it together. Or you’re not holding it together, but you’re trying to. You’re trying so goddamned hard, and it’s so fucking lonely, and you just need someone to give you a vacation. Just a four hour vacation where you’re not rushing – rushing to get back so your partner doesn’t get too frustrated, rushing so your boobs don’t explode, rushing because . . . you don’t why anymore you just are always rushing around. Because there’s never enough time for all of the things.

Especially the things that nourished you and your sensitive system.

If there was one thing I would have wanted to hear in the first three months of being a mother, it would have been this:

You deserve to have your own needs met, too. But with all the attention of the baby, you will have to ask for help. And you might have to ask loudly.

But please, do it. Ask for what you need. Is it a massage? A hike? Two hours alone to watch reruns of Scandal and sip coffee uninterrupted? Three hours in a coffee shop with a good book? Figure out what it is. Take those precious few moments when the baby is asleep and you are drifting off and dream – figure out what would fortify and nourish you.

Don’t feel bad about what it is! After giving myself to my infant so fully for so long, what I wanted surprised me – I wanted a manicure and fake eyelashes. I wanted something that was completely frivolous and only for me. Not a new shirt . . . that was easy to nurse in. Or a new kitchen item . . . that made cooking for the family easier. I wanted something just for me. 

You’ve been giving everything, sensitive one, and I see it. It’s okay to ask for something just for yourself. And ask often.

Because here’s the thing: motherhood isn’t fair. You will do more than your partner. Even if you have the greatest partner in the world, the most superb co-parent, dad of the year. You will do more of the mental labor. And the emotional labor. And the giving up of your needs. And you may still be required to function more highly than anyone else in the household.

And this is the time when so many mothers get isolated. Which you cannot let happen to you, sensitive one. You, more than any other kind of mother, must get fortified. Your sensitive nervous system requires it.

Ask for help.

Call your friends.

Talk to your neighbors.

Join a parenting support group.

See a therapist.

Get an energy healing. And a massage. And your nails done.

Because those first few months – they’re rough. Wonderful, beautiful and rough. It will get better. Around 12 weeks, things will get easier. But if you’re not fortified yourself at that time, then next 12 weeks will be much more exhaustive. So get what you need now, and make it a habit.

Being a highly sensitive mother is challenging for the same reasons you are so good at it – you are so extra attuned to your child’s needs.

Just don’t forget fortify yourself.

Yours in mamahood and sensitivity,

Anna

 

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