What It's Like to Parent When You're a Highly Sensitive Person
Having a baby as a highly sensitive person
If you are planning a baby as a highly sensitive person I strongly suggest that you and your partner are well aware of your traits and needs as an HSP (if your partner is non-HSP). It is important that your spouse is supportive and understanding and can help you slow down, ground and deal with rising overstimulation and overwhelm. HSPs feel everything very deeply and this will most probably increase when you are having a baby or getting pregnant. You need to know that you might be even more emotional and that your skin will get a little bit thinner.
It is also good to have a plan ahead for the baby. Becoming a parent is a bless and truly wonderful but also a huge responsibility. Are you ready for sleepless nights, less time for yourself, financial changes, and putting the baby’s needs before your own? As highly sensitive you can also expect that your heart will break much more easily when the baby is born. A baby can also put some serious stress on even the best relationship. That´s why it is crucial that your relationship is solid, it should be strong enough to handle the big changes.
If you are planning to raise a child without a partner, you need to ask yourself these questions:
How much support do you have from friends, family, and community?
Can you handle the financial responsibility of caring for a child on your own?
Can you handle the day-to-day work of caring for a child on your own?
Who will take care of your child when you are working or going to school?
How I found out that I was a highly sensitive person
I always knew I was a little different but I thought that I was just very intuitive and empathetic. As long as I can remember I have picked up energies from people around me and had the ability to sense what they are feeling. Their pains, illnesses, and stresses. I would consider myself a social person, but with limits. I get easily overstimulated if it gets too noisy or crowded.
When I was in the mid 30´s I counseled a therapist to solve my relationship problems. I have been in codependent relationships earlier where my partner has taken advantage of my caring and helping nature. I often felt exhausted and drained emotionally. I find out that I actually was a highly sensitive person during the therapy and it was such an AHA-experience. The therapy really helped me to acknowledge my own needs, setting healthy boundaries and develop coping skills for dealing with my emotions. It also helped me to end a very toxic relationship.
But the real challenge came a couple of years later when I moved to Norway and became a mom. And not just a brand new mom, I also became a stepmom to a 3-year-old. The idyllic family life that I had visualized didn´t turn out as expected.
Life was turning upside down. I had no family or friends in Norway except from my stepfather who lived about 80 km away with a ferry crossing.
The emotional challenges of pregnancy
I got pregnant almost instantly when I moved to Norway (and it was not a part of the plan). When I got pregnant my sensitivity went through the roof. I became more aware of smells and sounds and experienced severe nausea during the first trimester. I treated myself with essential oils like lavender and peppermint, vitamin B6 and ginger to make it a little bit easier. Eating some crackers during the day also helped. Emotionally I was very tired with less energy, social interactions and public places became more challenging.
Around week 26 I started to have painful contractions, cramps, and backache and had to stop working earlier than planned. I was constantly worried about preterm labor and losing the baby. I practiced meditation daily to handle anxiety and needed a lot of rest. I also listened a lot to empowering birth stories and used positive affirmations to prepare for my birth. I have learned that there’s so much you cannot prepare for when it comes to motherhood though.
In July 2018 my beautiful baby daughter Ellen arrived and I will never forget that first meeting with her. I was completely blown away by this tiny little person. She was born with a c-section at week 40. The surgery went fine but it took a long time to recover and heal. Lifting, bending and walking was hard and I had very little support and help as my spouse went back to work again after just a couple of days. Luckily my baby girl was happy and healthy.
Life was turning upside down. I had no family or friends in Norway except from my stepfather who lived about 80 km away with a ferry crossing. I didn't know my boyfriend that good either, as everything had gone really fast but I decided to hang in there and try to work things out even if it was scary.
3-Year-Old Acting out After New Baby Arrives
After just 4-5 months in my new baby bubble, my 3-year-old stepdaughter started to have severe and persistent tantrums and outbursts multiple times per day. She was crying, screaming and kicking for no particular reason and it could last for 15 minutes or more. She also got a baby brother in her mom's family so maybe she has had a lot of change to deal with lately, getting two siblings at the same time. It is common that siblings get these tantrums and strong emotions to cope with a new baby "invading" their home.
She also seemed to be unable to sit still, talked nonstop and acting out to seek attention. Being around a loud and super active kid for a long time can create a lot of tension in my body and feel like a launching rocket in my head. I also absorb all that nervousness and anxiety as they were my own feelings. It makes me feel drained and off-balance. I also had a hard time dealing with her loud playing, crying, toys everywhere (I like to have it organized) and the fact that she was very uncooperative most of the time.
My nervous system literally shifted into crisis mode and I felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin when she transformed into The Screamer. We lived in a very small house so it was difficult for me to remove myself from the situation and find shelter. People told me that she is just a kid and that I needed to accept the behavior but that is easier said than done when you are close to a nervous breakdown.
Spending time outdoors in nature really helped me reduce stress and anxiety. I also added yoga and meditation to my daily routine.
I eventually got better from the c-section and then I started to take long walks outside with Ellen in the stroller just to get a break from the 3-year-old´s power struggles. Spending time outdoors in nature really helped me reduce stress and anxiety. I also added yoga and meditation to my daily routine. Self-care and downtime are really important for us highly sensitive moms to balance our emotions, clear overstimulation as well as clear our minds.
I’m still making my way on this journey and learning new things every day. I want to share my experiences and tools with you so we can have a more peaceful, fulfilling and balanced life as highly sensitive parents.
© 2019 Julia Moss