A 14-MONTH-LONG “FOURTH TRIMESTER:” ADVENTURES IN BECOMING A HIGHLY SENSITIVE & INTROVERTED PARENT
Even if you weren’t aware of my maternity leave, you may have noticed my absence. I spent the past two years learning to become a (relatively) well-adjusted highly sensitive parent to my adorable and highly sensitive now-toddler. Wow, what a steep learning curve! I’m grounded enough in my new role to start putting myself out there again, so here I am, new parent brain and all. Trust me, it’s a real thing.
When I was pregnant, a lot of people talked about how “rewarding” parenting is. And going through labor and delivery quickly reminded me that — along with awe, joy, and complete transformation — rewarding also meant “incredibly difficult!”
You’ve heard of the fourth trimester; It’s the supposed 3 months post-birth when your baby needs an adult’s support literally every second of every day. For us, these conceptual additional “trimesters” seemed to continue much longer than expected. Our doula mentioned that around 6 weeks or so, we would probably have some form of a routine figured out. If she meant, “You’ll be able to brush your teeth almost every days at that point,” she was correct.
The combination of my need for a significant amount of alone time, the SPS trait, a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder, and my wonderful child’s sweet personality and intense needs meant we truly didn’t feel balanced until over a year after the birth. We still have occasional hard days, but we know each other well and enough time passed to establish effective communication, loving limits, and flexible routines. And for those of you brand new parents reading, rest assured that it tends to become objectively easier for most families once babyhood is over, generally speaking.
This is the most important thing I’ll ever say about parenting: Every child, every parent, and every relationship is different! No one knows a child the way their primary caregivers do. No book, “expert,” or group has all the answers for your unique family. Please keep this in my mind as you read this series, as well as receiving any parenting advice.
I don’t want to complain at all about the process of transitioning into a new life situation and different role, but instead to validate others struggling with these huge life changes. I have an honest, dialectical view and story to tell and I hope it will help people in the same boat. I love (and like!) my child more than anything, along with our new life together. And at the same time, take it from someone who felt surprisingly disoriented from “only” moving to a new and better office a few months before becoming pregnant, a highly sensitive person’s switch from non-parent to parent felt very overwhelming.
As a contribution to Lauren Heffernan’s Baby-Led Sleep and Wellbeing Specialist Certification Course earlier this year, I wrote an 18-page article on the HSP’s experience of growing into a parent. I promise not to bombard you with the whole thing right now. Instead I’ll post it as a multi-part blog series over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for MUCH more on upcoming Mondays. In the meantime, take another look at my summary of introversion and Dr. Elaine Aron’s description of the four main components of the SPS trait. I’ll talk to you soon.
In the next few months, I plan to accept a handful of new clients, all of whom will be highly sensitive parents seeking support and depth therapy. Take a look at my practice FAQ’s and call/email to schedule an intake.