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Motherhood Has Made Me Way Sensitive

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Photograph by Twenty20

There was a time in my life when I could do it—I could watch holiday commercials. Now, the moment the sappy music begins, I’m reduced to a weepy puddle on the floor. It’s so bad I’ve started stealing my 5-year-old’s emergency tissues from his pocket. Meet the new me. These new, high emotions are an unexpected side effect of motherhood. My heart has burst wide open and I can’t seem to figure out what to do with it.

When I was a pregnant, there were soothsaying grandmothers that formed lines to tell me how my baby would change my life. When I had my son I knew they’d been correct. I felt changed. I felt different. Giving birth not only unlocked my bladder for life, it also unlocked my heart and every feeling in it. However, the wisest of these fortune-tellers in fanny packs neglected to mention that this change would involve feeling all these feelings forever. I’m running out of my kid’s Kleenex.

It’s been five years since my son was born and I still find myself extremely reactive. Tiny events capture me like never before. Where I could once glance at the butterfly floating past me, I’m now moved to tears by its effortless beauty. Where I could maybe just notice the stain on my new pants, I burst into tears because I’ve failed to remove it. (OK, I’ve always cried at stains.) I react as quick as a wink and even a wink can set me off. Some people “wear their heart on their sleeve.” I am my heart. Puberty has nothing on this strange state of affairs, and it doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.

Giving birth not only unlocked my bladder for life, it also unlocked my heart and every feeling in it.

As strange as this new-fangled openness has been on my relationships with butterflies, I have actually found it useful in my relationship with my son. Perhaps that’s the reason for my uber fragile heart. My increased softness is allowing me to better parent my kid. I’m able to feel our connection more strongly and this has helped me comfort my son through many life lessons. My rawness has enabled me to be acutely aware of his sadness or frustration. This heads-up helps me guide him through it and I’m happy that this strange side effect has aided him on so many occasions.

My fragile behavior still surprises me and so there are some days that I become overwhelmed by it all. My heart doesn’t come with an on/off switch. If it did, I’d have certainly used it during that breakup in college. And while watching "The Notebook." I never imagined having a baby would change all of my insides so drastically. Lately, though, I’m realizing I’m glad it did. It can be a struggle to remain present, but I’m a much better parent for it—and a better person.

I’m no stranger to emotions, even though all these heightened emotions are strange to me. I may not always know what do with my surplus of feels, but I’m not ready to trade in my newer sensitive mom soul. Being a sap has its benefits. In this case, it makes me more aware of my child’s emotional needs. With that in mind, I’m happy to be moved at holiday commercials, back-to-school commercials and Arbor Day commercials. This unique gift is one I’ll take—along with a lot more emergency tissues.

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