Dear highly sensitive soul

Welcome to the June 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Talking to Yourself

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written letters to themselves. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Dear Ten Year-younger-self,

You are about to begin a new phase of your life. You are excited and a little fearful, but mostly excited. You look back on your life, your childhood, your teens and twenties, and somehow know that they were leading to this moment.

All those years of desperately NOT wanting to get pregnant well they seem ridiculous to you now, because getting pregnant is ALL you can think about.

Don’t worry, it will happen, and it will be all that you wished for and more.

The deep ache of maternal love that you can already feel the one that tugs at the fibres of your heart will grow and expand as your first child grows in your womb. This love will, at times, be all-consuming. This love, so pure, so uncomplicated by ego or shame or guilt, will make all the romances of your past ridiculous they will seem as flimsy as the film of a newly-blown soap bubble.

Mother and child sketch, by Marija Smits

Me & my girl (Mother and child sketch) by Marija Smits

But there will be more that you won’t have anticipated. Fear will be an ever-present companion to this deep maternal love. For by witnessing, and being an active participant in the miracle of birth you will also understand death better. You will catch a glimpse of your mortality, and your child’s mortality, and it will shake you to your core.

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to scare you. This knowledge, so vast, will be useful. It will deepen your understanding of the world and yourself. It will help you to grow as a person. And your husband will always be there for you, to help you absorb this new, vast, knowledge. He will hold your child with great tenderness. He will support you. He will protect you.

But fatherhood will change him too, although the change won’t be as drastic. You will have to work harder at communicating with each other. You will have to trust your instincts and parent your children in the way that you both want to, rather than how anyone else wants you to. You will have to learn how to assert on behalf of your new family unit and your husband will be your most loyal ally.

Yet it won’t be a smooth journey. You will have to learn how vital clear communication is. You will have to be creative in how to meet the needs of your little ones and your needs as a couple. Be patient, listen to each other. Know that your husband is ‘always on your side’. You will find a way.           

There will be more too… more things you won’t have anticipated. You will find birth to be an empowering experience. You will be amazed by the strength of your birthing body. You will also find breastfeeding and co-sleeping and carrying your little ones in a sling to be deeply satisfying. You will find a tribe of like-minded mothers and share the joy of breastfeeding with them. You will become passionate about helping mothers to breastfeed and the necessity of normalizing breastfeeding in our society. You will become a breastfeeding counselor and meet some wonderful women who will play a large part in your life. You will discover life-changing books and then set up a small press with the aim to publish books that normalize breastfeeding and celebrate empathy and femininity. You will sometimes wonder at how your life so suddenly changed direction, and for the better.

My girl and me, photo courtesy Marija Smits

My girl and me, photo courtesy Marija Smits        

And lastly… along the way you will come to understand and accept your true nature. Remember all those many, many times, and those many, many years, when you thought that there was something wrong with you because you somehow always felt too much, much more than anyone else seemed to? You will come to understand that there isn’t anything wrong with you. Other people have those feelings too but you (like many others out there too) experience them with a greater amplitude.

Some days you will hate being what is now recognized as a Highly Sensitive Person, because you’ll hate not having a ‘dimmer’ switch in your brain; you’ll hate that when you get an illness or an ache in your body it will niggle at you constantly and then turn into a monstrous fear that there’s something seriously wrong with you. You’ll hate that guilt and shame for past misdemeanours will often threaten to cause you to want to rip yourself apart, out of life itself, and you’ll hate that sometimes you feel as though human interactions aren’t worth bothering with because they’re a minefield of subtle physical and verbal gestures (yours and the other person’s) that are just so complicated that they send your mind reeling. And as much as you love, love, love your children, you will hate that there will be days when their arguments, shouting and never-ending stream of questions and requests will jangle your nerves so much that your normally patient self will snap! and then you’ll feel so bad that you’ll want to crawl into a hole and never, ever come out. You will hate that shopping or the school run is a big, big deal because of the noise and the possibility that something untoward might happen. You will hate the feeling of powerlessness you’ll experience when you know that politicians and giant corporations are doing scary, scary things to our planet and inhumane things to the humans and animals in it. You will cry when you see another human in pain on the news, and you’ll have to turn it off, and you’ll hate yourself for being overwhelmed by the pain and overwhelmed by the feeling that there is very little that you can do about it.        

But then there are the days when you wouldn’t swap being an HSP for anything. Those are the days when you’ve listened with empathy to a loved one and felt that you’ve helped them a little; the days when the sight of a blue sky can cause you to weep with joy; the days when you write something you’re pleased with or you make a good job of editing something for someone else; the days when you create art (something you’d always wanted to do but was frightened of doing for fear of it being wrong); the days when someone out of the blue says that an act of charity or an act of kindness you performed a while ago helped them; the days when the love for your family flows out of you and you thank God and all the stars in heaven that you got to be blessed with this beautiful family who love you so much.

Mother and son, by Marija Smits

Mother and son, by Marija Smits

I know that you’re probably weeping as you read this; I know because I’m weeping as I write. But you know, that’s okay. This is who you are. This is what you always will be, and it is better to know yourself than to not know yourself. This is the bittersweet gift you have been presented with: self-reflection.         

Try not to spend too much time worrying the future. Get yourself a couple of books Quiet & The Highly Sensitive Person (they will help you to learn all about yourself and people like you) and People Skills (so that you can learn how to communicate better and assert for yourself since passivity is another unfortunate trait of the HSP). Get hold of a couple of good books about mothering and breastfeeding (The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 7th edition and What Mothers Do for a start) and then you’ll pretty much be sorted. Oh, and keep on reading all that fiction – especially fairy tales – that sustained you through your childhood and early adulthood. It will be a constant source of comfort and a magical escape from the everyday stresses and strains of being a sensitive soul in a life full of noise, cares and people who say you need to get a thicker skin. (You don’t, you’re fine as you are, [but knowing that a useful critique of your work is not a criticism of you as a person will help!]

Sending you much, much love.

M x

 

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Dear Me. — Meegs at A New Day writes to her decade-younger self offering a good reminder of how far she’s come, and she addresses some fears she wishes future her could assuage.
  • Reflecting on Motherhood with Parental Intelligence: A Letter to Myself — Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. at Parental Intelligence writes about raising her two loving, empathic sons with Parental Intelligence and finding they have become industrious, accomplished young men with warm social relationships.
  • A Letter to MyselfThe Barefoot Mama writes to herself in the moments around the birth of her daughter.
  • A Letter to Myself — Holly at Leaves of Lavender offers a missive to herself in the past… three years in the past, to be precise, when her little one was only four months old.
  • Dear me: Nothing will go the way you’ve planned — Lauren at Hobo Mama gets real with her just-starting-parenting self and tells it to her straight.
  • A Letter to the Mama Whom I Will Become — Erin from And Now, for Something Completely Different writes a letter to the Mama whom she will one day be, filled with musings on the past, present, and future.
  • Dear Me of 7 Years Ago — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes to her pre-baby self telling her about the whirlwind she’s about to enter called parenting.
  • Talking to My 18 Year Old SelfHannahandHorn talks to herself as she is just entering college.
  • Dear highly sensitive soulMarija Smits tells a younger version of herself that motherhood will bring unexpected benefits – one of them being the realization that she is a highly sensitive person.
  • Talking to myself: Dear Pre StoneageparentStoneageparent enlightens her pre-pregnant self about the amazing transformations life has in store for her after having two children
  • Dear Me: I love you. — Dionna at Code Name: Mama wrote herself a few little reminders to help her be at peace with who she is in the moment. That may give her the greatest chance of being at peace in the future, too.
  • My best advice to the new mama I was 8 years ago — Tat at Mum in Search shares the one thing she wishes she’d figured out earlier in a letter to her 8-years-ago self (that’s when her first baby was 6 moths old).
  • A Letter to Myself — Bibi at The Conscious Doer sends a letter back in time eight years to her darkest moment post partum.
  • To me, with love — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama makes peace with her past and projects what a future her will need to hear.
  • To Myself on the Last Day — Rachael at The Variegated Life tells her panicked last-day-before-motherhood self not to worry.

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26 comments on “Dear highly sensitive soul

  1. Karuna says:

    This is a beautifully written post.

    Like

  2. Jessica says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I, too, have been rocked to the core through parenting and realized a lot about who I am. And that person is pretty darn sensitive! Thank you for the book recs and for sharing your journey. Glad to connect with you!

    Like

  3. […] Dear highly sensitive soul — Marija Smits tells a younger version of herself that motherhood will bring unexpected benefits – one of them being the realization that she is a highly sensitive person. […]

    Like

  4. This is fantastically written and deeply moving (excuse me a moment while I blow my nose again). So much here that I relate to and much to think on further. ‘For by witnessing, and being an active participant in the miracle of birth you will also understand death better. You will catch a glimpse of your mortality, and your child’s mortality, and it will shake you to your core.’ That is so true and so well put. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

    • Marija Smits says:

      Thank you very much Becky – it’s great to have someone say something so very positive about my writing and for you to be moved by it is quite something for me too 🙂 And you know, it’s funny but after I wrote that sentence that you quote I had to think about it more too. It made me think about your book and how if birth was taken away from mothers, medicalized and made virtually 100% ‘safe’ how us humans would get complacent about life and death – because we perhaps would get the idea that we had mastery over both life and death… Anyway, lots to think about!

      Like

  5. Marija, this is so beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing a piece of yourself with us.
    I can tell from this post that you are a caring, loving, and empathetic mama. Your children are so, so lucky to have a mama who feels deeply and loves fully. May they grow up to care for others as much as you do, to share love freely and widely.
    Thanks for the book titles — I am loving the carnival this month, everyone’s writing letters to their pre-mama self, and since I AM a pre-mama self, it’s really helpful to me, hehe. I can’t wait to check those books out.
    Your artwork is all so gorgeous! I’m so glad that you included it in the post.

    Like

    • Marija Smits says:

      Thank you Erin, and you’re welcome! I really do hope that you find the books useful at some stage, and I have to say that I really loved your post. It’s so refreshing to see someone so aware and mindful of how they want to nurture their little ones once they’re ready to embark on the whole adventure that is motherhood. I wish you all the very best 🙂

      Like

  6. Holly S says:

    I love how in touch you are with yourself, and I love reading about how motherhood has changed you. Beautiful letter! So much I can emphasize with in here.

    Like

  7. Cathy Bryant says:

    *sniff* I’ve got something in my eye…. *blows nose* Oh what a lovely post. I wish I could have given this to all the parents and parents-to-be when I was childminding and babysitting.

    Like

  8. codenamemama says:

    Oh man – there is so much here! I felt myself nodding along in several places – the fact that birth makes you reexamine death, how much arguing and fighting can get under the skin of a HSP, how much there is to learn and take in. I don’t know how I could prepare myself for this roller coaster – it’s something that is better lived 🙂 Wonderful letter, thank you for sharing!

    Like

  9. This is lovely, and so useful to me as well. I’m glad I’m not the only one who needs moments to retreat and has to find ways to navigate the demands of young children with the need to have some quiet and reflection and space. I’m in a wanting-to-crawl-into-a-hole mood, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone in having such feelings.

    What you wrote about how parenting changes marriage, too, meant a lot to me. I’ve thought often about how simpler our marriage was before children. Not that it’s better or worse one way or the other, just a different journey now.

    Like

    • Marija Smits says:

      So glad you found my post of use Lauren 🙂 It IS difficult to find peace and quiet amidst the busyness of family life, isn’t it? And for some mothers it’s absolutely crucial to how well they can function, and how ‘calm’ they feel.

      And I’m sure that not enough is written about how parenting changes marriage. I agree, for us, it was simpler pre-children too. I’m so glad to know that others feel the same too!

      Like

  10. […] Dear highly sensitive soul — Marija Smits tells a younger version of herself that motherhood will bring unexpected benefits – one of them being the realization that she is a highly sensitive person. […]

    Like

  11. Beautiful post. I completely agree on the part about your husband being your biggest ally and how it will change him but not as drastically. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    • Marija Smits says:

      Thank you! Sometimes I think that I’d like to read more about how fatherhood changes men. It’s certainly not something that I see being discussed often. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Like

  12. You are SO beautiful as you are Marija and this letter to yourself is stunningly touching. You don’t need a thicker skin, people just need to know that we are all so very different, but absolutely wonderful in our own way. I am so glad you know yourself, that is life’s mission really. I am still learning about myself and sometimes I think there are things I would change, but then I realise if I changed I wouldn’t be me.

    You are a very special person in this world, unique, kind, beautiful and sensitive…I can think of a lot worse things to be.

    Sending you much love, Jane xxx

    Like

    • Marija Smits says:

      Thank you Jane for your kind words – they mean a lot to me. And that’s very true about the changes – you wouldn’t be you if you got to change various facets of your personality.

      And I hope you’re getting on well with your coloured pencils?!

      Like

  13. Hannah says:

    Such a beautiful and so much like I feel. Thank you for the book recommendations – I know as i grow as an adult and our son grows, those titles might come in handy. Thank you for the real struggles that relationships have after children – I didn’t think that parenthood and differences in our own childhoods would have such an impact on our relationships.

    Like

    • Marija Smits says:

      Thanks for stopping by Hannah, and I do hope that you find the books useful at some point. And yes… no one really talks about the changes that parenthood brings to relationships. Glad that we can share now, though!

      Like

  14. […] Dear highly sensitive soul — Marija Smits tells a younger version of herself that motherhood will bring unexpected benefits – one of them being the realization that she is a highly sensitive person. […]

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  15. stoneageparent says:

    Thanks for sharing this, a highly sensitive look at what mothering means to you. I can relate to a lot of what you say, as we parent in similar ways and I know I’ve gone through a lot of what you have also experienced as a young mum and now one who is finding her creative side blossom through writing and more recently through working with children in the woodland environment. I was almost weeping at points too, as what you say rings true with me and is beautifully written. Thank you, Stoneageparent

    Like

    • Marija Smits says:

      You’re welcome Caroline, and I’m glad that you can relate to a lot of what I say. And I’m so glad you’re finding your creative side blossom – I know that I always enjoy reading your writing 🙂 Best wishes, M x

      Like

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