Motherhood, Empathy, & The Scary Side Of Sensitivity


There are so many mysteries in motherhood, mostly made up of the way it connects the mind, body, and soul like almost nothing else. From stories of mothers flexing superhuman strength to lift cars off of their children to the science of microchimerism linking mother and child on a cellular level, I remain fascinated by the layers of this life. I can't count all of the changes I've undergone since becoming a mom, but there's one aspect that I didn't expect and never thought would last: my empathy muscle has grown exponentially, and I'm still coming to terms with this new side of myself.

I've always been someone who was concerned about others - just never extremely emotional save for the kind of Taurean anger that simmers below the surface before bubbling and boiling over. Seeing other people sick, in pain, or struggling would have me posted up in my feelings for a bit, but for the most part I could compartmentalize and eventually move past things.

But now? Things done changed.

For the longest time, I chalked things up to the surge and swirl of postpartum hormones. However, it's been 18 months since I had Little Magician, and I'm not sure how long the validity of that argument holds.

The level of sensitivity I feel towards others and their plights is scary at times. Sometimes I almost feel like I can sense what someone else is going through, even if it's a physical or emotional pain I've never experienced. My ability to shake uncomfortable things like I used to is all but gone - things never seem to leave me, and when the memories return weeks or months later, they barely lose any of their strength.

Positive emotions affect me too, though those are more welcome weights to carry. I feel a heightened sense of excitement for the good news of friends and family, and celebrate their wins as if they were mine. Interestingly enough, this has helped to minimize my habit of comparing my success to that of others. It's in those moments that I think, maybe this isn't so bad...

Overall, it's an exhausting existence to feel like a magnet for other people's stuff - positive or negative. Motherhood widened my capacity to care for others, and while I thought that was only in relation to my child, I feel like that expansion has created room for way more than I bargained for.

I'm learning where my new boundaries are and when I need to pull away or disconnect. I'm also learning to view this new level of sensitivity as a strength instead of a weakness. Will it fade away at some point? Is this all still the result of residual hormones flowing through my system? Time will tell, but for now, I'll just ride this wave and see where - for all its highs and lows - it takes me.