Why You Should Love the Overprotective, Highly-Sensitive Mom

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She’s the mom who was not budging on her birth plan. The one who didn’t sleep the first night, and the second, because she couldn’t take her eyes off her sweet little boy. Who held her breath, each night, as she checked for her baby’s heartbeat.

Because she’s the kind of mom who is judged for being too protective, but couldn’t change even if she tried. She’s exhausted because she wants to do it all herself: the bouncing, the feedings, all of it. When her newborn cries in the bassinet next to her at night, she pulls him out and wedges him right between her breast and a soft pillow, just in case she falls asleep. Silly, really, because her baby is a week old and couldn’t roll over if he tried.

But better be safe than sorry, she says. And she means it.

Her husband catches her crying and she blames it on the lack of sleep. But really, she was just imagining her little man, five or six years later, being bullied. She realizes that her responsibility as a mom will soon be a lot more than diaper changes and not missing nap windows. That soon, she will be her son’s only rock in a world he doesn’t understand quite yet. A world that she knows is way too dangerous sometimes, too cruel.

She’ll have to protect him from it, but let him learn on his own too – take a step back and watch him skin his knees on the sidewalks of life.

She wonders daily if she’s doing it right. With each of his meltdowns, she bites her lip to prevent herself from sobbing too. She tries to keep it together because that’s what moms do, and she does… as best she can. She tears up one night, nursing him, because he’s so beautiful in the half light, suckling himself back to sleep.

She thinks of all of the monsters and ghosts she’ll have to scare off. The nightmares she’ll have to console him from, his face buried in her chest. She thinks of the life lessons — learning to share, saying thank you and sorry, teaching him that he can’t succeed if he doesn’t try — and tenses up a little. It’s a long road ahead of them.

She’ll get told she needs to relax a bit, let others take over. That it’s okay to ask for help. That he’s old enough to sleep at grandma’s. But she’ll resist, because she’s not ready yet. She wants to be there if anything happens. Like what? They’ll ask. What could possibly happen? She’ll shrug and say she doesn’t want to risk it. Because deep down she’s scared. She doesn’t ever want him to need his Mama, and not be just a room away.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 8.54.01 PMShe’s the kind of mom whose life has shifted in the most chaotic, beautiful way. She put her career on hold because she can’t imagine the first year without him. The girl who used to spend hours picking outfits now lives in her worn, comfortable sweats. She couldn’t care less about makeup, let alone jewelry. She hasn’t worn her engagement ring in weeks because she’s afraid to scratch him.

The songs stuck in her head are lullabies and her back is sore from lifting him. She froze her gym membership for months. She’d gladly stay home with him rather than go out for dirty martinis, even if she misses her friends… sometimes a lot. Her eyes well up when he says mama, but deep down she knows it probably doesn’t mean anything to him yet… He’s just practicing his consonants. 

What’s motherhood like to the other moms out there? She wonders, but even she can’t put it in words. Even she can’t put a label on it, or explain the many contradictions. She just hopes she’s doing it right – or alright, at least.

That he’ll love her for it some day, even if he won’t remember the small things… or anything at all.

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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