While I was in hospital Amy Welborn wrote a blog post about being an introverted parent of extroverted children that linked to my blog post on taking Bella to the library. Amy is an INFP, a personality type close to my own INTP. She says:
I�m basically a disorganized quiet person who�s watching you and sucking up the vibes you�re putting out like a sponge. And then probably writing about it, so be careful. On days when everyone is around all day, I must stay up later than everyone in order to feel like I exist. I don�t mean that overdramatically, I just mean that my self doesn�t feel really connected until it�s�quiet and I can process stuff in my head.
That’s pretty close to me except that, as a T, I’m much more interested in ideas than people. I’m quietly observing what’s going on around me and thinking about the meaning of what’s happening, connecting it to what I’ve read and to the big picture in my head. And then writing about it.
Several people commented with surprise on my blogging during labor and my time in the hospital. Frankly, it was a way of distracting myself and keeping myself sane. The pain wasn’t so bad until near the end when I put down the computer and tired to pray the liturgy of the hours between contractions; but the anxieties and fears threatened to make it all overwhelming. Writing my way through the piece about compulsive mothering gave my mind an intellectual challenge to chew on and provided a welcome distraction when I was too wound up to read any of the books I’d brought. I was unable to follow Chesterton or Pope Benedict; but able to follow a chain of thought about what it means to be a mother.
Most people stuck in the hospital seem to watch television to while away the hours. There are a few shows that I like to follow; but I don’t like mindlessly watching whatever happens to be on television. I think we turned it on three or four times during my 6 day stay, for a very limited duration each time. Usually reading is my recreation of choice; but my attention span was too short for anything but light blog reading, so I wrote. (I did work on a crossword puzzle for the first few hours while waiting to be given my own room.) I write on this blog primarily not for other people but for myself. I blog because I can’t not write. There were many times during the long days in the hospital when I kept telling myself I was going to lay down, go to sleep, take it easy; but the ideas dancing in my head wouldn’t be quiet until I gave them form in words on the screen.
Time spent in the hospital is a trial for anyone; but hard on the introvert in a special way. With people in and out of your room every hour or so, it is hard to get that necessary alone time to recharge your emotional batteries. And then there’s postpartem hospital time…. When you do have a few quiet moments there’s still the baby with you. Not that you’d not want the baby with you; but even the most beloved baby is still a drain on those emotional resources which are already being stretched thin by all those raging hormones. And when the rare moment comes that the baby is asleep and you are alone, you know you’re supposed to close your eyes and catch some Zzzs, your body needs it. But you’re so tempted to push through the sleepiness and get just a little reading and writing and thinking done. Fortunately, exhaustion and painkillers tend to override that self-destructive impulse and bring sleep willy-nilly.
Anyway, during those odd lonely stretches of not-sleepy hospital time, and especially during that time I spent in the special care nursery where there was nothing to do but nurse the baby and listen to the nurses’ gossip, I had plenty of time to ponder what Amy wrote about being an introvert and a mom as well as the comments on her blog post and those on Barbara Curtis’ discussion about introverted parents that Amy also linked to . Time to think and ponder but not to write before sleep carried my working brain away.
Observing Bella during her visits in the hospital, I could really see that extroverted personality at play. She really couldn’t stand being in my room for any length of time. She wanted to come check in with me and then be off for a walk with Daddy or Grandma through the halls… where all the people are. She could spend long stretches of time in the busy waiting room, though, where there were all sorts of people coming and going.
Amy writes about her extroverted son:
It finally hit me, �If he�s not interacting with someone, he doesn�t feel alive. � And I grasped the corallary of that which was that I feel most alive when I�m alone. And we were going to have to figure out a way to co-exist.
I’ve noticed from fairly early on that Bella recharges her batteries when she’s around people. She is very self-entertaining and doesn’t need me to pay attention to her all the time. Partially, I’m sure that she developed that skill because her introverted mother insisted on letting her play quietly by herself while mom read or blogged or otherwise recharged her batteries. However good she is at amusing herself though, being alone in the house for hours at a time with only me, she starts to fret, begs for a walk. She craves stimulation of other people. She loves going to my doctors visits with me, all those new people to observe and interact with. And she thrives visiting her cousins. Though I originally thought that all the loud activity of my in-laws’ larger family would be too much for a girl used to the quiet ways of our introverted household, she hardly misses me when she’s there and has never had a meltdown when I leave.
Neither did she have any major meltdowns while home with my mom when Dom and I were at the hospital all last week. Of course not, my mom kept bringing her to the busy hospital which recharged her batteries. So in that way I think the hospital stay was actually welcome to Bella as an opportunity for social interaction. It’s only now that we’re home and she’s not getting that social recharge time that I see her acting out some jealousy issues such as wanting to sit with me while I’m nursing Sophia (hard because I need to keep my swollen feet elevated in the rocker/recliner where there’s not really room for her to sit beside me). Or the incident this afternoon when Bella got very mad that I wouldn’t change her diaper, she didn’t want my mom to do it—she doesn’t like it that I’ll change Sophia’s diapers and not hers.
I know that simply having a sister will help Bella have some companionship and someone else besides me to interact with can only help he situation(once Sophia is older). I also know, though, that I’ll need to look for opportunities for Bella to get the social recharge time she needs. It will be hard to balance that with my need for solitude; but then maybe if I get creative the one could actually lead to the other. Maybe I could have my extroverted sister-in-law pick Bella up and take her with her family to some of her kids’ many activities. She’s already suggested Bella and I join them for gymnastics. I’ve been reluctant to accept, adding an extra trip out of the house for myself just seemed impossible in the past few months when I was so tired already from the pregnancy; but perhaps I should rethink it. Maybe I could drop Bella off and she could bring her home or vice versa. Then I could have a quiet hour while Bella gets her social time.
I’m glad to know that I’m not alone. As one commenter at Amy’s suggested the blog world is perfect for us introverts. I love the internet because I can get the intellectual stimulation I crave without the draining socializing with other people face to face that I can only take in small quantities before I need to recharge. Of course it goes without saying that even introverts need some face time; but I’m glad that I can find a balance that works for me. I hope in time I’ll be able to find a balance that works for my whole family.