isabelle thye

Becoming a mother

A year ago, while reading Glennon Doyle’s ‘Untamed’, I remembered pausing at a quote that says ’it’s a heavy burden for children to know that they are the reason their mother stops living her life’.

It sounded cruel and yet true. As an expecting mother at that time, I took the warning to heart.

Fast forward to the present, 4.5 months into motherhood, I couldn’t help letting out a long breath of relief as I revisit the journey I’ve stumbled through thus far.

There were many times I asked myself - especially in exhaustion, “am I living my life?” Being in this state was a world apart from the blissful anticipation of welcoming a new bundle of joy.

In-between

I never knew that becoming a mother means entering a new universe and being changed inside out, literally.

There was a complicated ‘in-between’ space where I have a baby but didn’t feel competent as a mother yet. I struggled to learn, to respond, to cope, and I thought, ‘wow, being pregnant was a breeze compared to this’. I missed having the baby inside my womb while I happily cruised through the world.

As a full-time mother, everything was new and required so much energy that I could barely connect with the person I was before having a child.

What was so hard about motherhood? Isn’t it the best thing in the world to be with a newborn baby?

In reality, every day was a roller coaster ride with its ups and downs. Despite many short burst of peaceful, sweet, and beautiful moments, I didn’t have enough sleep. I felt defeated when I couldn’t comfort my baby. I did everything I could and yet he still cried his lung out. Why was he so entitled? I sensed resentment building up inside and I felt guilty. The steep learning curve with countless unpredictable variables led to a complex emotional concoction that made me wondered, what was I doing with my life?

At the lowest of low, I cried myself to sleep and hid in the bathroom to drain my tears. To keep my sanity intact, I told myself that the more broken I felt, the tougher I’ll become. Every night, I recited the mantra ‘tomorrow is a new day, new energy, new experience, and new creation’.

Conciliation

It took me 4 months of dealing with my own demon to emerge on top of the messy head start and feel light and whole as a person again.

In the process of adapting to my new identity, a big barrier was one that was familiar and yet hard to avoid - social comparison.

I often felt that the days passed so fast and I couldn’t recall what I’d done. Responding to the baby all day long left me with little control of my time (and life). When I was at my wit’s end tending to just one baby, I wondered how the other mothers cope with this AND having a career.

And then, I felt small, inadequate and not enough.

Why? Why didn’t I feel proud of myself when I gave it my all (no matter how much or little I have at the moment) to nurture a human being?

When I asked myself, if I have all the freedom in the world, what would I do?

I’ll be where my baby needs me. I had to do it, I wanted to do it. It is strange that there wasn’t even a decision to be made.

Then, I imagined 10 years later, would I look back and think that I didn’t live my life?

Raising a child IS life. It is a conscious choice I made knowing that I have full autonomy of my life. I didn’t sacrifice anything when my action is aligned with my value and priority.

Among many pillars in life, why is career the one that many people (including my ego-self) subconsciously attach their worth and judgement on? At the end of life, what matters the most?

Light

Motherhood is not that dark or hard. It just takes time to adjust and reconfigure both my inner and outer landscape to rise up to to a new role.

I needed 4 months to regain the mind space and heart space to write again. For a long, long time, I felt like I had nothing to say because my world is so small and confined to the space I shared with my baby.

Eventually, everything gets better. Routine emerges amidst unpredictable variables. Baby becomes somewhat predictable. I stop taking baby’s action personally. I am now able to laugh when he cries.

Even though every day is still a roller coaster ride, it feels a lot easier, more joyful when I find peace in myself and tame my ego’s expectation.

In this lightness, it is a privilege to participate in my baby’s life, to witness his growth and milestones, to be his partner in life journey, to guide him toward the truest expression of himself.

Watching him grows humbles me. It reminds me that everything I am now started with learning how to move my fingers around. It helps me understand the magnitude of love my parents had for me at the very beginning of life.

Even now, I still gaze at my baby in awe and wonderment sometimes - that this perfect little human being came from my womb not too long ago.

At the end of life, I can be sure that this, right here, everything that is, will be how I want life to be - a life I choose with a full heart, open to savour the full spectrum of experiences, emotions, and growth that come with it.

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