isabelle thye

Learning self-compassion during early pregnancy

When I first discovered that I was pregnant, I was worried about my mental health.

After going through what felt like a tremendous transition in life from marriage to adjusting to new family life to setting up our new home in a new part of the city — there were a lot of emotional fluctuations and adjustments that didn’t feel easy.

As the early pregnancy symptoms unfolded and took hold of my life, I went through another cycle of breakdowns, self-doubt, acceptance, and finally arrived at a precious gift given by life — self-compassion.

Physical changes

It seemed as though ever since getting a positive pregnancy test, I never felt ‘normal’ again. Every day, I woke up to various degree of tiredness, dizziness and nauseous that last throughout the day. I strangely became averse to many foods I used to enjoy, such as coffee, meat, spices and vegetables.

When I noticed how quick I became short of breath while running, I had to slow down to be a ‘walker’ — a blow to my ego whenever people ran past me in the park.

Productivity disruption

When it came to work, the assignments that used to feel effortless now took up a lot of my energy and attention. I had to accept my limited capacity and the fact that I couldn’t do creative work at a pace like I used to.

I began getting used to working from home in isolation. Although it wasn’t ideal, I appreciated the space to work on my own pace and not feel incompetent when I needed to rest.

Comparison is poisonous

In the midst of changes and adaptation, the most destructive thing was the story I told myself.

Seeing my peers doing great things while I felt tired all the time without doing much, there were disheartening moments when I felt ‘useless’, doubting my self-worth, and questioning my identity. I compared myself to my mum and other women who had to go to work despite being pregnant, and felt like a 2-inch person living in a 5-feet body who didn’t deserve the freedom I had.

There were tears on random days, random moments when I resisted where I was and how I felt.

Self-compassion

When I was lost in my self-deprecating story, I was lucky to have morning pages to help me rewire my thoughts and reframe my narratives every day.

I noticed that when I acknowledged my condition and allowed myself to slow down, a part of me was in denial and ‘self-pity’ came into my consciousness. Was I allowing myself to be complacent or was I accepting my state of being?

I finally saw how ego put me in misery — why did I feel that I need to go somewhere and be someone? Who’s expecting me to change the world?

Nobody, but me. I was lost in ridiculous self-induced ‘uselessness’ when my body is occupied with nurturing a baby.

It was then I realized that I have to be my own person to free myself from my own prison. I have every reason to be kind to myself, to love myself for who I am, to feel proud of myself for the life I’ve lived, the amazing adventures I’ve embarked on, the great things I’ve created, and this beautiful journey I am currently on.

I am a remarkable human being, and I don’t have to be in the ‘go’ mode all the time.

Be present

When the uncertainty shaped my life in a way where I temporarily live without a goal and aim to make the best out of every day, I realized that it was the same state of being as the times when I was in Vipassana meditation course, Everest Base Camp trek, and a solo retreat in the middle of paddy field in Sapa.

It was a state where I felt present at the moment, embraced fully by the perfection in my surrounding, and not feeling the pressure to make something out of myself — just like the mantra ‘I am nothing, I want nothing, I do nothing’.

Now, when I could ‘just be’ without actively pursuing it, a part of me feared that I would be left behind when everybody was moving forward.

Life is sometimes a peculiar balancing act between inner peace and the outer world.

Rise up to meet the new me

“Pain is a physical phenomenon, suffering is a choice.” — unknown

While I couldn’t change my hormone and physical discomfort, I am in full control of my inner experience!

My inner suffering can be stopped if I observe the unfavourable condition without reacting to it and understanding that ‘this too shall pass’.

When I looked back at my path, it reaffirmed me that life consists of multiple cycles of lost and found, pain and reconciliation; each cycle reinforces the same truth in the end — equanimity and impermanence.

I remembered a quote that says ‘every new level of life requires a new you’.

Whenever I press my palm against my belly and feel the heartbeat underneath it, I’m always in awe knowing that I am nurturing a new life inside me.

There might be more challenges coming my way throughout the pregnancy, but I know that I will rise up time and time again to grow into this magical new role — a mother.

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