The first trimester of my pregnancy journey was rough. It brought me to my knees in ways that I didn’t expect and taught me some essential lessons in becoming a parent. One of the biggest takeaways during that time was the shift from focusing on myself to focusing on the babe growing inside of me. It sounds obvious, but it was much more challenging than I anticipated.
Once I hit around fourteen weeks the debilitating nausea and the depression that came with it began to fade and by sixteen weeks I noticed a huge spike in my energy levels, internal resources, and creative energy. It is similar to that feeling I get when I am moving from the menstrual phase of my cycle (where I am exhausted and needing loads of rest) to the follicular phase (where I have energy and am ready to get out there and work/socialize/exercise). After experiencing such an arduous few months, the changes in my physiology and emotional states were met with heaps and heaps of daily gratitude.
My second trimester was full of travel, work, and opportunities to take care of myself in new ways. Even though I had more energy, I knew that I need extra rest and to make sure that I scheduled plenty of time for it, especially while traveling. This past May, at 16 weeks pregnant I taught my annual breathwork retreat in the California desert. I set a very clear intentions in the couple of weeks leading up to it to take really good care of myself on retreat by regulating my energetic output, booking massages, and taking naps. I was a little nervous before the retreat knowing that I was going to show up with different boundaries than I have had in the past while teaching on retreat. I also had a strong felt sense that I was going to be embodying the precise intention for weekend: softening.
I am constantly in awe of how possible it is to know what we need ahead of time. Last October I started planning the retreat for May. During a morning breathwork session I received the download of what the retreat was supposed to be about, where it would be and all of the classes I would teach. It came through so clearly and quickly that I felt it was exactly what I was supposed to be holding space for. Within two months I had booked the venue, created a beautiful media kit, did a very quiet launch on my website and got my first signups. The flow was there.
When planning the retreat last year I had no idea I would be teaching it four months pregnant and that all of the deep, inner work I would be doing leading up to the retreat would be all about what I titled the weekend: The Softening. Interestingly, or cosmically, depending on how you want to look at it, our baby is due this October, almost exactly a year after I set this larger intention not only for the retreat, but ultimately for myself. When we’re being true to our hearts and living in integrity we always teach what we need the most. Always.
Teaching the retreat while pregnant was such an incredible experience and one that I will hold with me for the rest of my life. Being willing to show up as I was, needing more time to myself than I was used to and holding such a strong container for myself taught me many lessons in what it means to guide from my felt sense and from undeniable embodiment. I have been teaching for the last fifteen years and in some ways feel that I became a teacher that weekend. It was such a quiet initiation, yet one that had been brewing for many years.
During my second trimester I had the honor of leading the opening ceremony for the #inGoophealth Summit, a dream of mine since they ran the first one last year. Sitting up on the main stage that morning guiding the participants into their breath and bodies felt like another personal and career milestone that I know was shaped by the pregnancy. While I was nervous before they called my name to walk out in front of the crowd, as soon as I sat down and looked around the room full of 700 people I felt at home. For one, I wasn’t up on stage alone, I had this tiny miracle of a life developing inside of my body. I also had this level of calm and confidence that I experienced while teaching the retreat the previous month. It was clear to me that everything in my life was changing in ways I never anticipated and I continue to be amazed by this experience of becoming.
While my work life ran smoother than I anticipated during those second trimester months, my relationship with Nic hit a huge wall which was terrifying and also eye opening. We had been struggling in a few areas in our dynamic before the pregnancy and as you might imagine, those areas surfaced so intensely as the pregnancy progressed and had to be addressed head on. What I came to believe during that time was that I was totally capable of co-parenting should we decide to part ways and that I had enough support to get through a separation. This was a big piece of personal expansion for me to lean into, that I had the strength to be a mother in whatever way that was going to look.
What I also came to understand during those fiercely painful weeks was that I wanted to do the work of being in this partnership. I wanted to dig deeper still. I wanted to unpack our negative cycles, break the long standing survival patterns I developed in childhood and create an entirely new paradigm for our relationship. I wanted to get messy, vulnerable, and rewire my system to create a larger capacity to tolerate the emotional pain I feel when we are in those cycles. Because what I know in my heart to be true today is that we are not our cycles or patterns. Those survival strategies I had to establish early on in life were no longer necessary today and in fact they were keeping me in a state of isolation and feeling like I had to do everything on my own.
I stood at a crossroads a number of times during those weeks. Each time I made the decision to show up for the relationship because I knew that the only way to heal my past and the parts of our relationship that need healing is lean into them. I also knew that the only way Nic and I could really see if what we want in our relationship is possible is to unpack all of the layers we’ve accumulated over the years and begin the process of breaking down our negative cycle. I wanted this for our family no matter what the outcome.
When I made the commitment to stay and show up, I did what I’ve done in the past that I know works well for me. I reached out for support. I got myself back into therapy. We got back into therapy too. I scheduled extra self care sessions for massages, body work, and exercise. I slowed down with teaching and clients so that I could have the energy to do the emotional work that was needed. And I am still making space for all of this.
I’ve also spent time each day, especially when days are tough talking to our baby, letting our baby know that it doesn’t need to take any of our stuff on, that we love it so much and that none of our issues as a couple have anything to do with them. Each time I take a moment to pause, put a hand on my belly, and check in with the baby I immediately tap into my adult self, become 100% present and know in that moment I am doing something really important for this babe’s development.
Moving through the second trimester has been gloriously expansive and deeply reorganizing. During those months I had countless experiences of feeling like I was living my purpose and truth in ways that felt radically different from experiences I’ve had in the past. I also went though such emotional turbulence in order to get down to the root of some deep-seated issues that need to be addressed in my body and relationship. Ultimately, the second trimester brought me to a place of further simplifying my life in order to pay more attention to the things that matter most right now, my health, this growing baby, building a new foundation with Nic and prioritizing myself and our family over everything else, including work (which is really huge for me!).
Now that I am a few weeks into the third trimester and reflecting back on the last three months I am full of gratitude for the lessons I have learned, for the challenges that surfaced, and for my willingness to do the kind of work on myself that is crucial in order to be the kind of parent I want to be. As someone who has experienced a great deal of trauma in my life including my own birth, I feel hopeful in this moment that so much more is possible. Sometimes I get discouraged and wish that my past was different and that I had better tools for healing and integrating the trauma much earlier in life, I trust the timing of life and how it continues to unfold and reveal itself to me. I also know in my bones that everything I have been through has made me who I am today, and as challenging as that can feel some days, I wouldn’t trade any of it for another life or anyone else’s experiences.
Here’s to leaning in.
Here’s to trusting the process.
Here’s to letting go of what we think it should feel like.
Here’s to creating space for our past to integrate into our present.
Here’s to softening.
Photos x @mariellevchua