First Trimester Dark Night of the SoulAug 15, 2020
The First Trimester
It’s hard to know where to start with what to share, from speaking to other pregnant friends or women with children I can clearly see how different all pregnancies are. I also know I'm not on my own in experiencing losing myself within the early stages. This right of passage from maiden to mother is real.
I wish I had been more prepared for this long, extended, dark night of the soul. So I am sharing to let you know (whether pregnancy or future pregnancy chooses to take you down this path) it’s ok, you will be ok and you are not alone in this place.
The gate we pass through in the first trimester is a radical leap into the unknown. As mothers to be, we move into holding space for life to begin from within us, the slow transition of embodying the archetype of mother into our identity is one we can never return from.
My own process was from 2020 quarantine into pregnancy, which was perhaps the most stationary phase of my life, and yet the biggest quantum leap in my life's journeys so far. As the dust settles, I finally feel I can see clearly enough to share from the comfort of four months in.
So what happened?
Conception and confirming my pregnancy at 7 weeks was the most divine blissful process. I was dancing in the height of Spring, Beltain, and creative living, I felt amazing! Connected to the magic of the natural world, the flow state, so alive. Flowers, nature, music, love, dancing butterflies, manifesting and rising on the high waves of the season. Then boom, a week or so later the tap of life energy turned abruptly off and morning sickness turned on. Extreme nausea from morning till night and the inability to eat most foods combined with an exhaustion like I have never known. I felt the mind / body interconnection like a visceral slap in the face. Gradually life’s dance left me, there were no words, no desires, no outwards expression of any kind that felt valid to draw from my very limited energy supplies… I could feel the vitality that I normally pour into my work, my relationships, the future plans and passions being re-routed towards one single star of creation, deep within my womb.
I was lost. As my body put all it’s force into growing this baby, my hope, love and joy vacated the building and two months in, all that remained was my shell. I looked the same but ‘I’ was gone. The only thing I can compare it to was a period of depression in my early 20’s. My life has changed beyond measure since that time and I just could not believe I so swiftly returned into this darkness after all the effort I have put into healing, personal development, therapy, recovery and spiritual practice.
The bubble of love I felt at being pregnant was gone, I know theoretically I was happy and this is what I had deeply wanted at a soul level. Yet all I felt was a tired, introverted lethargy. The practices that normally keep peace alive within me, all seemed completely pointless. I was lying on a ledge, about a quarter of the way down a deep, dark, bottomless pit. With absolutely no idea how to climb out.
The links between the way the body feels and our mental state are so very real. As my body felt weak so did my mind, as my body felt sick so did my thoughts. Negative spirals of future projections, wrestling invisible demon's in the night and feeling so alone and terrified of how I had fallen from grace so quickly.
I panicked. I am used to a few off days or even a low week but when the weeks stacked up and turned into months that multiplied it scared me. Would I make it though? Could I come back? If you have a history of mental illness or mental illness in your family it’s familiar for these thought processes to sit in your unconscious and rear their ugly head when you're struggling and this was the case for me.
I was not alone, I had my incredibly supportive partner working remotely from home, I had my loved ones on the phone and dear friends ahead of me saying this was all so normal and to smile, rest - even so I was still so challenged by this loss of positivity.
After many weeks of nothingness, I realised I was truly in it and the only way out was to let myself free fall into that darkness, to trust, keep crying and squeak for help, ungracefully surrendering, and waiting for time to ease up on me. Chinks of light creeping through, feeling arms reach out to me in the darkness, softer moments around the rough touch edges.
I could have filled a bathtub with my tears these last months! Some absurd, some justified, some for no reason at all.
What I am so glad I did was honour this time of lostness, I slept so much, I canceled most of my work, I changed how I was eating drastically to support the nausea and I gave myself space. I watched crap tv and did lazy things I never allow myself to do. I became more lenient, letting myself do whatever made me feel better, as if this was my new top priority and I gave myself full permission to do so.
Even with making these changes I still felt pretty blue. Letting people into how lonely and afraid I was feeling made space to return back to love. Sharing I felt numb when I felt nothing allowed the stuff underneath to rise up and be felt.
It is true what they say, that when your friends go silent that's the time to reach out. I feel so grateful I have lots of people that did that over my silence. Sometimes it was just a matter of picking up the phone, even when I didn’t want to, so I could awkwardly express and hear the reassurance that I so desperately needed. These voices soothed my soul and brought connection, release and letting down.
I tried to hold in my mind lessons from my meditation practice, that my emotions are not all of me, at times this gave me a container to process from. Remembering that even if I didn’t feel or look it, I am a strong woman who has got through so much and can get through this.
My mum came to stay, which felt like the best present of all time. I had no idea how much I was craving my mother. I was still in it, but just having her with me was so supportive and healing.
When we are stuck in a rut, or a rock bottom it’s vital to remember our own wisdom. I always tell people that fears are simply shadows, to lean into, hold space for and give time too. So we can grow, move through, love and know ourselves deeper. This was my medicine, invisible pills of patience and trust.
Gradually coming back to my supportive practices helped me, facing the resistance to come to my mat, sit with an instrument, a pen and paper, breathing and starting to gently move were doorways into gaining perspective.
In time I noticed a smile or a skip of movement, these moments like precious gems uncovered from the mud. Smudged and gritty but still glistening, it felt absolutely priceless.
If I went to the doctors I would have probably been diagnosed with antenatal depression, an unhelpful label as I knew medication was not an option for me. Reading and hearing experiences from other women with nausea and vomiting gave me hope. https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/ is a beautiful support charity for women with Hyperemesis Gravidarum which is another condition at the extreme end of morning sickness symptoms.
I feel incredibly lucky to have wise women in my circle, birth keepers, wisdom holders, holistic midwives. I can only imagine if that support wasn’t easily available to you how dark this could get. I went pretty far down and that’s with all my resources and ability to take time and pay for services. It amazed me that even with my healthy relationship and generous community, I could still feel so desperately lonely and isolated.
If you identify with this experience and feel stuck or in need of more support there is always a way. The internet can be an amazing thing when used mindfully for hope and connection. Beware the FOMO and fear mongering. Find ways to not isolate within this internal period.
As I moved through my first trimester my energy began to return gradually, I noticed days I exerted myself were followed by days of less life force. But that was ok, minimal power me was so much better than zero power me. Coming back to my work reminded me I was capable and of use to the world. It’s been a slow and steady improvement since and at the start of August, when I reached four months, I experienced my first consecutive days with no nausea. Hunger without sickness felt like the best and biggest miracle!
When the ultimate creation chooses to bless you with its presence it’s sure to teach you a thing or two. For some of us it’s trial by fire and begins right at the start. As I look back, I see the heavy cloud I was in and I still don’t fully understand it. I can however understand it helped me to let people in, to release the need for full independence. I can see now more than ever that women need women, It showed me a strong desire for a like minded community and that I crave this for my spirit to thrive. Also to trust myself in always finding a way through. I now feel a deeper compassion for my being and all its imperfections and maybe this is exactly what I needed.
As I have gradually softened into reconnecting with my baby, to the loving mother energy I always knew, but lost connection with for a time. I feel my life force, the laughter, freedom, excitement and fullness flow back towards me. Recognizing this type of gratitude really is the biggest blessing of all.
I hope this open share supports you in some way. The learnings from this process can apply to so many situations whether you are a mother to be or not.
It’s comforting to remember there is always a way. That everything we are going through has been gone through before by many, many others before us. Similarly working their way through this complex journey of life with experience, strength and hope to share form the other side. In this way we are never alone.
With love, hope and a deeper understanding of the impermanence of all things
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