Relax Your Butt and Be Gentle with Yourself

My Personal Tale and a Heartfelt Message to the Recently Laid Off

Amy Ma
6 min readDec 18, 2023
Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

I was laid off during my fifth month of pregnancy, and just two weeks post-delivery, I found myself with a tight butt.

The latter revelation came courtesy of my pelvic floor therapist as she tried to figure out why I struggled to walk after giving birth. As she pressed the muscles in my butt, I couldn’t help but yell in pain and gasp for air. “You need to relax, Amy. Your tense breathing is affecting your body,” she advised as she continued her examination, and boy, did it hurt!

So, there I was, a new mom to a 2-month-old baby girl, jobless and with the aforementioned tight butt. It sounds pretty miserable, right? And it was, at first. But not anymore. These challenges have been teaching me valuable lessons that I’m still absorbing:

First, the importance of taking long, deep breaths. It helps in relaxing both body and mind.

Second, your worth isn’t tied to your job. You need to be gentle with yourself.

This post isn’t just a narrative; it’s my personal experience about resilience, adaptability, and learning to flourish amidst life’s unforeseen changes.

Before we delve deeper into this journey of challenges, a little about me: I’m someone who likes to handle things independently, usually keeping a low profile and, quite literally, ‘clenching my butt’ in most situations. This became evident during my second year at college in China.

Back in 2011, my parents gave me 12,000 RMB (about 1.8k USD) to pursue master’s programs in the USA. Sounds great, right? Well, not exactly. The money wasn’t enough to hire someone to guide me through the process. I had to write all the personal essays and search for programs entirely on my own (without google btw). Not to mention, my GPA was a humble 3.2 at the time because I loathed both my program and university.

To make things even more challenging, my English skills left much to be desired (and I’m still working on them today) and I had to conquer the GRE and TOEFL exams within two years.

I tackled it all solo and was afraid of asking extra support from my parents. And confessing the gap between where I stood and those master’s programs was quite embarrassing. But with sheer determination and a lot of hard work (and yes, a clenched butt), I made it into the statistics program at Rutgers.

This is my GRE vocabulary book, almost falling apart due to the various notes I’ve expanded it with.

Ever since I can remember, my life resembled a relentless race against time. Constantly planning, striving, yet never quite understanding what I was chasing. The world felt like an unending competition, surrounded by peer pressure, amplified by social media. LinkedIn was constantly reminding me to congratulate friends landing jobs at big companies like Google and Apple. Instagram made me feel like I was missing out on fancy eateries and picturesque places. Even spending a weekend playing PS4 amidst fast food made me feel guilty. Society seems to measure your worth in so many unseen ways — popularity, an instagram like lifestyle, a prestigious job, or material symbols like a Birkin bag. But deep down, I questioned this measure of value and happiness.

My first date with my now-husband is a comical testament to this. We both pretended to love traveling and exercising, only to discover later that we’re both homebodies. It’s funny, yet a bit sad, how we felt the need to embellish to seem attractive. Fortunately, despite our initial pretenses, I found my perfect match — another ‘couch potato.’

You may question the relevance of my marriage to another homebody in this narrative. It underscores a lifelong pattern of seeking societal validation, tightly holding on to the quest for acceptance without seeking support. This pursuit, marked by a blend of loneliness, desperation, yet a strange sense of confidence due to my plans seemingly working out, became a part of my identity. The idea of taking a break from this relentless chase seemed unthinkable. However, this unyielding pace of life persisted until it reached a critical turning point in May 2023.

My husband and I were overjoyed to learn we were expecting our first child. Amidst the family celebrations, however, my career took an unexpected turn — I was laid off, just two weeks after revealing my pregnancy to my employer. The joy of impending motherhood was overshadowed by the dilemma of seeking employment during pregnancy or facing joblessness. Opting for the latter, given my condition, I plunged into a phase of stress and uncertainty. Even as I tried to keep my skills sharp, the practical, hands-on nature of being a data scientist made me feel like I was losing touch with my expertise and coding skills.

The following six months were a blend of uncertainty, pain, and hope, unlike anything I had ever experienced. My mind and body were constantly tense, unable to relax. During this period, I grappled with the collapse of my plans and the loss of my professional identity. The embarrassment of being laid off kept me from sharing my situation with friends and former colleagues. Imagine a pregnant woman with a forlorn expression, reluctantly sipping milk she detests for the sake of her baby’s health — that was me.

This is how I pictured myself. Generated by ChatGPT.

On October 1st, my daughter Ellie was born in New York City. Her first cry lasted five seconds, while my tears, a mix of joy, sadness, and fear, flowed for minutes. I mourned the loss of my old lifestyle and confronted my fear of the future. Holding Ellie, I apologized for the uncertainty of being able to provide the life she deserved.

Two months postpartum, I found myself unable to walk or lie on my left side without intense pain. A visit to a pelvic floor therapist became necessary. It was during therapy, focusing on breathing — “Inhale, one, two, three; exhale, one, two, three, four” — that I realized my body and life were urging me to slow down. My tense muscles were a testament to the pressure I had placed on myself, striving to meet others’ expectations and worrying about their perceptions. I had been punishing myself in a relentless pursuit of societal value, failing to adapt to life’s unexpected turns.

Even now, uncertainty remains a constant companion, and waves of anxiety occasionally wash over me. Yet, there’s a newfound determination in my approach to life. I’ve largely disconnected from the relentless churn of social media and stopped applying for jobs indiscriminately. Instead, I’m rediscovering my passion as a data scientist, exploring the basics of machine learning in a way that truly resonates with me. The small earnings from my writings, though modest, have brought me more satisfaction than many of the accomplishments of the past eight years. My life’s pace has shifted; I’m moving slower, with intention, kindness towards myself, and a focus on what genuinely matters. I want to savor every precious moment with Ellie and teach her that when life throws curveballs, it’s okay not to have all the answers.

To those who find themselves in a similar situation, especially if you’ve recently been laid off in these challenging economic times, this message is for you. It’s natural to feel unmoored, to grapple with a sense of loss and anxiety about the future. Remember, your job doesn’t define your worth, and being jobless is nothing to be ashamed of. You’re more than your professional title; you’re a son or daughter, a best friend, a parent. These roles are far more valuable than any position like tech lead or manager.

Now is the moment to reclaim your identity beyond the workplace. Say goodbye to what used to be — your old job included. Take a moment, breathe, relax, and always be gentle with yourself. This point in your life is more than just a hiatus; it’s a pivotal opportunity to pause, reflect, and reassess where you’re headed.


As I wrap up my ramblings on my personal experience, I can’t help but toss a massive shoutout to my superhero therapist, Venessa. Seriously, our conversations are like a magic potion for my overthinking brain — especially when it goes into overdrive about job stuff. She’s like a wizard of wisdom, sparking so many ‘aha!’ moments that you see sprinkled throughout this post. Thank you, Venessa, for turning my ‘ah’ days into ‘oh yeah’ days!



Amy Ma

👩‍💻 Data Scientist & Machine Learning Enthusiast 🚀 | 🐾 Cat Lover & New Mom 🍼 | Video Game Adventurer 🎮 | Here to make ML fun and accessible! 🌟