Everyone told me having a baby would change my life.
No one told me it would change me.
I knew about the physical transformation I would experience, but I thought it ended when I had the baby. Little did I know it was just beginning. The process feels strangely similar to how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
I spun my little cocoon with and for baby. This was the fun part. What I didn’t know is that after a caterpillar spins its cocoon, it has to melt down.
It actually turns into caterpillar soup. There’s no remnants left of its prior caterpillar body or being except for what are called “imaginal discs.” These discs contain the information needed to produce all the necessary butterfly parts, such as wings, eyes, etc.
I wasn’t expecting this meltdown.
The meltdown of all I thought I was and all I thought I’d be. The meltdown of the last 37 years of what I like to call progress and refinement. All gone. All turned into mush.
I knew I was still there, but not in any recognizable form. Exhaustion made me irritable and months with little yoga made me stiff and achy. I felt like an old lady when I wanted to feel like a glowing, new mama. Was this who I really was?
Thanks to the imaginal discs a butterfly begins to form in the soup. And here’s the part we all know about: The butterfly grows and struggles to free itself.
Like most of us, I like to focus on the free and flying part, skipping over the struggle part, but a whole lot of struggle was in store for me.
I fought and wrestled with my process out of fear. Fear of who I’d become and fear of who I’d lose. Fear of the unknown and fear of the uncontrollable.
Through its struggle the butterfly develops the strength to fly. Without the struggle it would never be strong enough to survive on the outside. Intervening with this delicate process can result in a failed transformation.
At my most challenging moments I reached out to a yoga teacher who had also recently had a baby. I wanted to know what she did and what worked for her. I wanted her to give me the answer, to show me the way out of this cocoon.
She did the best thing a teacher could do. She didn’t help me. She let me struggle through it. She shared with me these powerful words:
Really only each of us have the answers because each of our lives are the same and yet unique at the same time.
I knew then I was on my own.
The way through for someone else was not going to be my way through.
I had to rely on my internal compass and trust my process. I had to summon the inner strength to rise to my unique challenges while simultaneously softening enough to let the old me melt away, leaving only my pure essence and the promise of what was to come
I try to remember this when I see my son struggling to roll himself over or grab a toy and I’m tempted to do it for him.
The struggle is how we learn. The struggle is how we transform.
This metamorphosis of the caterpillar is a journey it must submit to and survive alone if it is to successfully transform into a butterfly, and so is motherhood on many levels.
It’s a unique transformation because each of us get to decide what kind of mother we want to become. We aren’t limited by the mother we had or didn’t have. When we are given our wings we are asked a question we will answer daily for the rest of our lives: What kind of mother do you want to be?
This post was originally published on elephantjournal.
photo credit: j. danenhauer