A caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly is not as simple as sprouting wings and flying away.
And a woman’s transformation into a mother is certainly not as simple as giving birth and returning to life as it was.
Once a woman has crossed into the realm of growing new life within her, she is changed. Her life is changed—inevitably and permanently—by the metamorphosis of motherhood.
Metamorphosis is defined by dictionary.com as “a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism…”
Google defines the word as “…the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages” and “a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.”
Metamorphosis, then, can be seen as a shift from immaturity to maturity, a coming of age, and even as the journey through a sacred rite of passage.
What does such a journey look like?
For a caterpillar, its first main mission after hatching from its egg, is to eat and grow, eat and grow (sound a bit like pregnancy?!) In this stage, the caterpillar repeatedly grows too large for its own skin. New skin begins to grow underneath and, when ready, the old skin is shed. This process occurs 4 times: eat, grow larger, create new skin, shed the old skin.
The final shedding of the skin is different than the previous ones. When the caterpillar molts for the fifth and final time, the new skin underneath forms the outer shell of the chrysalis—“an enclosing shell that limits the caterpillar’s freedom for the duration of the transformation [kinda like life with an infant, perhaps?!]. Within the chrysalis a miracle occurs. Tiny cells, that biologists actually call “imaginal cells,” begin to appear. These cells are wholly different from caterpillar cells, carrying different information, vibrating to a different frequency—the frequency of the emerging butterfly. At first, the caterpillar’s immune system perceives these new cells as enemies, and attacks them… But the imaginal cells are not deterred. They continue to appear, in even greater numbers, recognizing each other, bonding together, until the new cells are numerous enough to organize into clumps. When enough cells have formed to make structures along the new organizational lines, the caterpillar’s immune system is overwhelmed.”(1)
At this point of overwhelm, the caterpillar becomes so exhausted from the effort of constant resistance to the inevitable changes…that it dissolves into goo. Yes, GOO…as in liquified, soupy goop!
And this goo serves a glorious purpose! It provides the energy that the imaginal cells need in order to complete their transformation. It is from the goo that a whole new being eventually emerges—a butterfly!
Did you catch that?!
In order for metamorphosis to occur, the being who was must first become GOO!
In the metamorphosis of motherhood, when does a woman tend to liquify?
For many women, the postpartum period is the dissolution into goo.
It’s the descent into the unknown, the in-between, the overwhelm.
It’s the I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing, the I-don’t-think-I’m-cut-out-for-this, the do-I-still-matter-or-even-exist?!
It’s the call to shed the old life and surrender to the new.
Friends…without the goo there can be no transformation.
So hold on! Have faith! Take heart!
The goo is perfect. The goo is normal. The goo is necessary! It is the fuel for birthing the new being that will emerge from the crazy, exhausting, isolating chrysalis we call postpartum.
And you know what else? The goo is temporary. Despite what may feel like a never-ending labor, the new mother-you will be birthed in her time. Mother-you will find her footing and she will eventually experience flight.
The new incarnation of you will not be a perfect mother. She will not be a mother with all the answers; she will not have this parenting thing suddenly all figured out.
And that’s ok.
The beautiful new you will be capable of things that the previous you couldn’t have begun to fathom. She will experience such richness and such sights that caterpillar-you couldn’t have even dreamed of!
So here’s to you, Mama. And here’s to the goo. May you find peace in that sacred place of in-between. May you extend patience and gentleness to Goo-You. And, when you’re ready, may you find the courage to lift your wings and allow the breeze to lift you in flight.
And through it all, may you feel even a hint of gratitude for both the mess and the magnificence of this precious metamorphosis. There truly is no other transformation like it…