The Chrysalis of My Early Motherhood

Mush. When the caterpillar is in transformation, wrapped up tight in its hard-shelled chrysalis, its body literally becomes mush. Totally melts, with the chrysalis keeping all the goo inside, in order that the tiniest drop of sacred goo be kept, that it might become part of the soon-to-be-formed butterfly. The caterpillar mush-ifies and becomes a butterfly. Nothing is wasted. Every part of the inching along, worm-like little creature becomes part of the beautiful butterfly. Okay – not ALL of it, there’s a little bit of waste sometimes that looks oddly like blood – though it’s not – that dries off the butterfly once it’s emerged. But most of it is re-used, repurposed, in such a way that the casual onlooker would have no idea what the original fuzzy creature looked like.

I knew- in theory – when I left Bahrain and after, when I was processing all that I experienced that year, this would not be the only “chrysalis” spiritual season I would have in my life. I knew it was a hard year, and that it would not be the last of my hard years.

But I also LOVED who I became after that year.

I, however, certainly did not expect early motherhood to be another chrysalis season. I mean, I thought I was going to love it. I’ve always loved kids and gotten along with them well. Kids of all ages, from newborn to teenager. Plus, I knew a lot about kids – I have regularly babysat since I was 13 (I’m well past that age now), I have taken classes for my degrees – degrees plural – and I’ve nannied. Sooooooo… I thought I knew what I was getting into.

Silly, arrogant me. Knowing about children (even just knowing children) is one thing, experiencing the 24/7 life of a mother in our modern, isolationist, media-driven world is something else entirely.

I know I’m in a chrysalis season. Often the world around me, my little world full of snuggles, blankets, toy explosions, and peanut butter, feels dark – not depressing dark (well, sometimes that too), but dark as in I don’t know what’s coming next, and there’s no escape. Suffocating almost – sometimes. I love my kids, and I love my husband, but sometimes – especially when it feels like I’m their whole world – I want to scream. There is absolutely nothing in me that feels able, prepared, or desires being their entire world. In those moments of their need, I need to release all the expectations, energy, and frustrations that are handed to me. Screaming feels like the only release (that, or a large ice cream sundae, which is not the healthiest choice). But my heart screamed so long, so furiously the year before I got married, the year in Cincinnati, that my heart’s voice is gone – still, years later. My screams are hoarse at best – most often, they are silent. Intense, full-body, silent screams. There is no voice left to push out.

But this will not be forever. And there is SO much about my life that I love and I wouldn’t change. And while I can’t see the end, nothing inside is saying that it’s time to start bursting forth from my chrysalis, I can tell things are changing. I can tell I’m being re-formed into someone new. I have no idea who that is going to be (other than lover of God, wife, mother, daughter, friend), but I know she’s going to good.

Partly to encourage myself that I am not alone in this early-motherhood journey, I listen to a couple mommy podcasts. They often talk about not losing yourself in motherhood. That a woman can have – should still have – her own identity while being a mom. That it’s important for her to know herself, and share that self with her kids. They need HER.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe I just did the first four years wrong. But I have no idea how on earth I could have done it differently. And really, knowing the metaphor of the caterpillar-chrysalis-butterfly that God gave me years ago, I don’t know if white-knuckling onto my identity would have been healthy – at least for me. Losing it has been painful, but some of it needed to go to make room for the new, mom part of me. And, at least for me, I’m not sure I could let go of just part. I won’t know until I’m on the other side of this season. But I suspect that, like a caterpillar, I needed to allow myself to completely become mush, so that God can use every part of the caterpillar to form the butterfly through this season.

It’s overwhelming, and so painful, and often feels a lot like being buried. Or like a candle that’s been burning for so long that only the outer shell exists, and the wick is illuminating the empty shell of what was once a strong, thick pillar of a candle.

Please don’t hear that I regret having children. I love them with all of me. They’re the best, and I am so excited for the years ahead of watching them step into their own journeys. I am so honored (and a weee bit scared) to be their mother. But right now, the constant, “Mommy I need you” and needing Mommy to help them sleep at night, and the constant rejection of whatever I cooked, and the forever – the FOREVER, all consuming mess that is childhood – often feels like too much.

When my Warrior Husband and I got married, we heard a lot that marriage is a tool God uses to help a person step into holiness and righteousness, and that has been true, but I feel like parenthood is that multiplied by a thousand.

So I am mush. God is gently, sllllooowly reforming me into something new. I am excited and honored about this. And, while willing to patiently wait on God’s timing – I am SO ready for this season to be over (for now).

I can’t wait to see who I am becoming. I know I will still be me. My love of Him, of beauty, of precious moments, of people, will still be part of me – it’s just going to look different. Those things might have gone from being my fuzzy legs, to a color highlight on my wings, or to my antennae. I don’t know. But I’m excited to find out.


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