Mothermorphosis

Sunday, May 7, 2017



When I was getting married, I was determined to "not lose myself," in this new role as "wife".

The same thing happened when I got pregnant. I said I would never lose myself to my new role as a mom.

Well, here's the thing.

Caterpillars.

Yes, caterpillars.

We all know that caterpillars, at some point, go hang themselves up as chrysalises and when they wiggle out, a beautiful butterfly emerges. Or maybe a beautiful moth. Or a plain moth. Whatever. Regardless, a squirmy, wiggly, thing with a lot of legs goes into a tube, and when it comes out, it's an insect with 3 body sections, 2 wings, and a lot fewer legs and a proboscis that lets it drink nectar emerges. If you're like me, you've often thought WHAT HAPPENS IN THERE? Well, it's kind of amazing and completely insane. Here's a cool video:




Basically, the caterpillar releases a bunch of enzymes that turn it into a soup with a bunch of chunky bits, and then the entire thing rearranges itself into an entirely new organism that is made up of all the exact same DNA that was there when it was a caterpillar. NATURE IS WEIRD, YO.

ANYWAY.

So, how is this related to anything I was talking about at the beginning of this post? It turns out that I was wrong. It's impossible to not lose yourself, at least a little bit, to your new role. I noticed it less as a new wife than I have as a new mom, but it was still present, even then. My priorities shifted. I was no longer a single unit, operating with only my own goals in mind. I was part of a team, and the team's goals became my own goals. I still had goals that were just mine, of course, but most of the time, they were superseded by those of the team. That is how I wanted it. How we wanted it.

It wasn't always the case. Going back to medical school was a time when my own personal goal superseded what was probably "best" for the team, but any good team sometimes requires compromise. Ken fully supported my dream then and continues to support me now as we come slowly (ever so slowly) towards the end of this wild ride called medical school. (1 year to go, basically! Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat.) So now I'm a wife who also happens to be a med student, and even underneath those layers, I'm Alison, the woman who loves reading, cheese, and sleeping in on Saturdays. What I'm saying is that there's a definite give and take to marriage, and I haven't lost my old self. It's just there in a different form.

Motherhood has been even more of a trip. I refused to become the stereotypical caricature of a mother that we all know. Haggard, can't remember the last time she showered, slowly martyring herself every day and giving all of her energy to her children. Am I tired? Sure. We're all tired. Granted, this is a different kind of tired than I've ever felt before, but it's nothing exciting or earth shattering. I refused to give up what gives me personal satisfaction and meaning to have it replaced by being a mother. And yes, I love being Aviva's mama, and knowing what I know now, I wouldn't give it up for anything in the entire world. But being Aviva's mama is not my sole identity. It is but a part of the wife-med student-reading-late sleeping-cheese eating woman that I am (and then some).

I often joke that life with a baby is the same as it was before, just... with a baby. But it's not. Sure, our activities are largely the same. We go out to dinner, we do housework, we binge-watch Parks and Rec, and we do it all with Aviva in tow (usually). But something feels different. I can't put my finger on it, but I am feeling like that caterpillar that has turned into a butterfly. I was doing fine as a caterpillar. Life was pretty good most of the time, and I liked it. Then, for 40 weeks, I was in this cocoon of pregnancy, and then I gave birth.  When a butterfly is emerging from a cocoon, it is really hard work and it can take a long time! The 12 weeks after Aviva arrived were my emergence from the cocoon. Our little bubble of a new family was perfect to me, and managing it was also the hardest thing I've done yet. (Yes, even more difficult than boards.)

So, to continue this grossly extended metaphor that is bordering on conceit, now I'm a butterfly (or, maybe a moth, because let's face it, ain't nobody got time to be butterfly beautiful every day), Some days, I feel like I'm still emerging from that cocoon. Drying my wings and learning that not only am I completely different, I am also completely the same as I was before Aviva was even an idea. I'm not going to lie and tell you that it's not hard. It is. It's hard and it's amazing and it's weird, and I'm still not entirely sure who I am or how being a mom fits into the rest of my life. That's the thing about life that I'm (reluctantly) learning; you kind of have to live it to figure it out.

Unlike a butterfly, I think that throughout Aviva's life, I'm going to keep going back into the cocoon, remaking myself. After all, she's not a static force, so I have to change in order to best support and care for her. What she needs from me now is not what she will need from me in 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years, or 2 decades. I think that any time our identity is threatened by change, even amazingly great change, we have a tendency to back away from it and to fear it. I know I do. But I'm trying to remind myself that it's okay to take all the time I need to get out of that cocoon, and it's okay for you to take your time, too. We don't have to know everything right now. And every time we go back into our cocoon, we have a new opportunity to learn about ourselves and change how we want to see ourselves in the world. It's scary, but hey, at least we don't have to completely liquefy ourselves to do it.




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