The first year of my son’s life was a total whirlwind. My husband returned from a deployment to Iraq six days before his birth. We moved 350 miles away from our family and friends when he was only 4 weeks old, and moved again, three more times, before his first birthday. I was a disconnected from a career that I treasured and playing a major role in helping my husband jumpstart a brand new career for himself. We were living out of boxes, never really getting settled, our only constant being a constant state of flux and growth. I stayed grounded by focusing on the wonder of my sweet baby and how different he was with each new morning. Watching him change was amazing and inspiring. When I looked at myself, I felt stagnant. I was still wearing my maternity leggings. I could never get caught up on anything: sleep, laundry, dishes, professional development, conversations with friends, that book collecting dust on my nightstand, my Netflix queue, yoga...the list went on. Then, shortly before we celebrated the first anniversary of our sweet boy’s earthly existence, I read a beautiful anonymous quote:
“The most difficult part of birth is the first year after afterwards. It is the year of travail--when the soul of a woman must birth the mother inside her. The emotional labour pains of becoming a mother are far greater than the physical pangs of birth; these are the growing surges of your heart as it pushes out selfishness and fear and makes room for sacrifice and love. It is a private and silent birth of the soul, but it is no less holy than the event of childbirth, perhaps it is even more sacred.”
Oh, had I felt the travail during that year. All the stress, anguish, worry, guilt, resentment, fear, and sadness I felt were instantly recognizable as the labor pains of birthing my mothering soul. I was still wearing maternity leggings and letting my new book collect dust because it wasn’t at all about me anymore. I was tired because I spent my nights making sure my baby was fed and warm, and watching him peacefully drift back to sleep. Instead of doing laundry and dishes, I was doing tummy time and slicing more mangoes for my adventurous eater. Professional development took a backseat because I was busy with far more important work. My mothering soul was beginning to burst with sacrifice and love.
My son is a toddler now, and he continues to encourage me to become a kinder, gentler, and more observant person. Instead of complaining about the rain, I now notice how fragrant wet leaves smell and how pollen resting on the surface of a puddle looks like marble art. I wave to strangers on the street and make small talk with people wherever I go, following his lead. I eat healthier, I laugh heartily, I brush my teeth three times a day, and I sing even more often. I have a tremendous amount of respect for and gratitude to my own mother and all the mothers in my life, and I make sure I tell them this on a regular basis. I relish the brief moments of alone time I share with my husband, and we truly enjoy ourselves when we find them.
This transformation--my mothermorphosis--didn’t look pretty while it happened. I cocooned in self-doubt for many months. But alas, as my son turned one year old and spring emerged in buds and birdsongs, I too emerged, as a butterfly of motherhood.