As midwives we bear particularly intimate witness to the transformation of a pregnant woman. Every single one of our clients, no matter where they are in their circumstances of life, walks into our practice as one woman, and leaves it (do you ever really leave a midwifery practice though?! IDK. Our door is always open! Okay, I digress) a different one. No matter the details of her birth, whether at home in her dimly-lit room, or in an operating room in a fluorescent light haze, the journey she has walked as she has cared for herself and her baby, taken responsibility for her health and made decisions accordingly, dug deep in doing the important physical, emotional, and spiritual work of preparing to meet this life...it all oozes of transformation.
I taught my 5 year old recently about the life cycle of butterflies when we saw a chrysalis hanging on a leaf at a local nursery. We sat down and looked at pictures and watched a couple videos of the process. She was in awe of how this happens- the science behind it, the mystery behind it. Heck, I was reminded all over again how incredibly insane the whole process is! My daughter asked if any other bugs go through such a huge shift, and (don't correct me, IDK much about bugs and, ya know what, I don't really care to), I told her no. "There's just simply nothing like it!"
But, you know where this is going...there is something like it. There is something I can say is at the very least parallel. But, here's a hunt: it's not about bugs.
You have this caterpillar, they know something big is about to happen but they don't quite know what. They prepare their bodies for the shift that lays ahead, and one day they simply begin their transformation.
There is no certainty as to what sets this off in the caterpillar, what flips the switch and tells them that it's time, they simply know. They find something stable and they begin to envelop themselves inside their chrysalis. What happens in there is a beautiful transformation- but during this time, it's pretty rough in there. What's happening inside is as wild as wild gets, but from the outside things look still. I'll tell you what's happening inside: There are all kinds of body parts being dissolved by digestive juices- ummm #nothanks. Like I mentioned- it's rough in there... hard, serious stuff happening- yes it is totally normal and natural, but hard nonetheless. But this hard, serious stuff has a huge payoff! One thing turning into quite another. The conduit of change is something that is natural yet mind blowing, normal yet miraculous, hard yet beautiful. And when the metamorphosis is complete, this new creature begins to emerge...slowly, seemingly uncomfortably, not quite sure of its footing yet, peeking around in the light.
Spreading its newly grown wings for the first time, I imagine the caterpillar taking a deep breath and looking around its surroundings-- seeing everything through new eyes, from a new perspective. They flap their wings while still connected to the chrysalis for a bit, looking timid and a bit confused by this new ability, until they are ready to take flight. It takes them a bit to wrap themselves around this new body, these new abilities, this new perspective, but when they do- they flutter their wings as wide as they can, and they take off. They fly and explore their surroundings in ways they never could have before. Confident in their abilities, they are no longer that uncomfortable butterfly trying to figure out how to get out of their old self and acclimate to the new...they simply are themselves, still, but in a new way.
That oozing of transformation we see in our pregnant moms? That caterpillar going through the cycle of metamorphosis? That new butterfly acclimating to its new self in this new season, a season that has come after some serious transformation, that not only changed it physically but emotionally it seems too- timidity that shifts into confidence? They're all one in the same.
One of the sweetest gifts midwifery has given us is a sneak peek into the metamorphosis of so many mothers, whether for the first time or 5th, and witnessing them find their footing and confidently spread their wings after some hard work done in their innermost being...there's just simply nothing like it.