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“Can I tell you a story?” I say, cradling the phone against my ear.
She pauses on the other end, just an instant, but long enough for me to close my eyes and remember. I see myself as I was then, the first week home with my brand new baby: unkempt hair twisted into a bun, eyes red and wide from lack of sleep and too much adrenalin, breasts heavy and leaking, body sore from the journey I had just been on, and my baby, oh that sweet baby — I never believed she could cry so much or that my own body could be so wracked with tears and exhaustion. The whole world felt turned upside down.
“Of course you can,” she says.
I open my eyes, take a deep breath, and begin.
“This is the story of the magic within the chrysalis. Once there was a caterpillar. And one day, after many, many days of crawling slowly around her forest and eating her way through delicious leaves and blades of grass, this particular caterpillar knows her time has come to become a butterfly.
So she eats one last leaf and then crawls to the underside of a branch beneath her favorite tree and creates a tiny silk pad above herself on the tree, hooking herself onto it. She twists herself around and around and around, and when she is finally done she sheds her skin. What remains in its place is her chrysalis, and she hangs upside down inside of it.
It’s very, very quiet inside the chrysalis. The caterpillar wonders what is going to happen next. Is now the time she has heard about – when she is destined to become a butterfly? And then…slowly…the magic begins to happen.
You might think I’m going to tell you the caterpillar begins unfolding into a butterfly, but no – she’s not becoming a butterfly quite yet. First her body begins to break down into undifferentiated cells – she’s neither caterpillar nor butterfly but is just hanging there, a tiny bit of green goo inside the chrysalis waiting to be transformed. She wonders what her life will be like now that everything has been turned inside out and upside down, and now that she has been taken apart in ways she never even imagined would happen on this journey,” I say at almost a whisper, wishing I could hold her hand through the phone.
“Ohhhh,” she says, and sniffles.
“It’s kind of like that for us as new mothers, isn’t it?” I continue slowly. “We knew our life was changing, we knew we wouldn’t be the same again, but we never imagined this in-between, this time of hanging here like the green goo dripping down the inside of the chrysalis. All of us new mothers are here for a time. It can be a little frightening. We didn’t expect this. Our whole world is turned upside down.”
And I remember myself, and her, and all the other mothers to come before and after us.
“So what happens next?” she says.
“Suppose you knew the end to the story. What would change next for the caterpillar, for you?”
She begins to speak, and I settle into my chair and listen.
I am a mother, childbirth educator, breastfeeding peer counselor, and Birthing From Within™ Mentor. The crux of this story was shared with me at the Birthing from Within Introductory Workshop held in Atlanta in September 2013. Birthing from Within’s Introductory Workshop is the first step to becoming a Certified Birthing from Within Doula or Mentor. For a workshop schedule, you may visit http://www.birthingfromwithin.com/schedule.