“Hey, are you going to reunion this year?”

A message from my childhood friend caught me by surprise. Apparently it has been 20 years since we graduated from high school and the reunion is in July. I have never been to a high school reunion.

My friend is in California, so the time difference meant that I read the message as I munched on my granola and drank my morning tea. I tried to imagine what my former schoolmates must look like. How have they changed? What are they doing now? Would anyone even recognise me?

I know I probably look a bit like the person I was 20 years ago, but I feel completely different. In fact, it seems absurd to think that I am anything like the person I used to be.

Today I thought of this as my children and I dipped our nets into a local pond and observed the creatures we found. Damselfly and dragonfly larvae are pond monsters, living in those murky waters for 2-5 years before they crawl onto a reed, shed their old bodies and emerge as the flying jewels we all know.

damselfyly husk

Today, of all days, was the day the damselflies decided to emerge. And we watched.

damselfly collage two

As I lay on my tummy observing these insects’ incredible transformation I turned to my friend and said, “This is a metaphor for motherhood, you know.”

Of course all people change throughout their lives. When grandma comes to visit she takes one look at the children, throws up her arms and exclaims, “Oh! You got so BIG!” She recognises the change because she hasn’t seen them in a while. From day to day it is almost imperceptible, but change nevertheless happens.

The alteration in a woman when she becomes a mother seems somehow different and more startling. I believe that it is one of the major transformative experiences in a woman’s life. Becoming a mother is such a drastic change for a woman, such a milestone, that the transformation leaves her almost unrecognisable from the person she was before. It’s a metamorphosis.

damsel on hand

At least that’s what happened to me.

The damselfly larva and the damselfly are the same animal—just at different stages of their life cycle. In essence, I am the same creature that my mother gave birth to all those years ago. I’m Lisa. At this stage of my life cycle I am a mother. Before motherhood, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. Now, I wear my skin like a comfortably warm and colourful (but somewhat misshapen) mantle. Before motherhood, I focussed on myself and all the things that interested me in my narrow world. Now, I learn new things every day because I am discovering the world through the lens my children hold before my eyes. Before motherhood, I did what I thought I should be doing. Now, I feel that I am following my vocation. Before motherhood, I was preparing to live my adult life. Now, I am living my life’s purpose.

Does the damselfly remember her larval husk? I can barely recall what I was like before motherhood. But I do know that I was more self-centred, less compassionate, more exacting, less patient, and overall, a lot more uptight. Shedding that tight skin did me a whole lot of good. Motherhood has given me wings.

©Lisa Hassan Scott, 2014.

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9 thoughts on “Mothermorphosis

  • 01/05/2014 at 11:28 pm

    You could have taken the words right out of my mouth! (Well, taken out the sentiment, in a more convoluted way, and put it into beautiful, flowing prose! 😉 ) I was just talking to a friend about this today. About how this, now, seems right and good, compared to what went before. Like you, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin beforehand, but having children really helped me find myself. I suppose they found me!

    Glad you found time to write. I always love to read it.

    • 02/05/2014 at 7:10 am

      Thanks Kirsten. It *is* hard to explain isn’t it? Even after I wrote this last night I felt that it was somehow insufficient for what I wanted to say. Still trying to find the right words.

      I like the idea that your children found you. Like buried treasure 🙂

  • 02/05/2014 at 1:21 am

    Lovely, Lisa.
    I can remember feeling like I was finally doing something I knew how to do, when I had my first baby. (Everything after baby/toddlerhood is a different story!) But I finally felt, like you say, like I’d found the right skin.
    And how FABULOUS that you got to watch them emerge! So very cool.

    • 02/05/2014 at 7:12 am

      Hi Amy,
      Yes it was very cool. Those damselflies were the last thing I thought about last night, and the first thoughts in my mind this morning. What a moment.

      Sounds like when you had your first baby you found your passion.

      I love to hear that.

  • 02/05/2014 at 7:54 am

    I couldn’t agree more Lisa. Motherhood has changed me beyond recognition. I’m happier now than I have been at any other time in my life and much calmer (generally ;-)). Do you think that women who don’t become mother’s ‘get it’?

  • 02/05/2014 at 4:50 pm

    Lovely words, thank you! I feel v similar but somehow find it v hard to express – great that you found a way

  • 02/05/2014 at 5:58 pm

    Only recently did we learn about how different this creature is at different times in its life — and what an apt comparison! I didn’t feel uncomfortable in my skin before motherhood, but it was a lifetime ago! When I look back I can see images of where I was, what I was doing, how i was doing it, even what I was wearing — and it’s like looking at photographs. So different from what “is” now. I am transformed. I’m me. But am I that girl grown up or the me I was going to become? (Are they the same?) When people from my past see me, I can imagine they “see” the same person. But it is me who feels the metamorphosis! I’m thankful everyday for the gift of getting to grow and change and become, as a result of motherhood.
    Thank you for writing, Lisa!

  • 02/05/2014 at 6:15 pm

    Lovely Lisa; yes I hear you! Love the new word ‘Mothermorphosis’!

    Though for me, I’m not sure metamorphosis is the right analogy. I am still very much me, and I am remembering more and more about my childhood and how I am still so alike to that child back then. There were times in my early adult life when I felt lost and ‘not me’ but motherhood helped to re-acquaint me with the real (or, rather, old) me; it somehow distilled the very essence of the old me and got rid of the ‘not me’ components.

    I remember Pippa of Story of Mum asking something like: use 3 words to describe yourself before becoming a mother. And I said something like: reflective, loving, creative. And for the 3 words to describe yourself afterwards I wrote: more reflective, more loving, more creative. You see… a distillation? [Chemical term an’ all!]

    Best wishes, M x

  • 02/05/2014 at 8:34 pm

    I love the idea that I am always Me and it is always Now. Thanks Eckhart Tolle for that one! He suggests that our past selves are really just fictions, and that the only self which truly exists is the present one. I think our children help us to live closer to the now, thereby putting us in a more immediate relationship with our present selves, rather than the ideas and projections of self which often litter our youths. I have few schemes for greatness now or grand designs but through my children I have obtained a purposefulness I never dreamt possible.

    Another thing this brings to mind is the Ted Hughes poem ‘The Pan’ where his future self watches a scene from his past; his exhausted, rag taggle family stop off enroute to their new home for provisions ‘a pan to heat milk and babyfood’. I often reflect on the idea that soon I will be watching this time through the lens of memory and it makes me terribly sad but also grateful and determined to be present in it before it is gone.

    Thank you Lisa, I really enjoy your prompts to reflect and to strive for awareness in our mothering moment.

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