Last week, during the full moon, I had a little breakdown.
Let’s be honest. It was more of a meltdown. And it felt REALLY BIG.
You see, as my belly has been expanding to make room for this soon-to-be-not-so-little life inside of me, I’ve had the bizarre sensation that I am shrinking. Not physically – because, obviously that’s not the case. But rather my sense of who I am and how I identify in the world.
Intellectually, I understand that the process of becoming a mother will ultimately lead to expansion – I believe that I will have room for more, rather than less. I believe that I will have the opportunity to grow, to become more capable, more understanding, more compassionate (and, honestly, probably also a lot more snarky and at least a little more sarcastic).
But on the level of feeling, I am uncomfortable and I don’t understand. On the level of feeling, I am bobbing in a sea whose waves are so big that I cannot see the horizon anymore. I don’t know where I am going, only that it is not where I have been. It’s just like my friend Ben Fullerton said a few days ago,
A ball of yarn always feels like it’s being destroyed when it’s unraveling, but that’s because it doesn’t see the larger tapestry it’s being woven into; and often our biggest growth is on the other side of coming undone.
So I am coming undone. And this unraveling went something like this:
- None of my clothing fits anymore. There is nothing that I can put on the outside of me that feels like me.
- My hair is driving me nuts – it’s too hot and it takes too much work. I must get it cut.
- I want to work and I don’t want to work.
- No one in the world makes a decently cute (forget about sexy) nursing bra and I’ve had to stack all of my old lingerie into bins in the garage and say farewell for now. We had a ceremony.
- I cut my hair.
- I cried for a day about it.
- Wrote all kinds of stories in my journal about falling apart.
- Got upset about the crying about the hair.
- Took a walk in the woods with a journal. Sat in poison oak.
- Scheduled another hair appointment.
- Woke up and cried on my husband’s shoulder.
- Took a walk.
- Realized my hair looked kind of great.
- Cancelled second hair appointment.
- Ate yogurt.
And this was just the most recent cycle of meltdown. They’ve followed a pattern similar to what they tell me labor will be like – contractions that are spread apart and somewhat low in intensity, but then getting closer and closer together and greater and greater in intensity. It’s like watching a great new swell roll in on the sea. So this is not the first time I’ve felt like this this month. It’s the third. Last month, I felt this way for maybe two periods. And one every month before that.
And as I look ahead, I can only imagine that these periods will continue to get closer and closer together until, one day, things settle. There is a birth. The birth of the new me – the mommy me. And I’m sure I’ll let out a few screams of protest and look around like what the fuck just happened, and then I’ll figure out a groove and what my new needs are and then I’ll settle back down.
Inevitably, there will also be another period where I work to integrate the working part of me with the mama part of me. And there will be another sort of birth. And then – guess what, it will keep happening. Because that’s how we grow as humans.
We all go through these periods of birth and rebirthing ourselves, whether or not we’re becoming parents. We all go through transition. And these periods of personal transition are big, but really they’re nothing more than temporary periods of discomfort.
They may not feel transitory or temporary. They might feel acute. When I got thrown into the new sea, I grasped for anything that seemed familiar in order to get my bearings. To help me feel on the outside the way I wanted my insides to feel – comfortable, safe and surrounded by softness and beauty. Sometimes it’s the little things that orient us – the right hair cut, the soft lace of underthings, a favorite necklace worn over the heart.
The tokens don’t fix things, but they provide comfort through the temporary periods of discomfort. A compass. A touchstone.
So when you find yourself in the sea of transition, unraveling like a ball of yarn, remember to tell yourself that this is temporary. It’s a temporary period of discomfort, which means that it will pass. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but some day soon, it will pass. So grab onto your favorite comfort item and ride it out.