Egg-ceptional Life Lessons

I don’t pay much attention to eggs. To be honest, I don’t like them in any format, and I have tried them all: fried, sunny side up, poached, hard boiled, soft boiled, or scrambled. I don’t even like dyeing Easter eggs. The only time I pay any attention to eggs is when I need them to bake, and we are invariably out of them.

I am no farmer and other than owning six dogs (not including five accidental puppies), eight goldfish, two cats, and one snail, I have very little experience with animals — especially farm animals. Nonetheless, as spring is upon us offering its abundance of new life, I have found myself fascinated with the birth (aka hatching) process of chicks.

A chick’s hatching is simple, beautiful and, frankly mind-boggling. Fragile eggs transform to chicks in a mere twenty-four days. While the hen spends several days in the nest, once her stint as egg warmer and turner is up, the chick is alone. Confined in its shell, chicks make audible peeps for several days before they even begin to break their shell. Yet, even though the hen can hear the cries, she rarely offers assistance.

Chicks begin their release by pipping. Using the “egg tooth” — a tiny, sharp point on the beak that falls off when it is no longer needed — the chick ratchets around the egg creating a circle of peck marks to perforate its shell. This break out is an exhausting ordeal, and the chick often needs to rest for hours or days during the process. Once free, the little fluff puff is completely independent. Its mother and siblings are often nonentities as the chick can walk, hear, see, eat and follow others.

As a mother of six, I find the self-reliance of chicks insulating and baffling, and the irresponsibility of the hen negligent. What kind of mother hears its baby crying and does not offer assistance? What mother could watch her child labor to peck out of a shell that she could break in seconds? The hen does not offer help, and the chick does not look for it. As a human hen, I admit I judge the mother hen. I have thoroughly enjoyed helping my chicks and being needed by them. I adore nurturing, caring, and spending time with my chicks.

Yet, the solitude and self-sufficiency of a chick is a metaphor I must explore as a mother and as a woman. As a mother, maybe I need to allow my chicks to use their own “egg teeth” more often. Maybe I need to accept that my children are born with the necessary tools for them to free themselves from their own eggs. Maybe every cry of my children does not require my assistance — unless body fluids are involved. Maybe my need to mother interferes with my children’s need to break out, grow up, and leave me. Maybe — gulp — the hen has something for me to learn!

This reality is either a slap in the face or a set of wings. The solitude, work, and liberation of a chick moving from its shell to the world are lessons for me as a woman — separate from me as a mother. As I break out of my egg, one in which I have often placed myself, I need to remember that it is my job to work my way out. I am encouraged that I, like the chick, am equipped with everything I need. My journey includes time alone in the shell, time to rest and be warmed by the care of others, time to cry out to, time to start pipping, and finally time to break out, on my own to discover the world.