Perhaps the most important step in habit changing is to first accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all. Those imperfections are what make us human. Instead of talking yourself down, try treating yourself as you would a loved one. Be forgiving, and realize that wherever you are right now, it’s okay. You’re more likely to succeed in making changes if they’re coming from a place of self-respect rather than self-hatred. Luke Jones
In Japanese culture, kintsugi is a traditional style of pottery where the cracks are filled with gold to amplify them. It can salvage a piece that is damaged by drawing attention and adding beauty to what could have been considered a flaw or imperfection. In the Western world, we tend to throw away pieces that are chipped, cracked, or broken instead of understanding the value in their unique history.
After my first daughter was born, I looked in the mirror and did not recognize myself. It was extremely disorienting. From what society had taught me I should look and feel like nothing had happened. Instead, I felt like my body was a broken version of what it had previously been. If instead of feeling the pressure to “bounce back” I had felt the same tenderness and love that an artisan of kintsugi shows a broken vessel, I would have learned to treat these perceived flaws with grace. I would have more readily accepted and formed a relationship with my new body. My transition to motherhood would have been so much better.
When we give birth we are forever changed physically, mentally, emotionally, and often spiritually as well. Pretending that it didn’t happen, or fighting the change, is trying to hold back the inevitable evolution that happens when we go through matrescence.
Discomfort is a part of any growth. Discomfort with change. Discomfort with our changing bodies, our shifting identity, our reimagined relationships. Discomfort with the deep, raw emotions we feel. Discomfort with the ways in which we mourn our old identity, the ways in which our relationships with our own parents disappointed us as children, or set such a high standard we feel we can never live up to them.
We must apply the art of kintsugi to not only our physical selves but also our emotional wounds of the past. Becoming a parent means not only facing all of the visible and invisible changes within ourselves as we are now. It also tugs deeply at old wounds from our childhood. Anything we have kept buried deep inside behind layers of armor or numbed with our painkiller of choice now bubbles out easily when we look at our babies and the new version of ourselves.
So while we are coming to terms with the perceived wreckage that is our postpartum body, and the beauty that is our connection to the exquisite soul we have birthed into the world, we are also re-examining every aspect of ourselves in all of our past iterations that led us to this place. It can be a reckoning, a coming home, a grounding, an awakening. But the one thing it can not be is a return to the place we were prior to giving birth. We can not bounce back. We can only exhale and take the first steps forward.