In the weeks after giving birth, many women experience a general disconnect with their postpartum self. It results from the tremendous physical and emotional experience of gestating and birthing a human. Your body may feel or look unfamiliar. Your mind might feel foggy, like you’ve lost some of your prepartum sharpness. Your relationships might be completely out of sync. Even if you did not birth your child, the transition into motherhood rocks your self-identity. Parenting a tiny human is no easy feat, and postpartum changes can cause different areas of your life to feel unbalanced. When at one time you were completely focused on your small business, training for your next marathon, or spending quality time with friends and family, you now find yourself wondering when and if the “old” self and the “new” self will ever intersect. This middleground can feel uncomfortable.
There’s a perfect word for this season of postpartum being. It’s called liminality—the tension between the no longer existent and the not yet existent. That’s it. That’s the tension causing the ache right below our breast bone. It’s a longing to know that we’ll get to the other side of this and that we will find a different version of ourselves than where we are right now. Here, however, in the thick of the wilderness, patience is tested and character is shaped. Like a river traverses a canyon, the discomfort of waiting teaches us forbearance, endurance, and patience—three critical attributes of embracing our postpartum selves. Our newfound joy might feel as if it is diminished when a season of discontentment lasts longer than we’d like. Delayed gratification and lack of noticeable progress can cause us to dismiss the significance of this sacred time.
Here’s the hard truth: It takes courage to wait well.
Because waiting can easily feel like ambivalence. It can feel counterproductive. But in this instance of embracing change, ambivalence takes on a particularly binary quality. The emotional complexity of discovering our postpartum selves often gets broken down into the pressure to make a decision: to move toward change, or not. But the boundaries are often softer than that. Your postpartum journey should be about embracing the pliability of the season. Motherhood requires a tectonic shift in our body, mind, and identity. We are at the forefront of nurturing, teaching, worrying, loving, shaping, and extending ourselves further than we ever imagined possible. It’s on this liminal middleground that we evolve. Think of it as a flower unfurling. Somehow, when you weren’t even looking, you managed to open up just a tiny bit more, revealing those vibrant petals of what’s about to bloom. This is what is so beautiful about our postpartum self. It’s infinite and dynamic. Be hopeful in the waiting.
Embrace the current season you’re in as an equally important part of your story. Let us be OK with sitting in the discomfort of the between spaces and taking hold of the joy and meaningfulness threaded throughout this time. Even in the liminality, that is our supplication. Let us take in, be challenged, heal and enjoy the depths here.