Kintsugi is the art of repairing ceramics by illuminating the flaws with gold resin. This makes the piece more beautiful and valuable, the history being celebrated instead of tossed to the side.
Ten days ago, I woke up at around 2:30 in the morning with a rock solid right breast that felt like someone had taken a bat to it. About 12 hours later, I had a hot red mottled spot on the underside of the breast and every muscle and joint ached. A trip to the hospital – it was a Sunday – confirmed my suspicion: mastitis. With all the struggles that Little Buddy and I had with getting to a decent space with breastfeeding, this felt like a huge setback. But I was committed to continue feeding through the mastitis. The nurse and physician’s assistant, though, both said I had to formula feed for two days while the antibiotics dealt with the infection.
There were days, in the beginning, I would imagine how much easier things would be with formula feeding. My nipples wouldn’t be missing chunks of flesh. Shufs could have some feeding time bonding. It seemed like a far flung dream. Yet, when the nurse told me I couldn’t breastfeed, I felt like she had put a knife through my heart. While breastfeeding wasn’t enjoyable, I realized I didn’t want to give it up. Luckily, when I got home, I called the hospital back to double check the antibiotic they had given me and the new nurse and doctor on rotation said that I was able to breastfeed and that I absolutely should continue.
The last post used the word “surviving”, which was just kind of tossed out without really thinking. I find that a lot of people talk about surviving something that is, truthfully, quite easy to manage. While raising a child is difficult, it isn’t living in a war torn community or being a power minority in white supremacist America. It also perpetuates this idea that your child is an antagonist, that they must be something you overcome. It’s a strange circumstance we put ourselves in with our own children. I do understand that for lots of people, raising a child is a daily practice of survival. That’s why I shouldn’t toss that word around so loosely. My privilege has afforded me the luxury of being able to raise a child with minimal frustration. Since that’s the case, I’ve been trying to engage with the difficulties in a different way. It’s shitty of me to use a term that actually applies to other people.
I’ve always had body image issues. It shouldn’t have surprised me that the difficulties I wound up focusing on were body centered. While bodies always change and develop, they do so in somewhat predictable ways for the the most part. But birth and breastfeeding sent my body into a chaotic spin. My nipple are terrifying surprises with lumps, pains, and growths. They leak. They grow and shrink. While I was prepared for stretch marks and sagging regions, I was not prepared for the rapid changes in both me and Little Buddy. Cluster feedings can take a real toll the first go around. There are literal scars to prove it.
There’s something else, though. I’m healing. There are fresh patches of skin on my nipple. I’m getting stronger. Little Buddy is growing into his relationships with me and Shufs. When doing night feedings, he will instinctively curl into my body. He’s teaching the both of us to tread with more intention when it comes to our reactions to situations. He is both resilient and fragile. He is simultaneously the biggest and smallest thing in our lives. He has opened our hearts so wide that it hurts. It’s an exquisite tenderness. It is unlike anything we’ve experienced.
My body now holds bright gashes of gold highlighting the moments I’ve learned something new about myself, about Shufs, about Little Buddy. I’m not broken or damaged. I’m repaired. I’m improved. The piecemeal vessel I’m building myself into is brighter and stronger than I was before. It’s not about burden. It’s about integration.