In Italian, the phrase “dare alla luce” translates as “to give birth to;” literally it means “to give to the light.”
I find this phrase to have more meaning and power than ever after having given birth to my son. For me, I found the post-partum period (and beyond) very challenging. Much of these feelings had to do with this idea that when he was born, part of me had died.
Passed on. Left for a better place, or a worse place.
I’m not really sure where it went actually. But I do know that when I gave birth to Baby C and “gave to the light” I was very much giving away a huge part of myself.
Through childbirth, your body goes through so much, you literally sacrifice much of your physical self. The changes you experience from pregnancy, birth, and then recovering are massive. For me that means saying a temporary goodbye to much of my preferred wardrobe. My sense of style is barely hanging by a thread before it goes completely out the window.
I knew from early in my pregnancy that I would be wearing a pregnancy uniform of sorts—leggings and a long, baggy top. I knew this look had outworn its welcome when my husband asked if I might consider donning anything other than leggings once in awhile. He practically begged than after Baby C was born I might consider a colour other than black?
I don’t mean to scare anyone, for many women pregnancy is not at all bad in terms of physical changes. I was very lucky to have a healthy pregnancy with only a minor bump or two along the way. But the body I am left with now really does show the battle scars that come with the whole experience — stretch marks everywhere, which ironically did not appear until the final 2 weeks of my pregnancy — just when I thought I was in the clear!
Breastfeeding is an experience I find many women are not as forthcoming to share, and I really wish someone would have told me more about it. For me, it did not go well. I would burst into spontaneous tears when seeing my breasts in the mirror after a long day of nursing.
Cracked, bleeding, engorgement and eventually infection made them practically unrecognizable to me. And it’s not just the physical changes; the mental adjustment proved to be more challenging.
The now almost constant physical contact, the suddenly endless to-do list: trying to keep about ten steps of everything that needs to be accomplished in the day, taking care of your new baby while trying to shove a in mouthful of food here and there, potentially squeezing in the need to bathe every once in awhile, on top of being highly sleep-deprived, and my personal favourite, dealing with the overwhelming feeling of being constantly needed by baby, husband, dog, and everyone else almost all the time.
I felt very used, abused, dark, depressed. My light had gone—but to where?
My theory is that the life and light that had once shone brightly as my own and uniquely belonged to me transferred to my son slowly throughout pregnancy, and then he took what was left with him on his way into the world.
I don’t blame him for this. I’m actually really happy that this happened even though things appeared quite bleak at the time. Looking back on this dark period, it would make perfect sense for me to give my light to him in the first few months of his life; Baby C needed it to grow and learn in love. And the most amazing thing is that even though I don’t feel as though I’ve fully come back to life, what appears to have happened is that I simply let him borrow it for a while.
My shining baby boy is slowly returning it to me. In his smiles, laughter, and through his expressions I am beginning to feel like myself again. As I have the privilege to witness my child coming more and more animated, more full of his own life, he is kindly returning my borrowed
light and energy.
I gave him what he needed, and will always do so, it’s just that now he is bringing me back to life, little by little.
While it has been very difficult to adjust, perhaps selfishly, to not being the centre of my own world anymore, that Baby C is now the first priority for at least the rest of my life, as long as there is love and light to go around between us we’ll both be just fine.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: author’s own