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I want to tell you a story about a woman who had a beautiful baby...and when the baby was put into her arms her heart opened...


but as her heart opened so did the parts of her brain that stored her suppressed trauma.


My name is Samantha Porciello. This is my story, my heart, my brain and my baby.


From the very first day the midwife gave me my baby it felt like my brain and heart were playing tug of war.....my heart wanted to bask in the holy newness of my baby, but my brain shot neurotransmitters of fear, danger that felt like shocks through my body, I associated love with fear and my brain was in over drive.


As I left the hospital it felt like I was carrying my baby on a tightrope and if I took one wrong step I would drop him. So I held on tight, constantly held my breath and kept moving.


As a survivor of childhood trauma transitioning into parenthood flared my trauma like an old aching injury...I needed to rest, heal and consolidate. But as a mother I was constantly;

moving,

building,

counting,

planning,

Watching,

Wiping,

changing,

washing,

shopping,

hosting,

facilitating,

cleaning,

cooking,

working,

playing,

scheduling,

ruminating,

worrying,

running,

running,

running,

running away from the pain I needed to heal.



I was spiralling.



And when I interacted with other mothers I would search in their eyes for some sign that I wasn’t alone. In those spaces we would put on the facade that motherhood was one dimensional, a privilege, we were made to be mothers, there was no dark under layer, there was no longing.


I remember those women around me wore a uniform of stripped shirts, skinny jeans, went to baby yoga and effortlessly whipped up organic mush for perfect babies/toddlers.


It wasn’t their fault, they were simply living their lives and I believe there are many women who transition into motherhood gently and settle in. But that wasn’t my reality. Where are the spaces for mothers who were struggling? Even if you’re struggling with past trauma or not, the world for a mother can be hostile and lacks authentic stories, connection, depth and dimension...the masks mothers feel obligated to wear just further isolates and amplifies the long days and nights of perpetual labour.


I was cracking, pieces of me were floating into the ether and I surrendered to my fate, maybe this is what it feels like, maybe giving yourself fully to motherhood is the ultimate act of love. Maybe no one tells you about this secret code of motherhood, ‘Be grateful for your baby’ and swallow anything outside of this mantra. I was the ultimate martyr. My fear and isolation twisted tightly around me.


When you are in the midst of a crisis, (if you are reading this now and can see yourself in my story) the biggest warning sign isn't when you are crying, feeling deeply or expressing your pain. It’s when you go numb, can no longer feel and give up fighting, when the lights go out.



When my son turned 3, my light went out.



I couldn’t feel a thing, I couldn’t get out of bed. In those darkest moments behind my dim eyes and deep within my belly were screams and echoes of the woman who I was waiting to be. I wanted to fight for her and she wanted me to live.



Healing is different for everyone...I initially spent a lot of time in silence closing my eyes and breathing. Then the whispers came in, this deep inexplicable inner guidance that gently arrives when you stop running.


I had to trust the people around me to help take care of my son, I could no longer cover him like a shield, I had to believe that when I wasn’t there he would be ok. I wanted to love him without fear and part of that was letting go, trusting and getting to the root of the fear.


My mantra was ‘I’m doing best I can with resources I have’. This is still my mantra.


I didn’t want my son to grow up not seeing his mother in her full fiery force so I let my desire to connect with my life force again and love for my son propel me forward on the terrifying road of healing. I worked with a somatic healer, I cut off toxic draining friendships, I reached out for help to people who felt safe. I began to follow the breadcrumbs back to my soul...by doing things that made me come alive, I visited friends in Italy, sat under trees, rested, looked at the sky, and wrote stories that my 6 year old self needed to hear.


One of those stories was called ‘Dream a Little Dream’ about a little girl caught in a bad dream, the only way she can wake up and go home was to find something truly beautiful. In the end that truly beautiful thing is herself.


I later turned this story into a children’s theatre show and a children’s relaxation book that uses a child centred language to translate breath and emotional processing tools.

https://www.placetowonder.com/dream-a-little-dream-book


Over the past 7 years since my son was born there has been a movement and awakening for women. There are more conversations about how the unrealistic expectations put on mothers can impact mental health. The #metoo movement has empowered women to break out of stifling archetypes, undeniably things have evolved, but I still believe there is stigma in NI around women struggling with post natal depression and anxiety.


I would like to see more honest safe postpartum spaces for women.


I believe our children pick us...my son chose me for my poetry, my messiness, and my magic. Not because I’m an empty archetype of the perfect mother, that let's be honest, was perpetrated by a patriarchal system that hates women anyways.


Im still on my healing journey, and all I really know for sure is...that I need to keep steadfastly shining my light so my son knows how to go into the world and shine his own unique light.

When my little boy grows up he will have a road map to live a whole hearted beautiful life, because his mama showed him how.







  • Máthair




Any job that requires you to be "on" 24/7 is hard. That is the role of a mum. Being a queer activist and performer also comes with its expectations. People do not imagine you being unfunny or being quiet and reading a book. There is the presumption you are on naturally 24/7.


So, when I became a Queer activist performing mum I don’t think I really realised what that meant or how I was going to navigate the many hats I wear without having a nervous breakdown. I’m not entirely sure it’s been successful but for the most part I think I keep my head above water.


Being a mum/parent is hard for anyone, there are so many considerations to factor in when making decisions that will inevitably shape your child’s future. Insert any of the following words in front: Queer/woke/feminist/progressive and you have added a whole other layer of mindfuckery for yourself. Having Frankie was the dream we never thought would be reality.


When we found out she was en route we had a glowing romantic notion that life would be like everyone else’s, we had experienced so much love and acceptance our self we imagined it would be the same with Frankie. And 90% of our parenting experience has been. But it’s the 10% that eats into your mental health as a parent isn’t it? Those little looks of confusion at both of us being her mum. The taxi drivers who want to know how you made a baby without a penis...but it's ok to ask because they are pro equality. Realising you're going to need to compromise your beliefs sometimes in order to allow your child to fit in. Discovering that you in fact may need to move house to ensure you get her into a school they don’t teach Adam and Eve is the only way. When one of her first words is daddy...and even though it is merely phonetically the easiest word to learn as a baby it still stings sometimes.


And then the wobbles of guilt kick in that she didn't ask for two mums. You did that to her. You made school a place that awkward questions will be asked. That Father’s Day becomes a confusion day. I let these thoughts swim in my brain for a long time now. Then I talked to my friends in heteronormative relationships about my fears and guilt and worries. They reminded me that yes we will face these challenges...but we also happen to be bringing up the future. A strong, loved and informed human with the capacity to understand her two mummies love her unconditionally. Something that many adults cannot fathom.


Life is a bit more complex as a Queer parent because we want to bring our child up as inclusive, progressive, informed and nurtured; but also, someone who understands not everyone is there yet. We can demand we are given our space in this world, but we can't expect everyone will want to share it. That is not how it is. I want to successfully bring her up knowing that this is other people’s issues to unpack not hers. I'm not sure how we will navigate schools in a year or two but in the meantime I can make sure she knows she is loved enough and has enough self-worth to deal with it. Besides, I have yet to find an adult with a heart that Frankie can't melt just by being her. She is the future and hope of the next generation. She is always enough, and I will make sure she knows that even when the world tries to impose its labels on her.


Words and images by Gemma Hutton





I went to the funeral of my friend’s mother today, and during the service I started to think about the different relationships we have with those that we refer to as mum, mummy, ma, mother dearest, máthair.


I have observed my friends’ relationships with their mothers over the years, I suppose to compare them to my own difficult experiences, and I think it is fair to say every one of them are uniquely different; with their own set of internal and external family dynamics at play.

At university, I used to jealously watch as my friend’s mums would ‘pop down to Belfast for the day’ take them out for lunch, maybe buy them some new clothes, slip them a few quid and head back up the road home. That didn’t happen for me.


I’ve watched other friends nurse their mothers through terminal illnesses, their hearts fracturing feeling helpless with the woman who gave birth to them and raised them slowly slip away. Their grief then unfolds as the slow but inevitable realisation occurs after the flurry of activity around the illness, death and funeral, that they will never see or speak or smell or touch that person again; the first person who spoke and listened and smelled and touched us.


Other friends have been so deeply wounded by their mothers that they have chosen to cut off all contact as the constant emotional violation is just too much to bear as history and damaged relationships play out over and over and over again. Bitterness and resentment rot the vessel that holds them; sometimes you just have to let go for your own mental health and wellbeing.


I have been a mum for nearly 21 years now, to three amazing human beings. And through my own adverse experiences of being mothered I think I have learned to do a pretty good job. My children are confident and competent in life skills. They can problem solve, communicate and articulate themselves. They respect themselves and the environment and they are not afraid to challenge injustice wherever they see it; be it at a bus stop, on the news, at home or with peers.


Some mums get hung up on the drinking, smoking, drugs and sex stuff; I never did with my kids. I always saw these things as inevitable rites of passage and I never wanted my children to think that I was a hypocrite. So I talked and guided them through all these issues with a view to harm reduction and damage limitation as opposed to the fairground wheel of being ‘caught’ having being grounded for a period of time and then repeat ad nauseum until your young person moves out.


With my kids, I am much more interested in our ability to communicate and be open and honest with each other. I have guided them and continue to do so through all the trials and tribulations that we will face in our lives. My children are principled, emotionally intelligent and downright good craic. And I love them fiercely.


Being a mother is a real privilege as well as a pain in the arse but I wouldn’t change any of it.


Words and image Kellie O'Dowd




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Love Cheryl and Lyndsey

x

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