Motherhood through the lens of trauma by Samantha Porciello
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;
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.
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.