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Trusting After Trauma (and some words for a fireman)

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Today, while putting my almost three year old daughter Beam down for her nap, she seemed pensive.

So I asked, “How are you feeling?”

And she answered, “Good.”

“Good? OK, I’m glad,” I told her. And then I got one of those this-is-such-a-precious-moment feelings and I decided to ask her, “What are you grateful for?”

“Mama Rose’s heart,” she said. Thump.

 

Eight months ago in a very tender Mama Bear moment, I found Mama Rose and her tiny home-based child-care space, RootRock Artgarden, in gorgeous rural western Sonoma County. Beam was ready for more variety in her life, and I was ready for a few more hours for myself every week. That’s when Mama Rose showed up.

Today as I write this, Beam is at Mama Rose’s house for her final day there, as we are ready to transition into a setting that won’t involve a drive. And as I listen to my inner wisdom, the instinctual voice of self-love within me, it feels very important to write about this transition. Other mamas can benefit. Other humans can benefit. It is helpful to be reminded of the power of trust.

Even in–or after–trauma.

For many people, sending your child to daycare isn’t a big deal. It’s just what you do. It can actually be a huge relief. For others, it’s a big deal but it’s still what you do. You don’t not do it. For me, not doing daycare was quite a possibility. Because it’s not easy to trust after trauma.

In March of 2013, while I was in an energetically ripped-wide-open state of being, two hours after Beam was born in our bedroom, our midwife noticed she wasn’t breathing right and called an ambulance. I went into shock. Within minutes, I was dressed, my front door roughly flung wide open, and into my sacred, candle-lit, space–a goddess sanctuary of birth-giving, beauty and power–stomped loud, dirty, heavy fireman’s boots. My sacred, shoe-free space (we don’t wear shoes in our house) went from dim, primal sanctuary into a violated wound that I wouldn’t heal for years.

The stabbing point was when the fireman turned to me and said, referring to my midwife, “You’re lucky she’s here.”

I’m lucky she’s here?!?! Oh, the words I have been holding in an angry corner of my heart for that man.

Dear Fireman, luck had nothing to do with having her there. No, it was actually quite deliberate. There were four highly trained birth supporters at my home that night, two of whom have a combined forty years in supporting both healthy and high risk births. If you had any idea what it takes to be a woman with the courage to choose an all natural home birth, that comment would have never come out of your mouth. So next time you meet a woman who has just done the most powerful thing a human can do, try this instead. With your words, like a prayer, in a grounded whisper of reverence, “Ma’am, Goddess, is there a midwife here supporting your awe--inspiring and breathtaking process of giving birth?”

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Let’s be clear that firemen and women can be very helpful. That is obvious. This man was not helpful. The paramedics in the ambulance and the medical staff at the hospital, on the other hand, were gracious and seemed to actually respect a woman who’d just given birth. Take note, Dear Fireman. Your militarized, adolescent, masculine aggression is not welcome in my house or my space ever again.

But trauma subsides, if we deal with it.

It’s now almost three years later and as I look back, this trauma sat under my skin for the whole year after Beam was born, and the whole next year, and into the next, until one day, I finally saw over the horizon and realized, wow, I’ve been trying to live with trauma. As in, go on in life without healing the wound. And that ‘aint gonna work. I’m not gonna thrive unless I heal it.

So my path is laid. Those wounds are seeing the light now. I’m looking at them and doing the work it takes to heal them.

What’s the work? The process of healing wounds looks different for each of us. Yet if I were to simplify the recipe, it is about having a rigorous relationship with the truth, and loving ourselves. Here is a breakdown of how my process looked, and how it might apply to the process of healing trauma for anyone in any situation.

“Ma’am, Goddess, is there a midwife here supporting your awe-inspiring and breathtaking process of giving birth?”

Tell the truth.

Since my daughter was born I had been having an unusually difficult time landing business clients. I kept asking Why? And couldn’t figure it out. Clear surrender was the only wise choice. Once I surrendered ‘down to the ashes’ I began noticing there was something stuck back in my mind, back in my experience, that I still hadn’t addressed: my post- labor trauma. I told myself it was time; I was ready. Not only did I not want this to be stuck in my being, to lead to disease of any sort as unaddressed pain often will... I also wanted to learn from whatever it had to teach me. I told the truth about what happened, and about my readiness to heal it.

For others, I recommend finding a peaceful, spacious place to sit with your journal, and ask yourself: What happened? What do I notice? Write down the story. Your real, uncensored experience. How did you feel, however crazed, ruptured, disgusted, terrorized or otherwise traumatized it may have been? And are you ready to look at it? Write that down. “I am ready.”

Ask for help.

For me, help came primarily from a few very close friends who listened as I shared my story, and also shared what they saw as well as their insights, wisdom, and championing words. During a visit to see some of these friends in a town north of where I now live, it really hit me that I wanted masterful support. Synchronistically, the name of a Master Reiki Practitioner kept surfacing in conversations and I knew it was meant for me. I called the master energy worker and set up an appointment.

Even with unhealed trauma, we can trust. We can lean into the love of others and discover something deeply beautiful.

Choose one or a few core, trusted people to lean on for support. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t need to include your primary partner. What’s important is that whoever you ask for support, has proven to you their willingness to show up for you: to listen, to see you, to believe in you. Ask them to listen more than anything, to be a spacious, welcoming presence for you to share. Then check within yourself to see if you also want support from a masterful presence like an energy worker, coach, therapist, or other gifted person. Once you decide on this, ask for help to find the right person if you don’t already have one in mind. Call them and set up an appointment. At this point, even though it may not show on the surface, your healing is well underway.

Forgive others.

If someone could be seen as inflicting trauma on you, there is no way to heal yourself unless you forgive them. Forgiveness may not happen overnight; it may take years to fully forgive. Forgiveness is about seeing that people who behave in unloving ways–however horrifically are deeply wounded themselves. The point is not so much to understand this but to accept it, and to move on from seeing them as the source of your pain.

In my case, I’ve been pretty clear all along this had nothing to do with the fireman. He was simply doing his job, coming to help a newborn whose life was on the line. But still I needed to get out that voice of anger within me, particularly about what he said. From his perspective, I may have been an uninformed woman who was naive enough to give birth at home, when in his eyes it is safer to give birth in a hospital. His words and perspective were, more than anything, a reflection of the culture he lives in. Although he was uninformed, I didn’t need to let that bother me anymore. If I wrote a letter to him (and I did,) it didn’t need to go to him. This was never about him. This was about me tending to the pain that moment brought on within me, and letting its gifts dig themselves deep in my core.

To forgive others, we must see that they could not have felt totally loved when they acted unlovingly. This requires immense emotional maturity, and is not well supported in our culture. We must find allies in this dance, and stand for its truth in our words and actions, in order to grow a world that is more willing to forgive–and thereby, more willing to love.

Writing a letter is a very powerful way to forgive someone. “I see you, I accept that you were in pain, not feeling totally loved, and I forgive you.”

In March of 2013, while I was in an energetically ripped-wide-open state of being, two hours after Beam was born in our bedroom, our midwife noticed she wasn’t breathing right and called an ambulance. I went into shock. Within minutes, I was dressed, my front door roughly flung wide open, and into my sacred, candle-lit, space–a goddess sanctuary of birth-giving, beauty and power–stomped loud, dirty, heavy fireman’s boots. My sacred, shoe-free space (we don’t wear shoes in our house) went from dim, primal sanctuary into a violated wound that I wouldn’t heal for years.

Forgive self.

During the trauma experience, did you act in a way that you’re proud of, or did you show harshness, insensitivity or hatred in any way–to yourself or others? After the trauma occurred, as was the case for me, did you not even notice it was there for weeks, months or even years? Unfortunately, for many people there is trauma within that doesn’t get healed in their entire lifetime. They die (physically) with it; may we rise to the occasion and love ourselves more rigorously than that, while we are still alive in our bodies.

I highly recommend writing a letter, and this time to yourself. Mine looked something like this, “Dear Jessica, I see that you held trauma within you for over two years since your daughter was born. I see the pain you breathed in and out, the tears that poured over your breakfast and bath water, every single day–the trauma you didn’t even know was there. I accept that, although a little bird inside your chest was longing for your attention, you were focused on mothering your daughter with an exquisite degree of presence and potent love. The love and support you most needed, despite your gloriously supportive circle of friends and family, just wasn’t there until you noticed the hole trauma made. I forgive you for the time it took to notice, open up to, share and heal your trauma. Love, Jessica”

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Energetically release.

Trauma isn’t intellectual. It’s energetic. Scream. Pound on your bed or a pillow. Dance like mad. Let it out of your body with every loud word and emotion you’re got in you. Exhaust it. Let it go. Don’t let it slip out unconsciously in words throughout your day or by creating cancer in your body. Own your power. Let it go. My work with a master energy worker helped with this alot.

Honor the learning.

What is the jewel here now, that was hidden under the surface of pain? What do you know now that you’ve lived through this and healed it? Write it down. Honor the gift. Now you not only have greater capacity to love yourself and express your power; you have greater capacity to love and empower others, too.

My trauma experience carved a 1,000 -mile- deep cave of devotion in my body, heart and soul, for women. Women in natural labor–natural, home birth, the words can get confusing, let’s stick with the  feel instead!–women who are courageous enough to trust their bodies’ miraculous power to give life. Women who want to step fully into their power in this life, before they’re on their deathbed. Women who parent “continuum” style, deeply tethered to our primal instincts in parenting and life. Without this trauma, would I be as committed to all of this? No. I was fiercely empowered by my trauma and the learning it offered.

And as for my daughter Beam, even though it was very hard for me to “let her go” from my side when I still felt so wounded, there was never a day when I worried about her being in day care. My wise Mama Bear instinct led me with precision and certainty into Mama Rose’s care. Beam formed new friendships, learned Puppet Theater, played in a tree fort next to a raspberry patch, and spent two mornings a week, for months, exploring a beautifully rich and artful life away from Mama’s side.

My outrageously confident, healthy and delightful daughter and I are ending one phase and entering another–with her father, my husband, who has played a huge role in supporting us through all of this.

Even with unhealed trauma, we can trust. We can lean into the love of others and discover something deeply beautiful.

I am grateful for Mama Rose’s heart.

About the Author
Jessica Rios
Author: Jessica RiosWebsite: http://www.leaningintolight.com
Jessica Rios is the proud and very fortunate mother of an exceptionally healthy toddler. She gave birth in her bedroom, breastfed with a low milk supply receiving donations from generous mamas with an oversupply. She is a leadership coach, a writer and big fan of Sesame Street. Her lifelong art is personal written correspondence. Jessica is the Founder of Leaning into Light, a hub for human fulfillment. She lives in Sonoma County, California.

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