Healing Childhood Trauma in Early Parenting: Podcast Episode #246

Emily Cleghorn shares her personal story of overcoming trauma and discusses the importance of support during motherhood on the latest episode of Ask the Doulas.  She also discusses navigating triggers and tantrums as you heal your childhood trauma in the midst of early parenting.  Emily is the founder of Mindful Soul Wellness.

Hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Emily Cleghorn today.  Emily is an award-winning trauma recovery coach, author, podcaster, and inspirational speaker on a mission to support trauma surviving mamas to navigate triggers and tantrums as they heal their childhood trauma in the midst of parenting.  Passionate about creating positive ripples for generations to come, Emily shares her powerful story of overcoming the veil of her own trauma placed over her life to inspire audiences and readers that they too can achieve peace and healing.

Emily owns Mended Soul Wellness.  She is, again, a holistic trauma recovery coach. 

Welcome, Emily!

Thank you for having me!  I’m excited to be here.

Yes, I’m excited to get into a very sensitive topic of addressing past trauma and going into parenting, whether it’s baby number one or baby number four.  We’d love to have you share not only your personal story and how it led you to this particular career choice, but also tips that you might have for our listeners.

Yes!  I became a mama in 2018, and leading up to that, I struggled with infertility for a bit.  It wasn’t until I took my health journey into my own hands that I learned that infertility was being caused by my stress response, which was a result of my trauma.  So trauma can impact your life deeply.

When I was able to successfully carry a child to term and became a mama, I was completely unaware of how my childhood would impact my life as a mother.  And I wasn’t very far postpartum – I wasn’t very far into the journey when it was like what I call the trauma freight train side railed me, and it was all of my repressed emotions, everything that I had pushed down over the years of my childhood growing up demanding to be dealt with, demanding to have some attention given to them.  So my daughter was born.  She was the spitting image of me as an infant, which is really cute, in my biased opinion, but also really triggering.

I struggled at the beginning of my motherhood journey to discern where the boundaries were with regards to where I started and stopped and where my biological mom stopped and I started and then where I stopped and my daughter started.  And my stress response was on high alert.  Get the heck out of here, because it’s not safe.  It took me a really long time to understand that my mother of a mother wound was the obstacle that was preventing me from enjoying the transition.  It’s a huge life change.

It sure is, yes.

And if you’ve got a mother wound, it can play a huge part into your transition into motherhood.  So it took me a long time to come to terms with that.  That’s a bit of my journey.

It’s hard to even realize that we’re repeating patterns from our own childhood when you’re really trying to focus on conscious parenting and being mindful, but some things just show up as patterns, and we don’t even know that it’s happening until, say, a partner or a husband brings it up.

Yeah.  What I learned very quickly is that I needed to work on my nervous system because if my nervous system, my stress response, was preventing me from establishing a healthy pregnancy, then it showed up again in postpartum with my stress response being on high alert and my flight or fight response kicking in.  Then any stimulus from a baby crying, a busy household, which happens when you have two kids and they enter the toddler phase – they’re busy all of the time, and kids scream and cry.  That’s just how they communicate, right?  But my nervous system couldn’t handle it because I was on the edge so far for so long.

That makes sense.  So you saw that you needed to get help?  Obviously, your adrenals and the hormone changes after giving birth – there’s so much fluctuation as it is, and a lot of people don’t even recognize that they need certain minerals, they need to focus on their diet, and seeking help if the cortisol levels are elevated, as you mentioned.

Yes.  I developed a lot of mindfulness strategies, but one of the biggest tools that I utilized during that time was community because so often as a new mama, whether it’s baby number one or baby number four or baby number seven – however many babies you have, those early weeks and months of motherhood can feel so lonely, especially if you are a trauma-surviving mama and you are dealing with the trauma and maybe you don’t have your mom in your life anymore.  Maybe there’s estrangement or something like that going on.  That can amplify the feelings of isolation.  So finding a community for me was huge, of other mamas, mature mamas who have been there and done that.  They know what is going on, and they have space for compassion and to sit and listen and just hold space.

So important, and as doulas, yes, just being there and open to allow conversation to begin rather than forcing conversation is so important.

Yeah.  It’s huge.

So what was the community that you found?  Was it, say, a mom group that you connected with virtually that had in-person meet-ups, or did you intentionally reach out to friends who were also mothers?  I’m curious about what worked for you.  This may help our listeners and doula clients find their own community.

I sought out a community of like-minded mamas.  For me, I am very holistic minded, natural remedies and stuff.  I was looking for mamas who were older than I was.  They had kids that were older than my daughter, so they had a bit more experience than me.  I was looking for that mother-type figure that I was missing.  I sought out a community of more mature – maybe they were a little bit older than me – mamas who were like-minded, who were healing focused, because when you are healing trauma, it’s so easy to find a community that is willing to commiserate with you, but that’s not helpful in healing.  So I was looking for people who were like-minded, healing focused, that could help me out, give me the support that I needed when I couldn’t support myself.

Beautiful.  I love it.  Very helpful to, again, focus on finding common ground, like-minded moms, not just any mom who had a baby within the last two months.  I know at support groups, you might connect with one or two and then maybe include them in a separate meet-up, but I found before I became a doula with my first and second children, from my childbirth class, I had meet-ups with fellow students in my class after we had our babies and we went on adventures together with our kids.  That gave me a sense of community and people in the same stage of life.  I had kids later in life, but what you’re talking about a whole different level beyond that, of really creating a community where kids can grow up together, if you have the same values and focus, and as you mentioned, your lifestyle is very similar. 

So how did you get into coaching?  I see how intentional you were about focusing on mindfulness and parenting, but what led you to want to help other moms, other than the community you created of moms?

So when I was a little girl, I remember – I think I was, like, six or seven years old, and I remember walking across a parking lot.  I was going to a child psychologist appointment, and I remember thinking, someday I want to help kids like me.  And in the midst of growing up and all of that, that dream was still there, but I didn’t know what it was going to look like.

So when I was in my postpartum days with my daughter – those days were quite dark for me, very heavy.  And I knew that I am not special enough to be the only one dealing with the heavy emotions of childhood trauma while also trying to raise a child and be the mama that she deserves.  And so I started searching for ways that I could help kids like me, now mamas, and I embarked on a dual certification process to become a health and life coach.  My passion is in helping mama who are navigating their triggers because nobody tells us that mamahood can be triggering if you’ve got junk in your past.  So that is my passion because I firmly believe that our children are gifts, and they were not given to us to inherit our junk.  Healing is a huge part of not giving them our junk.

Exactly.  What would be the difference in seeing a therapist, as you had mentioned you had, and having coaching?  Would that be something that would be done in tandem, or maybe after therapy sessions have ended and it’s time to move forward, if someone doesn’t have the continuous therapy throughout their life?

It can be done in tandem.  It can be done side by side.  However, the difference is, your therapist is interested in digging down deep into the roots and helping you work through the trauma.  Okay?  My role is not to dig down to the roots.  My job is to focus on the now, and I do a process of compassionate inquiry to see how the events of the past are affecting your now.  I’m focused on helping you improve now.  So a therapist digs down to the roots, and I focus on the right now, how it’s impacting your life right now.

Very helpful.  And when you mentioned trauma, for our listeners, there are obviously different levels and types of trauma.  As a birth doula, I support clients who may have had a traumatic birth or a prior loss or a loss during the pregnancy while I’ve been supporting them.  Those are things related to motherhood, but there could be past trauma if, say, a sibling had died.  Would you consider parents divorcing in childhood a trauma?  What would be a typical client that you would work with as a trauma recovery coach?

First of all, trauma is not the event.  It’s what you make it mean about you.  So I could be working with a mama who had their parents divorce and it was messy and there’s some trauma around that with regards to relationships.  It could be a mama like me who has been abandoned by her mother or is estranged from her mother and is worried about how that is impacting her ability to be a mother to her children.  With all of these events, we internalize them to mean different things about us, how we interpret them into our story and what we perceive that they mean about us.

And certainly I would think that medical traumas – again, as a birth doula, like past histories of surgery or fear of the hospital – there can be some of those concerns going into another pregnancy or again, having loss.  So it sounds like as long as someone is continuously navigating something – if someone had PTSD from a traumatic birth, a therapist would be the first step, and then if it was lingering, then working with a recovery coach in tandem to help through the day to day and address the issue and try to come up with some action steps to, again, focus on being the best parent that they can while healing themselves, which is challenging, because you’re caregiving for one or multiple kids and then trying to take care of yourself postnatal.

Oh, yeah.  Because so often, we feel like because we have our children, that we no longer matter or that we come last.  Sometimes we do need to come last because babies need us for every need to stay alive.  But sometimes, we need to come first because we can’t give from an empty cup, and I know that sounds so cliché, but it’s true.  If you have nothing left, if you’re tapped out emotionally, then how are you going to co-regulate with your child when they’re having a fit?

Right.  Yes.  So what are some of the strategies that you work through with your clients, if you have any tips for our listeners in that early parenting phase that can be so stressful?

Yes.  First and foremost, if you are able to find a community, make that a priority, to have at least one or two people that you can count on and are like-minded and will hold space for you to feel the feelings that you’re working through because it’s such a huge life change.  Another tip that I would give is to develop a plan with your spouse or your significant other about how you’re going to communicate that you need a minute to breathe because so often as moms, we feel like we have to do it all.  Our husband or our significant other is just waiting for you to tell them what to do or to allow them to help.  So communicate beforehand how you are going to communicate that in the moment, because so often, it can come out as being snippy or short with someone when really, you just need a minute to take a walk, get a breath of fresh air, and maybe a shower, and then you’re good to go again.

Yeah, that’s very helpful advice.  And we all just do need that minute, even if it’s meditating, focusing on our breath, having a sip of water – just a way to calm down the adrenals.

Yes!

So as far as working with you, Emily, what would that look like, and how do our listeners connect?

So if you are looking for a holistic trauma recovery coach, I currently have five one-to-one spaces available in my Mended Mama Academy.  It is a three-month program, and right now, I have promotional pricing so that it does not break the bank.  If you are interested in learning more about that, you can go to my website.  There’s a button on the homepage that says Work With Me, and you can learn more there.

Excellent.  And you’re also on social media, so how can we find you on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube?

If you just search my name on YouTube, you should be able to find me that way.  On Instagram, I am @emily.cleghorn.coach.  And on Facebook, you can find me through my podcast, which is the Mamahood After Trauma podcast.

Beautiful.  Well, thank you so much for sharing your tips and your personal story and for helping so many moms during an isolating and life-changing time.  We all do need support and community, so I love that you are encouraging in-person community and also creating a virtual community for your students and your coaching clients.

Yes!  Thanks so much for having me!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Mamahood After Trauma

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Buy our book, Supported