My Story, by Stephanie

Content warning: Suicidal ideation.

In 2016, when I became a mother my son came into a world of deep, unhealed traumas. 

I became a mother to a beautiful baby boy. My world when my son came into it was one of deep unhealed traumas. Before pregnancy, my mental wellness was already a struggle. As a survivor of sexual assault, queer, Latina, and immigrant, I was living with unprocessed trauma, in constant fight or flight and receiving invalidation from those closest to me. My trauma and assault felt like my own fault, and how could it not?

“Eso es lo que te pasa por irte de nuestra casa.” “That’s what you get for moving out of our house” was a statement I was met with after my assault.

Marianismo/Machismo (the Spanish word for strong or aggressive masculine pride) plays a big role in Latin culture, and depression and anxiety are still very stigmatized within the Latinx community. Our community, by extension, family systems are very affected by it. It shaped how my family viewed me, how I viewed myself, and how we interacted with the world, even more so when I became a mother. It also made seeking therapy incredibly difficult, met with several mental health providers who made judgments and unrealistic recommendations and didn’t see me as a whole person. It took many attempts to find the right provider to support me.

When I got pregnant, to say I was scared was an understatement. I had been told by a doctor that due to my trauma history, I should not be a mother. This rooted itself deep within me and became my narrative for early motherhood. I felt responsible for changing the world’s view of a young Latina mother. 

I gave birth after powering through 35 hours of labor in a relatively non-traumatic birth. The next few months that followed, I was blinded to my pain. I loved being a mother more than anything, but deep down, I felt like a terrible mother. Prior to motherhood, I was an early childhood educator, I had a working knowledge of babies and development that I had once been proud of. 

I dove into motherhood in a way that started to drown me. I held myself to an impossible standard. I had to be an exemplary Latina and mother. Nothing could happen to this baby, not on my watch. Living near my family, my inner thoughts were reinforced by them. As immigrants, that fear of separation from our babies is so real that it grips families and starts to suffocate them from the inside. I had to be a perfect mom, and my parents had to be perfect parents and then grandparents, because that’s what kept us safe. I wasn’t allowed mistakes or accidents.

Already feeling like I wasn’t good enough, I lost myself as a person, I was a hollow provider to my baby. I felt riddled with guilt over everything. If my son tripped, somehow that was my fault. When I couldn’t live up to the impossible goals I set for myself I would feel devastated. And then wonder, how could I be this sad when I loved being his mom? I would plunge into a deep sadness rooted in an utter lack of self-worth. I lived for my baby and I still saw myself as a terrible mother, he deserved better. I had come to the conclusion that my son was better off without me and in turn, my life was not worth living. 

When the insurmountable pain came to its peak with my history of self-harm and suicidal ideation, I did the strongest thing I could do when I was at my weakest. I let someone know I was planning on ending my life. This sparked a conversation with my support system, and although it was enough to get me back into therapy, the expectation was that I would do the work alone.

My love for my son and the desire to be the parent I wish I had drove me to do things differently. I embarked on a search without insurance but with determination to find the right therapist for me. I found one through Open Path many years later after a deeply restorative relationship with a therapist, my therapist now understands where I come from, as an immigrant, as a mother, and the layers of my identity and how they have affected my mental health and what the system has allowed me to do about it. 

The path to healing isn’t easy, it’s painful to heal things we haven’t allowed ourselves to feel. It can be painful to advocate for yourself only to be met with biases and shame. Healing for me was lonely. Learning how to advocate for yourself in a system that does not see the whole you while also being the first person in your family to address trauma, can feel so disruptive. That is why I am passionate about my work here at PS-WA. I now support Latinx moms on their healing journey, lending an ear and affirming them in their experiences. We have to be willing to meet people where they are, even if that’s a dark place. I am here for those dark moments that feel shameful and hard to talk about. You are not alone, I see you. I believe you. I am here to support you while you find the power in yourself. 

Cómo latina, como mamá y mujer recibí el mensaje que si algo malo me pasa me va ir peor si digo algo. Y por eso aprendí a sufrir en silencio. 

Duele sanar, duele sanar lo más profundo que uno ha callado hasta de uno mismo.