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Healing Childhood Wounds, Self Regulation and Mothering Through a Perinatal Psychologist’s Lens

Latest Stories
Latest Stories

Motherhood is the great equaliser.

Yara Heary is a registered psychologist and founder of Life After Birth Psychology, with a special interest in perinatal mental health and also a mother to Otis, seven and Nakia, four. She is passionate about helping mothers heal their own childhood trauma and reclaim joy in their parenting experience.

But, what does motherhood look like for someone whose job it is to help parents unpack their ingrained ideologies and work through the challenges of parenting? Is she immune to the traps we all fall into? Does the professional hat ever get cast aside? Here, Yara shares candidly what it's like to parent through the lens of a perinatal psychologist.

On being a psychologist and the challenges

Being a psychologist, I hadn’t expected motherhood to be as much of a shock as it ended up being. When I had my first I felt like I’d been grabbed by the ankles and turned upside down and shaken. It was a completely different experience to what I expected and it was difficult because I think I thought I should have some deeper psychological understanding about it all, because I know some psychological concepts. But in reality, lived experience trumps everything.

One of the biggest challenges in my journey as a mother has been working on all the inner stuff from my own childhood experiences. Pre-kids I didn’t have a grasp of how significant that would be and I had no idea how intense and laborious the work would be. In particular, how much harder that would make parenting my child; finding the space and capacity to do my own inner work and reparenting myself, while also parenting a real life physical child. I had not expected that labour and that work — and that was huge.

I was 32 when I had my first child and was really confident with who I was in the world, so I just had not expected that my sense of identity would be as shaken as it was once I entered motherhood. It was a huge shock and I had not prepared for it at all.


"When I had my first I felt like I’d been grabbed by the ankles and turned upside down and shaken. It was a completely different experience to what I expected and it was difficult because I think I thought I should have some deeper psychological understanding about it all, because I know some psychological concepts. But in reality, lived experience trumps everything."



"Finding the space and capacity to do my own inner work and reparenting myself, while also parenting a real life physical child. I had not expected that labour and that work — and that was huge."


In the very early season of motherhood my biggest challenge was actually my relationship with my husband. We moved into a new house six weeks after I gave birth and I really didn’t expect to feel so cast adrift from having a new home. What I didn’t realise I needed was all the things that made me feel safe and secure, and my old home (where my son was born) was one of those comforts. I was already feeling really destabilised by this new life and role, and not being in the cocoon of the home I knew so well compounded the stress that both my husband and I were under.


"Actually being present with all that emotion and learning how to self regulate my own nervous system became the biggest work of that time – and continues to be for me now"


As my children grew into toddlers, the challenges (unsurprisingly) changed. It became clearer and clearer to me as time passed that I really needed to do more inner work to deal with my own childhood history. Because, suddenly they had these wills and extreme expressions of their own emotions and actually being present with all that emotion and learning how to self regulate my own nervous system became the biggest work of that time – and continues to be for me now.

My experience growing up was that there wasn’t a safe space for me to have full emotional expression as a kid and there wasn’t a lot of me feeling seen or heard. So to be able to give that to my children, I’ve had to do a lot of inner work to really rewire and change the blueprint that I was given from my own childhood.

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On the moments when the professional and personal worlds collide

Of course it’s hard to take my professional hat off and I think when you train in a field like psychology it’s difficult to not have your worldview not influenced by what you know on a professional level. I’m constantly analysing my actions but on the flipside I can also recognise when I’m beating myself up and in that offer myself some self compassion.

One of the things I’m an advocate for is that vulnerability is a strength for us as women and mothers and moving away from the idea that being “strong” means having no weaknesses or emotion and not making mistakes. Because of this, in my practice I do self-disclose some of my own experiences when I feel like it’ll be helpful in normalising experiences. I really value my own vulnerability and I try to share that in spaces that are safe for that. It’s so important that you have safe spaces where you can just say what you need to say – bad or good.


"One of the things I’m an advocate for is that vulnerability is a strength for us as women and mothers and moving away from the idea that being “strong” means having no weaknesses or emotion and not making mistakes"


The other “psychologist” thing I personally do is practise a lot of nervous nervous system somatic work on myself, particularly around anger. Breathwork is key to my practices and is so wonderful to have in terms of helping to reset my nervous system and helping to regulate in the moment when I’m distressed.

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On my motherhood revelations

There have been so many revelations in motherhood. One of the big ones was truly understanding the depth of the patriarchy and how it plays such a big role in how we feel about our own capacities and performance as both mothers and women. It can be stifling and oppressive and causes a great level of misery and discontent for women as they move through the journey of mothering.

But the piece of information that I try to share with other women, and that I’ve personally found very liberating is that if we learn to tune into our own inner compass and sense of what is important and meaningful to us, we all of a sudden have so much power. Because, then we get to choose what this journey looks like for us, to reject patriarchal standards of motherhood, reclaim that part of our lives, and be lit up and experience joy rather than just martyrdom and sacrifice and servitude.

One of the great things about understanding that there is a system and it works against us as mothers, means we don’t have to personify those areas where we’re struggling to meet those unattainable standards, because it’s not actually about us. It allows us to have more self compassion because these standards are unachievable for anyone.


"If we shift our perspective from motherhood being a time when we experience identity loss and can frame it instead as identity evolution it allows us to feel better, and more empowered by the change that we’re experiencing. It’s almost like having more hope – like I’m being upgraded here."


The other big one is of course the seismic shift in identity when you have a child — and this is definitely something I felt when I first had my child. But one of the most helpful things for me has been reframing that narrative. If we shift our perspective from motherhood being a time when we experience identity loss and frame it instead as identity evolution it allows us to feel better, and more empowered by the change that we’re experiencing. It’s almost like having more hope – like I’m being upgraded here. That doesn’t mean it's easy and there isn’t grief. That’s part of the matrescene, there is grief and that’s unavoidable, but I really feel like it helps.

If you loved learning from Yara, join our upcoming live virtual Masterclass with her on Balancing Needs and Finding Yourself While You Mother.

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