Matrescence, as explained in Alexandra Sacks’s TED talk, she mentioned how this term is contemporary, but not new, since it was introduced by Dana Raphael, a medical anthropologist in the 1970s.
The bond between a mother and her child forms even before birth. Matrescence is an exciting time as women begin to envision and anticipate what being a mum is all about. And it can last, some people say, a lifetime!
Matrescence is the transition a woman goes through to become a mother and get the opportunity to explore the world with a new perspective. It cannot be described in words when a woman is going through this amazing transition until you experience this ever exciting roller coaster journey of being a mum for yourself.
During this transition, a woman goes through physical, psychological, personal, and emotional changes that means she will be experiencing many new things. The mixed feeling of happiness and worrying can get over you after getting a positive pregnancy test result or after the first kick from your baby.
Matrescence can start even before the pregnancy when the idea of being a mum begins to form in your mind, and some people say it lasts forever. Although the term ‘Matrescence’ is not very popular, the idea of what represents it has been amongst us for a long.
Matrescence & Adolescence
Matrescence is sometimes compared to adolescence due to its impact on the changes that a person would undergo. In both, your body experiences changes, your brain will also change (sometimes missed called mum-brain), your emotional intelligence plays a big part in how you experience both adolescence and matrescence. Again, in both, the journey would have its own challenges, but in the end, you would have learned from yourself, mature and have a new perspective of your life and the World.
Pregnancy & Matrescence
This is the period with most physical changes, in a relative, short period of time. And because those are the noticeable changes, I remember preparing physically for that, and not so much mentally. Looking back, I wish I would have had a better understanding of the mental and emotional changes I would go through. And the importance of attending hypnobirthing classes for mental preparation. Because self-hypnosis for labour and birth can have a positive impact during the postnatal period. That is where the inner work begins, harder sometimes than the physical one. This balance of the mental and physical preparation, is not just for the arrival of the new baby, is the foundation for the changes to be experienced during the postpartum and beyond.
First Time Mum
This can be the big leap, and when the matrescence will most likely feel at its prime time. You become a mother, full of your own ideas of how you will feel and behave, how quickly you will be back to your old job and how you will feel going back.
The reality is that becoming a mother is a transformative journey; you enter the matrescence with your ideas, and as you begin to experience your changes in the body, the connection with your baby, and looking after this new person with their own personality (not always like yours); those initial ideas of yourself become blurred. It is then when you will be faced with the challenge of being flexible. Meaning, being able to adapt to the new circumstances, the new emotions you are experiencing, and that change in the way you think which might contradict what your idea of motherhood was.
I have mums that come to see me because they feel overwhelmed, and anxious, or feel stuck and still. Those initial symptoms tend to happen in the first 3 years of motherhood, and they are the manifestation of something deeper going inside. We know that crisis, is a time to grow, and this is what happens in motherhood. You have a new title, that you might not be exactly sure how it works, and you battle with the other titles you have for power. It is that balance, and the exploration of what you will want to prioritise that can make you feel stuck, with a lack of clarity and direction.
The Mind Seeks For Past Experiences
During your matrescence, your mind doesn’t have a proper point of comparison. And begins to dig deep into past experiences to try to make sense of this new reality. When it goes deep, it tends to go to childhood experiences. You might begin to guess where I am going with this. How was your childhood? Would you say you had a happy childhood? During matrescence, you will reflect on what happened to you, and what you made of it. If there are unsolved issues, don’t be surprised if they emerge when you become a mother.
It is an amazing opportunity to explore and reflect on those things you thought were buried in the past. By working on them, sitting with them, you will learn and be able to grow towards that person you are still discovering in you. Babies can be a great source of healing and forgiveness.
Motherhood can be an entirely new journey with a lot of adventures that you might have never experienced before. In your matrescence, at some point, you might experience some extreme emotions such as overwhelm, and it might not always be as rosy as expected. Yet, you will learn to realise how strong and empowered you were during this transition. Because any difficulties either you would have found a way to overcome, or appreciate the importance of know when to ask for help.
The journey that starts from the time you are expecting your child never ends. You are not just raising a child for some years and then stop being a mum. Instead, you are a mum for a lifetime; unlike other roles of your life that don’t last a lifetime.
Mothering toddlers and babies, is demanding, physically and timewise. They can also be rewarding periods despite the many sleepless nights, and the number of nappies you change in a day. But later on, when your baby is all grown up, you might remember those sleepless nights with a little nostalgia.
If there is one thing for your to take from this article, let it be this: not all the developmental stages have to be enjoyable. I know people that totally hate the baby stage because they prefer to have verbal communication, some others dread the teenager stage. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO NOT ENJOY A DEVELOPMENTAL STAGE OF YOUR CHILD.
Motherhood might seem challenging because it can be!. Changing your perspective and envisioning yourself as a role model who will take on an essential job in the world, will make you more committed to being a mum and your career (should you decide to pursue it).
Matrescence will most likely change you for good. It is all a learning stage, and you will have your family support. Whenever you need it, remember to ask for help, because we all need it from time to time! Be yourself, you do you; because there is no manual for how to feel through your matrescence; however, there is always tools and people to help when it becomes too much. Measure your success, by the happiness of you and your family.
Laura is Cognitive Hypnotherapist and Maternal Coach. She supports mothers from pregnancy and beyond.
As a mother of 2, she is a personal advocate for maternal mental health, the shifts in confidence and identity brought by matrescence.
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