Matrescence: The Birth of a Mother

Matrescence. Have you heard this term? It’s one that deserves much more presence in our conversations & learning about mothering & motherhood. And, similarly to many other areas of women’s health it deserves much more recognition & investment in research.

Like adolescence, matrescence is the significant developmental transition experienced when we become mothers. It encompasses shifting hormones & neurophysiology (brain & nervous system function) & impacts our physical bodies, mental processes, emotional experiences, identity & relationships.

Remember what it felt like to be a teenager? Uncertain, awkward, emotional, angsty, curious, traumatic, messy, confusing, anxious, adventurous… (I invite you to take a moment here for a few, slow, deep breaths & notice whether any other descriptors of your experience of being a teenager come up.)

Now imagine weaving the feeling of that kind of massive life transitional experience with the responsibility of nurturing a tiny human & all of the pressures of parenting in a patriarchal culture that demands productivity & perfection while minimizing the needs, emotions & experiences of mothers.

That’s matrescence.

The specific physiology involved in adolescence & matrescence are different but both are major developmental shifts & can encompass very similar inner experiences for individuals. And, depending on the types of support available throughout these times of life, some people thrive while others experience intense challenge.

Welcoming a baby changes family & social dynamics, brings to the surface layers of our own experiences of being mothered & often challenges our stories & beliefs about what motherhood ‘should’ look & feel.

It not only impacts our relationships with others (including the time & energy we have to give), but also with ourselves. The ways that we’ve taken care of ourselves historically, no longer fit well into our lives as mothers. And, for most of us we haven’t been taught or had modeled how to healthfully + safely be present with & process the wide ranges & depths of emotion involved in the human experience of mothering:

There’s the constant pull & push of a deep need to keep baby close but also a craving for space – physically & emotionally.

There’s often grief involved in releasing who we were before motherhood.

Sometimes there’s grief & even anger around not experiencing or receiving the support we needed around our birth, feeding & postpartum intentions.

There can be intense joy & deep love & there can be shame around the absence of these culturally approved emotions of early mothering.

And there’s the huge impact our patriarchal culture has on what it means to be a good mother, woven into everything we experience.

Overall, the transition to motherhood can feel intense, overwhelming, confusing, exhausting & so much more BUT with a combination of connection with your unique inner wisdom & the right community of support, traversing the winding road of matrescence can feel more grounded, steady & certain.