What is it? And Why it’s Reminiscent of Middle School
Becoming a mother is quite an adventure filled with wonder and transformation. As you embark on this remarkable journey, you might realize you are changing quite a bit. Not just your growing belly, but in a lot of other ways too. Have you heard the term "matrescence"?
What exactly is matrescence and how does it relate to your experience as a new mother? In this blog post, I’ll dive into the origin of the term, explore its meaning, and draw a compelling comparison to adolescence to help you better understand and navigate this season of your life.
The Origin of Matrescence
The term "matrescence" traces its roots back to anthropologist Dana Raphael, who coined it in the 1970s. Combining "maternity" and "adolescence," Raphael aimed to highlight the profound transformation that occurs when a woman becomes a mother. Just as adolescence marks the transition from childhood to adulthood, matrescence marks the shift from womanhood to motherhood. Fun fact, Ms. Raphael also coined the term “Doula” long before DONA International was born, making the word famous.
Matrescence encapsulates the complex physical, emotional, and psychological changes that accompany the journey into motherhood. It's more than just a biological process – it's a holistic transformation that encompasses various dimensions of a woman's life. From the moment you learn about your pregnancy to the birthing experience and beyond, matrescence is a dynamic and ongoing process.
Comparing Matrescence to Adolescence
While adolescence and matrescence are distinct life stages, they share a few parallels. Both phases are marked by profound changes in identity, relationships, and responsibilities. Remember that awkward middle school phase? Everything was changing! Your hormones, your hair, your skin, your body, your social life, your responsibilities, and sometimes the light in which you view your parents. A lot of these may reappear in matrescence. One major difference is that unlike adolescence, people are going to expect you to be happy during this time. We expect 13 year olds to be moody from time to time, but not new mothers, they are expected to be smiling and happy.
Adolescence is characterized by the search for self-identity. Similarly, matrescence challenges you to rediscover your identity as a mother, but also beyond being a mother. Matrescence is a time of discovering and embracing the multiple roles that make you who you are. Often motherhood does not look like we expected. We are not the mother we imagined we would be. This is not always a negative, but can be an adjustment. Rarely is the expectation of motherhood our reality.
Adolescents experience rapid physical changes during puberty. For new mothers, the physical changes during pregnancy and postpartum can be equally transformative. Your body may hold a new shape, your hair may be changing, your skin doing weird things, you may look in the mirror and need to reacquaint yourself with the woman staring back. Embracing these changes with self-love and care is essential. Lean into honoring your body for what it has offered you and learning to forgive it for anything you may hold it responsible for. Pregnancy and childbirth require us to rely on our body and trust it. If our expectations are not met sometimes we may feel our body has betrayed us.
Both matrescence and adolescence involve intense emotional experiences. As the postpartum hormones ebb and flow, mingling with the profound life changes brought about by childbirth, new mothers often find themselves navigating a landscape of many emotions. During the first year postpartum you may experience a labyrinth of feelings that can range from sheer elation to unexpected bouts of sadness, guilt, or anxiety, and sometimes all at once. It's crucial for new mothers to recognize the validity of these emotions, seek support from loved ones and professionals, and practice self-compassion as they navigate this transformative phase of their lives.
Adolescents establish their independence from parents and form new relationships. In matrescence, you might need to redefine your relationships with partners, friends, and family members, as well as forge new connections within the community. This can feel like a lonely time. It can feel like you don’t really belong anywhere socially. Childless friends may not understand and mom groups seem to be judging your every move. I cannot encourage you enough to push through the discomfort and fear of rejection in new social situations. Yes, you will have encounters out there with individuals who are not your people, but unless you show up and be true to yourself, you may never find your people.
Maybe your partner was once your person to lean on and now you barely feel like you see them at all or maybe you’re beginning to feel like roommates instead of partners. What we aren’t told is that neurologically we transform as we become parents. We become more open to bonding not only with our babies but with our partners too, but sometimes the stress of new parenthood can get in the way. Unlike before, your free time is limited and spontaneity is hard to come by. You might need to make intentional time for emotional and physical connection.
Navigating matrescence requires patience, self-acceptance, and support. Just as adolescents seek guidance from mentors and peers, new mothers benefit from building a strong support network. Engage with fellow mothers, share your experiences, and seek advice when needed. Embrace self-care practices that nurture both your role as a mother and your individuality.
If you find you are struggling, reach out for help. Talk to a friend, attend a mom group, or seek out a counselor or therapist that specializes in the transition to motherhood.
Mother Rising Birth Story Circle
This is a great place to start if you’re local. We have 2 dates coming up this year. Sharing birth stories is educational, fun and healing. Listening to and supporting mothers without judgment is a simple yet powerful gift we can offer to one another. Join us to share or simply to listen. Babies in arms are welcome.
September 28, 2023
November 30, 2023
Join us at 6:00PM
137 Main St Suite #2
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