Matrescence: The transformation in becoming a mother
This post is for all the mothers out there. Whether you have had your first, your fifth, or your tenth baby, it is still a transformation, an unraveling, a changing, a rewriting of who you are each time.
A few years ago I heard of the word matrescence. The simple definition of matrescence is the physical, emotional, hormonal and social transition to becoming a mother.
I have many thoughts on this word. It is almost too simple of a word for how complex the journey to becoming a mother is. Granted, the definition mentions the physical, emotional, hormonal and social aspects of the change, but each of those words is loaded with its own changes.
Physically, you grew your baby for 40ish weeks. You were actually laying the groundwork for your baby prior to their conception. The overall state of your body, the quality of your eggs, the stressors on your plate, and your nutrition status all played a role in your baby’s conception. (Dads play a big role here too, but we’ll talk about that another time). As you grew your baby, your body had to stretch and accommodate, shifting your organs as your uterus took up more and more room. Your hormone levels changed, your blood volume changed, your skin and hair changed, odd symptoms popped up like heartburn, restless legs, and insomnia (and many others), and most of all, your brain changed, preparing you for motherhood.
The labor and delivery process is its own journey too. The rising intensity of the contractions requires both physical and mental effort. Mentally, you need to get out of your own way so that your body can do the work. I like to call this "sending my brain to labor land". During my four labor and deliveries I have noticed a pattern of being almost out of body, like my mind is observing the room, as I do my best to not fight against the process. The intensity of the contractions can push you to what feels like your capacity (ever say "I can't do this anymore!" during labor? I sure have) but yet you have to continue on. I've often joked towards the end of my pregnancies that I'm ready to have my baby but not *have* my baby, aka not ready to go through the delivery process. There is something so rewarding though, so exhilarating after delivering my babies. We can give a lot of credit to the hormone oxytocin for this. There is the absolute feeling of relief that you did it and you're done with the labor process (after the placenta is delivered, of course).
And now you've entered the postpartum chapter of motherhood, and while your body physically heals, your brain is now adapting to the emotional and social aspects of motherhood.
Emotions can be high. Emotions can be low. Thank you, hormones. It can be quite a rollercoaster ride actually, and sometimes it can be hard to know what is normal. Crying a lot? Angry? Shut down? Apathetic? All of that and more can be a part of the motherhood transition. It becomes not normal when your emotional state is interfering with your ability to function in your life for days/weeks on end. It can be difficult to tell when you're in the thick of it (and sleep deprived) and sometimes it takes your partner or a close friend to check in and ask how you are ACTUALLY doing and ignoring your canned "good" response. Please know that there are many resources for you to get help or assistance in someway if you are struggling postpartum and there is absolutely NO shame in asking for help. Ever. Do not compare yourself to another person's story.
Side note: here in the Flathead Valley the Postpartum Resource Group has set up several different organizations to support mothers: The Circle (a meet up group), The Network (postpartum doulas, for mothers with postpartum mood disorders), and The Village (a meal train for postpartum). There are also many different types of therapists who can also help. You can search the psychologytoday.com website and filter it by symptoms to bring up a therapist best suited for you. You do not need to go through matrescence alone.
Learning to be a mother is an ongoing journey. That feels kind of trivial to phrase it that way, but it's true. My hope with Sprout is that I can support my mother clients through the matrescence journey, and be a resource, so that each mother knows she is not alone. I've been there, and I have a lot of empathy for the feelings of upheaval, and love, and strangeness, and fullfillment that being a mother brings. I could probably talk about this topic for hours (and if you want to, let's chat!) but already this blog has become longer than many of my previous posts, so I will wrap it up for now. I'm sure down the road I'll be struck with inspiration again to talk about this topic of matrescence, but for now I'm going to give my keyboard a rest.
Please let me know any thoughts you might have on this. I would love to hear them! :)