The Discovery of Matrescence
The statement “Motherhood Will Change everything” was one I had heard regularly during my pregnancy. I thought I understood what other Mum’s meant when they said this. Assuming they meant the practical aspects of life I had no idea it meant literally everything!
To be a Mum was something I had wanted for so long. Something that I had cried so many tears about, not knowing if it would ever actually happen. When I finally had my baby in my arms I felt entirely lost. I had completely changed as a person but I had no idea how to express that feeling. Questioning every day if I could really do this. Feeling out of my depth, confused and like I was the only person that had ever felt this way.
It was early 2021 when I was on one of my regular daily walks with my 4month old boy in the pram. Listening to podcasts to try and learn the ‘secret to motherhood’ and how to get my baby through the latest sleep regression, I happened across a series entitled Matrescence.
I had seen this word before but had no idea what it meant or was referring to. I was intrigued.
Matrescence: Transition from Maiden to Mother
As I listened to the words of Nikki McCahon, I finally felt like someone was putting words to what I had been feeling for the last 4 months.
Matrescence (like adolescence) is a developmental process that happens over time to transition you from one form of yourself to another. Just as we do from a child to an adult but this is from maiden to mother.
The term was first used by Anthropologist Dr Dana Raphael in the 1970’s. Since then, it has been built on by incredible academics in the fields of psychology to neuroscience including Trudelle Thomas and Alexandra Sacks.
The process of Matrescence affects you in these ways:
- Physically – brain, hormones, body.
- Emotionally – empathy & feelings.
- Socially – relational changes (friends, family, partner), attunement to your child, your social circles.
- Overall Identity – values, priorities & finding your place in the world.
I felt like my old life didn’t fit anymore.
I was trying so hard to go back to the person I had been. Constantly feeling in conflict and not being able to describe it or understand what was wrong with
I dreaded the questions from well-meaning people “How is motherhood going?” “Are you enjoying it?” Because how did I begin to put words to these feelings I had, in a season that is supposed to be pure bliss?
The honest answers…
- I was having an identity crisis. The way I viewing myself and the world had changed.
- I didn’t know it was possible to feel emotions & attachment this strong for a human being.
- I was blindsided by the feelings of guilt, fear, failure & lack of control.
- I thought I was broken. Nothing about motherhood felt intuitive.
I am a capable person and have always been able to do anything I set my mind to. Motherhood is different. No amount of education or planning could help me feel prepared or in control.
Allowing ourselves to be redefined
Birth doesn’t make a mother out of a Women – Amy Taylor-Kabbaz
I was finally beginning to understand that I was not the same person (on so many levels) and there were real reasons why. This is a season of transformation. It is a period of becoming a new version of myself, and I am still in that experience right now!
They say that you can’t be prepared to become a Mum, and that it will change you in ways you never thought possible. But I had no idea what that would look and feel like. I thought becoming a mother would just be a part of my life, I didn’t realize it would redefine my whole life. Not only the practical aspects, but who I was to the core.
The keys I have learnt in this process:
- It takes time: Adolescence can take a decade. Matrescence is the same. It isn’t linear and each child you have can bring another aspect of the developmental process. It’s a transition process with no set timeframe.
- Every experience is unique: One person’s experience of matrescence can be completely different to another’s. The experience I have described may have some resemblance to yours or could be completely different.
- Biology is just one factor: Mummy Brain is a very real thing. Our brain changes through pregnancy and birth, so we can be better equipped for motherhood. Hormones also flood our body as a shortcut to develop maternal skills. But these are also learned skills. Partners and non-birthing parents will feel matrescence in their own way through exposure and experience.
In 2023 I am still in the midst of this process, but letting it change me has been hard and beautiful all at the same time. Accepting there is more than one way to be, has opened me up to embrace the transformation, rather than fight against it. I am so thankful for the resources and information now out there that made me realize I’m not alone in my feelings.