Understanding Matrescence and Motherhood as a Transformative Experience

Many women go through the experience of motherhood without ever fully comprehending the enormous physiological, psychological and emotional shifts that they go through in the process. When you become a mother, you undergo significant changes in your body during pregnancy, birth and afterwards while breastfeeding, and these changes come with major upheavals in your psychological and emotional state. This is influenced to some degree by your genetic background and the environment around you. Your awareness and understanding of these changes affects your ability to go through them with ease,; as you can appreciate the reasons for them and accept them more readily, and deal with them more effectively, adjusting more fluidly and rapidly. Simply put, if you know what’s going to happen, and you are prepared, it won’t be so much of a surprise.

I’ll give an example. As a young girl, it makes a huge difference if we know about periods, and understand what to expect and what to do when we get our first period, and learn how manage it better. Compare that to girls who aren’t told anything, and one day are shocked to find they’re bleeding and are scared to death that something is wrong with them, and don’t know what to do or who to turn to with their questions and fears.

As women, we are increasingly learning about our bodies, instinctive nature and feelings, and understanding how powerful they are, and the magic this entails. More women are learning about the changes that occur during pregnancy, and taking better care of their health as well. Many women are starting to want to understand the intricate physiology and psychology of birth itself, and take ownership of their bodies and feelings during this process, making more informed choices, leading to more empowered experiences. More and more, women are sharing their experiences, what they went through and what they now know which they wish they knew before. Talking more openly about those first days, weeks, months of postpartum, adjusting to life with a new baby, finding herself in her motherhood role, finding her rhythm and strengths as a woman in this space. As a result, more women are curating their journeys more proactively, working on achieving better outcomes for themselves, their babies and their families.

The term Matrescence was first introduced by Dana Raphael (PhD) in 1973, and refers to the “process of becoming a mother” or the developmental passage where woman is transformed through pre-conception, pregnancy and birth and postpartum. The experience of this transformation is unique to each woman, and happens every time she becomes a mother again. It is not only the baby that is born, the “mother” is also born. With each experience, this transformation happens, and it is likened to the shifts that happen in adolescence, moving from childhood to young adulthood, and entails dramatic shifts in instincts, perceptions, personality, behaviors and priorities. This is why we often hear people say: motherhood has changed you!

Understanding and accepting these changes is of paramount importance. When we give ourselves enough space to adjust to these changes and absorb them, we are better for it. We can move into the role more comfortably and easily, and won’t struggle with recognizing the impact it has on our psyche and physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. As women, mothers and wives, it will help us to reorient our thinking to manage this transformative time with wisdom and grace, and reduce the internal and external conflicts that might arise.

Moving into motherhood is a form of growing up, and when we understand and appreciate that, we can find our way to enjoying the experience and thriving in it, which is what we all deserve. If you would like to learn more about matrescence or unwind your experience and find an empowered way forward, please contact me, I’d love to hear from you…

Further Reading:

Athan, A. (2016) Matrescence https://www.matrescence.com

PBB Media (2020) Matrescence and Maternal Mental Health https://www.pbbmedia.org/matrescence.html

Szasz, G. (2023) Matrescence: A great adventure about to begin BC Medical Journal https://bcmj.org/blog/matrescence-great-adventure-about-begin

Raphael, D. (1975) Matrescence, Becoming a Mother, A “New/Old” Rite de Passage.


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