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  • Writer's pictureAnnika Fernando

PR Wellness | Matrescence

We asked our PR Wellness Expert, Serena Burgess to share some wisdom with our community for the month of May as we celebrate Mother's Day, with the launch of her new role in pre and postpartum birth support @emer.gently

Serena is offering online support to new mothers who are facing an additional challenge at the moment going through pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood during this pandemic.

What is Matresence?

Your hormones are all over the place, your body is changing, your emotions are unpredictable, you feel like you are out of control!

Sounds like being a teenager.

But no, this is not Adolescence, it’s Matrescence and unlike adolescence it’s not generally recognised in society as a significant stage in a woman’s life.

A lot of women are over-prepared for childbirth and under-prepared for motherhood; we always focus on a baby being born but forget that when a baby is born, so is a mother.

'Matrescence' is a word coined by Dana Raphael, Ph.D. (1973) and is defined as 'The process of becoming a mother.' Which includes all the physical, emotional and psychological shifts and challenges that we experience as women during this phase in our lives.

Psychologists in the field of maternal health have found that many women worry that they are suffering from post-partum depression because they are not living up to some vision that they had in their head of how motherhood should be or the joyous pictures of motherhood that they see on Instagram! However, on diagnosis, it is found, more frequently, that they are not depressed, but going through the natural and often challenging transition, from being an individual, into a mother.

The truth is that this transition is gargantuan, everything changes and a woman needs support.

Ideally, wouldn’t it be wonderful to remember this first year with our babies as a time of learning and growing and blossoming into motherhood, instead of a sleep-deprived blur of guess-work and isolation?

Here are some things that will help to make Matrescence more peaceful.

If any of this sounds familiar to you or anyone you know, please acknowledge and accommodate for it, once you know what it is, it’s much easier to manage.

According to reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks M.D some of the shifts that occur during this period include 'grappling with our new identity; changes in family dynamics, feeling emotions like ambivalence, guilt, and shame; and even struggling with what you imagined motherhood to look like versus what your reality of motherhood is.'

Just being aware of this might help you to recognise some of the things you go through as a new Mama and hopefully if you know what you are looking for you can start to manage your own high expectations of yourself.

Becoming a mother is one of the most significant physical and psychological changes a woman will ever experience.

Yet when a woman gives birth, there is so much pressure to see this simply as one of the most joyous times of their lives, and of course, it is, but sometimes parenting can be hard and the day-to-day reality can be so different from our preconceived notions, that it creates confusion.

These unspoken challenges mean that women often just struggle through alone, ashamed to admit how they feel.


1. Find your support network

We are not supposed to parent alone “the phrase it takes a village to raise a child” is never more relevant, than in those first few weeks and months when everything is new and unknown. Support can come in the form of close family members and friends, but you can also look for online groups, new-mama groups, mum and baby activities, or stay in touch with your pre-natal group. There are also professionals who can offer practical advice on looking after your baby or provide you with an ear and a kind word when you need soothing.

If you possibly can, before you have your baby, try and set up two types of support, a friend you can call for practical help and someone who will listen to you talk and accept you without judgement.

2. Recognize the 'push and pull' of motherhood

Its’ important also, to recognize what Dr Alexandra Sparks calls the ‘push and pull’ of motherhood.

Emotionally, of course you want to spend as much time with your baby as possible, but you’d also like a long shower all by your self – That’s normal and that’s ok. You are feeling a bit bummed because your friends all had a night out and you had a sleepless breastfeeding night in – That’s Normal and that’s ok

You miss your thrice weekly endorphin rush from your Zumba class – That’s normal and that’s ok.

And equally it is normal and OK to feel thrilled at being called a Mama, to be super excited about your new little family and bedazzled with this gorgeous creature you produced!!!

The reality is we should expect this tug of feelings in different directions. We need to learn to accept and allow those feelings and not be too hard on ourselves.

and finally,

3. Make time for YOU time!

It may not be the frequency you are used to, but being a new Mama you will be caring for another little being 24/7 and it is vital for your health to give back some time to yourself. Self-care will look different from person to person, it could be a quiet half hour with a good book, a short yoga class or elevating your skin care routine, but working out what activities help you feel your best is a key part of this gentle transition to mother hood.

Matrescence will affect each of us individually, but we should try not to underestimate the monumental changes that occur and perhaps all it takes is a little awareness that whatever we are feeling, we are not alone. Motherhood should be joyous and sometimes just an understanding word, or a gentle nod to acknowledge you have been heard, can make it so.

- Serena Burgess, @emer.gently


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