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Matrescence: physical, emotional, hormonal and social transition to becoming a mother

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Matresence, a term I first heard as a 33-year-old, 3 months pregnant first-time mom, doing late-night googling for all things baby. When I first came across the term, it resonated so deeply, and I wondered why I had never previously seen this term before. I instantly related to the author and her challenge of meeting the newness that came with stepping into mommyhood. I myself had felt the onslaught of excitement, mixed with nervousness and rushes of old triggers and insecurities. Motherhood has been something I’ve wanted to do for most of my life and because of my deep desire, it came out as a fear that I would be unable to conceive. 


I believe, our society has become familiar with discussing the transition from child to teenager and teenager to adult, however, the vital transition from woman to mother has been sadly cast aside. For women, major turning points in our lives are starting our menstrual cycle, becoming a mother, and starting menopause. In life, we seem to speak on the subjects of our first period and our first hot flash fairly commonly; however, the spiritual, emotional, physical precarious transition of becoming a mother is a topic rarely discussed in depth. Reading this article helped me begin the transition of motherhood with a new awareness.


What is Matrescence?


Matrescence, first coined in 1973 by medical anthropologist Dana Raphael, gives a name to the multifaceted transition we make as we become moms. It can begin as soon as a woman is TTC (trying to conceive) and continues through pregnancy, the postpartum stage, or when a mother expands her family with another child. Matrescence is the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical transition of moving from womanhood into motherhood and the changes that pursue.


Many first-time mothers find the transition from woman to mother beginning the first moment they see the double lines on the pregnancy test. Some begin to become hyper-aware of her body and the environment around her, the foods she eats, the music she listens to, perhaps even the people who are around her. In addition, spiritually and emotionally, she may begin to feel her own inner child and childhood history begin to take center stage in her awareness.


Why is inner child awareness important?


The inner child is the part of her that demands safety, assurance, stability, and affirmation. Once a woman finds out she is carrying life, her own inner child may begin to seek more confirmation than usual to feel safe to prevail in this new journey into motherhood. Her social atmosphere, support system, and inner dialogue become extremely important to an expecting and new mother. Townley shares, “Your life as a child ends up shaping many of your beliefs and behaviors. In most cases, where no serious trauma occurred, there are still shadows that we need to bring to light and integrate. These may include limiting beliefs, harsh judgment towards yourself and others, insecurities, and self-sabotaging tendencies.” Studies show the need for emotional and physical stability increases biologically when mothers conceive to ensure the basic necessity of survival. We are wired to seek safety on all fronts of our lives once we are aware we are carrying life, and the subconscious may begin to surface in ways previously unnoticed. Acknowledging the state of our inner child is pertinent to consoling the potential fears and uncertainties that go along with this new area of life so that we can fully step into this new arena of life with a new set of self-beliefs that have a positive impact on the development of our soon-to-be child. Children are susceptible to the emotions and spiritual health of the mother beginning in the womb. “The young child lives close to the unconscious of the parents, and therefore unconsciously carries the parents’ unfulfilled dreams and ambitions, as well as their problems and unresolved conflicts.” ~Marion Woodman


Why is our emotional history important?


Our emotional history becomes important to acknowledge once a woman learns of her conception because the body and nervous system are wired to react in certain ways depending on the familial, generational, and social constructs given to each individual. Once a woman becomes pregnant, regardless of her marital status, she begins to assume a role as nurturer, provider, and emotional leader in her household. If her own emotional foundation has failed to become established throughout her life, it can become difficult to both stabilize oneself and provide a fertile environment for the new emotional development of another. When a mother begins to acknowledge her own emotional foundations and the state of her nervous system, it can lead to an acknowledgment of lifelong self-beliefs that have been in play since she was a child. Our established self-beliefs are the hard wiring of our nervous system, how we perceive others, and perceive ourselves.


How to move through this new phase triumphantly


This type of spiritual work takes effort and is usually something that takes time, dedication, consistency, and compassion for oneself. The help of a close friend, therapist, prayer, meditation, and other mothers could assist one in this journey of becoming a healthy, emotionally available, and present mother. Culturally, according to reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks M.D., “there is ‘this expectation that bliss would be the primary and predominant emotion [for new mothers]. Most people do find joy, but there are also moments of ambivalence and there are moments of stress. The more we talk about matrescence and the demands of this transition, the less isolated moms will feel.”


References:


Townley, Chiara. “Heal Your Inner Child Before Becoming a Mom. — Chiara B. Townley - Mom Coach and Spiritual Healer.” Chiara B. Townley - Mom Coach & Spiritual Healer, 1 Mar. 2023, www.chiarabtownley.com/blog/heal-your-inner-child-before-becoming-a-mom.


Victoria. “Matrescence: Exploring a New Mom’s Experience | the Everymom.” The Everymom, 10 Feb. 2023, theeverymom.com/matrescence.


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