Matrescence: The Birth Of A Mother

I love words. I read avidly and constantly and have done all my life. 

I remember more than once being accused of having swallowed a dictionary when I was a kid (it wasn’t a compliment!)

Since I had my son Felix just over a year ago, my reading rate has for obvious reasons, significantly reduced.  However,  I still try to read things that interest me every day that I can. 

The term ‘Matrescence’ is one of the new words that fell into my vocabulary since I became a mother. Although coined in the ’70s by Dana Raphael, it has only recently been working its way into public understanding.

Its concept and meaning are simple: it refers to the psychological process and change one undergoes when you have a baby “likened in intensity and duration to adolescence."

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I have always loved pregnant women and I had a great bond with my own mother. In my work and my life, I have always had an affinity with mammies. 

I’m a midwife, I adore my job and assumed I would absolutely love becoming a mother myself. If I’m honest, I wince as I type those words.

While I absolutely loved my son from the second I birthed his beautiful little self, and felt an instant connection with him from when I found out I was pregnant, my Matrescence, much like my own adolescence has been somewhat tortuous, incredibly surprising and at times very painful.

It was so refreshing to me that someone invented a word that actually described this time of immense change. 

Until it happens, you have no idea what it’s going to be like- just like when you become a teenager. The hormones, that you have no control over, take over your body and you have emotions that you didn’t even know existed. 

When I think of it now, my turning from a woman to a mother and my turning from a girl into an adult have so many similarities and challenges. 

Both these times are a process, that happens not instantly but over time. Yes, you instantly become a mammy when you birth your baby but it takes time for you to ‘become’ a mother.

The psychological changes that happen in the brain and body during pregnancy and birth are often written about but, the entire shift your brain takes after you welcome your little one into the world is still a subject that’s only starting to studied and understood. 

The simple fact is this; you think in terms of “before”  you have kids and “after” your kids are born-and nothing is quite the same.  I don’t think we give enough airplay to how challenging that huge shift is.

We all remember how hard it was being a teenager. I don’t know about you but, I wouldn’t go back there if you paid me. We all give teenagers a good bit of space to figure stuff out, and hopefully, most adults having gone through it, understand that there will be many mistakes along the way.

It takes time and experience to figure out how to become an adult.  I think we need to look at Matrescence in exactly the same way. We need to give new mums time and space to become mothers they wish to be. We need to cut ourselves slack as we figure it out and be kind to ourselves and each other when we don’t get it right. 

All of us want to be the best mothers we can be, but for most of us, we need to adjust at our own pace. I think it’s great that a word exists to describe it.

Avril Flynn

Avril is a Registered Midwife, Childbirth Educator, Hypnobirth Practitioner, Podcast and Live Event presenter and mother of one.

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