Matrescence is a wonderful word coined by the anthropologist Dana Raphael in the mid-1970s to describe the psychological awakening we have as we enter motherhood. During this time, quite like adolescence, we are fluctuating in mind and body. It is a time of learning, rebirth, and growth as we make our way to finding a new, extraordinary strength within us.
Matrescence is also quite disorientating and challenging, and something we don’t often talk about. We hear about the fourth trimester; the time period from birth to about twelve weeks when mother and baby are quite naturally heavily in need of one another. This final trimester is largely concerned with the newborn rather than the mother, however.
When we consider the newness, rawness, and change which a baby experiences as they find themselves out of their comfort zone, delivered from the protected, warm, dark womb, to the stark brightness, loudness, and highly sensational world, we can appreciate how drastic these changes are for our baby. Their adjustment is great, and they have us to protect them, guide them, and love them throughout this intense journey. We need just as much love and support as we journey towards our natural change towards motherhood. This can be just as confusing and frightening for us.
As we start off on this motherhood journey we will be challenged. Powering through the fourth trimester, and focusing on our own personal route into Matrescence. That challenge can act as a tributary to our understanding of motherhood as a whole, although not always easy to navigate when we are exhausted. Most importantly this period of emotional and psychological transition does not necessarily occur as your baby is born. It may filter in at any stage as this developmental path takes hold at any stage of motherhood.
It may seem as though we have little control over this transformation; it's as though it is something that simply happens to us. But if we mother ourselves during this change, we find this transition almost ground-breaking. Protecting ourselves, in both mind and body, comforting ourselves, and being our own guide on this transformational journey, can make this period of our lives less confusing and more empowering.
When we recognise the importance of this process, we can allow the time and space for it. The transition to motherhood is intense. Matrescence encourages us to rest, go slow, embrace our minds and our bodies so we can recover and learn and grow. It inspires us to appreciate the upheaval our lives will go through. After all, we're navigating the emotional labour of new motherhood. Most importantly, it tells us to love ourselves, as much as we love our baby.