Matrescence is the process of becoming a mother.
When you’re a new mum and you feel different somehow, but you can’t quite put your finger on what has changed; it’s not only your body that’s changed but your identity is also changing; when certain things just don’t feel the same any more – this is matrescence, or the birth of a mother.
When a baby is born , so is a mother. Adjusting to motherhood for the first , second or third time is challenging!
Remembering the person you were before a baby and finding some time to not be on mum duties is hard too, but so very important . 'We can't pour from an empty cup .'
Once you welcome home a baby, nothing is ever the same again. Yes, it is exciting and joyful but it can also be completely overwhelming. So, as you ride the ups and downs of new motherhood, remember that this ambivalence is normal. The goal is to give yourself the time and compassion to adjust to your new role.
5 ways to navigate Matrescence
1. Let go of expectations.
I was the mum who made a timetable when I was pregnant of what our days would look like, which classes we'd attend, when Teddy would sleep, feed etc.
In reality becoming a mother hit me like a tonne of bricks! Having been an organiser and control freak, living in a world that I couldn't control or organise was really hard.
I was exhausted, my eyes and head were heavy. I couldn't concentrate, I was going through the motions of each day tending to Teddy's needs and not really meeting my own. Still adjusting to my new body and role as a mother.
Looking at other mums with babies, questioning why do they look so good? They are bossing this mum life! I felt like I was bumbling along, just about managing to get out the house dressed and washed. I was following other new mums on social media, who looked like they had it all together. Babies and home perfectly shown.
When in reality, once I spoke to the other mums, they were feeling exactly the same as me. And having those honest conversations, of 'i'm finding this really hard' and the other mums acknowledging "me too " changed my mindset and I had to go with the flow.
2. Set up a plan to ease the pressure on yourself
Talking to your partner or family about sharing the load. Whether it be the house chores, cooking, shopping, night feeds or bath time. Making a plan so you don't feel overwhelmed.
Take the help! Why as mums do we feel we can do it all? I know i'm still terrible at accepting help, But always offer it.
Let your family and friends cook, clean, hold the baby whilst you have a nap, take a shower.
Let them take care of you, not just the baby. This transition needs you to be nurtured and cared for too.
When it comes to parenthood, you also have to think beyond your immediate family as you begin to build your village. Motherhood can feel very isolating, so it's crucial to identify the people who will show up for you.
Maybe you're not going to talk to your mother-in-law about how you're feeling emotionally, but she's really good when it comes to doing the shopping and stocking the fridge and doing your washing? Maybe your best friends are working full time, but they're always at the end of the phone.
The idea is to take some of the pressure off as you get into a rhythm. So, go ahead and say yes to the help. Close family and friends will be happy to support you.
3. Take time to nourish and take care of you and your body
Whether your baby is delivered vaginally or via C-section, you will need to physically heal. Studies show that women need six to nine months to fully recover from labor and delivery — not the arbitrary six-week checkup with the GP or midwife.
For me getting adjusted to my postpartum self in the mirror took time.
I remember feeling that Teddy was attached to me 24 hours a day. My body didn't feel like my own, I often felt touched out.
Getting out for a walk, with the sling or pram, meeting the other mums for a coffee on route, really helped me feel better. Even getting out the house when his dad got home and having a walk round the block, meeting friends without the baby, really helped clear my mind.
And if the thought of doing anything that isn't about the baby makes you feel guilty, don't be. Creating the space to focus on your own needs is a positive thing for your child.
It is good modeling for your child to show them that you are important enough to take care of yourself. Self-care is like fueling up your tank. You have to do it so that you can bring your best self to parenthood. You can't pour from an empty cup.
4.Take care of your emotional wellbeing
Your emotional wellbeing is just as important as your body, so take a moment every now and then to check in with yourself. It's ok not to feel ok. It's ok to not enjoy every minute of motherhood and to miss your life before children.
I found writing down my thoughts and feelings in a journal helped me process my emotions in the early days. Looking back on this, I can see how much of my heightened emotions were due to lack of sleep and overwhelm - going back to my point - take the help!
My biggest advice is find your tribe. Getting out to a group or class and meeting other mums with babies similar age to Teddy saved my sanity. Those women got it, we listened to each others worries, moans and joy. Shared our babies milestones and became the friends I never knew I needed.
Not only will sharing your experience with peers help you feel less isolated, but it's a way of debunking the idea that being a mother is all bliss.
5. You will find yourself again
My mum always said, everything is a phase, this too shall pass. At the time in the thick of the sleepless nights, constant feeding and changing, I didn't want to hear it. Now with hindsight, it's one of the wisest phrases I've ever heard.
Caring for a baby day and night is particularly difficult in that first year but as you get the hang of things and become more confident, you'll start to recognise the person you were and have always been. Rather than thinking about it as a loss of identity, think of it as a growth of you as mother.
The days are long but the years really are short.
If any of this has resonated with you, and you know you are not feeling yourself, please speak to someone. A friend, family, health visitor or GP.
You are not alone, you are now in an amazing tribe of Mothers, who all get it and have been there too.
Follow the links below for support agencies if you need someone to talk to.
At Baby Bear we pride ourselves on being more than pregnancy and baby classes, we are a community. We actively encourage parents to talk at class and connect through what's app groups. We will make you a hot drink and will always offer to hold the baby. You're always welcome.
Below is a Positivity journal , with some prompts for you to follow to help navigate those early days.