by Lauren Hughes – Child Health Nurse

Motherhood is so much more than pregnancy and birth but we often fail to talk about the journey a woman goes on as she becomes a mother. One of my favourite quotes states that when a woman gives birth she births not just a baby, but a mother and a family.

This is where the concept of Matrescence becomes important. The term is used to describe the emotional, physical, mental, social and psychological process a woman undergoes as she becomes a mother. This process is an ongoing evolution of us as individuals and It is a way to describe the identity shift that happens after having a baby when a woman considers what the role of mother means to her and for her.

This is a period of serious change that is brought on by pregnancy and birth, but continues for a long time afterward and like adolescence, It is a biologically, socially and hormonally driven change that launches us into a new phase of life with an evolved and expanded sense of who we are.

This shift in identity and life focus can be hard. There is sometimes a feeling of grief, a feeling of missing who you used to be. Coupled with hormonal shifts and adjustment to life after birth, it is common to feel the whole range of emotions both positive and negative. Some women can begin to feel something is wrong when their preconceived idea of how motherhood would make them feel doesn’t fit the reality, and while postnatal depression is very real, not every negative emotion after birth means we are depressed.

Matrescence is a time for us to come to terms with our new lives as mothers. The struggle to adjust to the new identity is just that – a struggle. Some will find it easier to adjust than others but we all need to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves the time we need time to accept the new person we are becoming.

Every woman’s experience with parenthood is as individual as we are, and as a result Matrescence is not a one size fits all experience. Nor does it have an end date. With every child that comes into your world you have the potential to discover new parts of your identity and to find the strength and resilience needed to do this, the world’s hardest and most important Job.

Image by @carlyhopephotography

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