Matrescence: The Birth of a Mother

Matrescence: The Birth of a Mother

I came across a new term the other day called, “matrescence”. It is defined as the time in a woman’s life when she transitions into motherhood. Similar to the concept of adolescence, [the transformative time where one grows from a child into a young adult] matrescence takes time.

It is not an overnight process.

Becoming a mother and those first few years of motherhood are filled to the brim with beauty and difficulty, challenge and reward. On one hand, it is incredible to grow and birth a baby and to watch them grow. And the truth is they grow FAST! One moment you’re bleary-eyed at 4 am and wondering when, if ever, you’ll sleep more than a few hours straight again – then another you awake on your own at 4 am, and realize – wait – they’re asleep! They did it! And the growth of your incredible little human continues: the first smile, first laugh, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, pulling to stand, walking, babbles, and first words! You spend the first year of motherhood in awe of how much a little human can grow and change in such a short time.

But being the support and witness to the growth of a new human life is hard.

Plain and simple. It’s hard taking care of yourself, let alone a baby and household, on limited sleep. Looking back to the first year of motherhood I still feel like the lack of sleep was the hardest part [for me] and something that is hard to describe to someone who has not gone through it. No one is born knowing how to perfectly manage this insanity. Before becoming a mother you could worry about yourself first and foremost and arrange your priorities from there. But with motherhood comes a colossal shift in our priorities and our abilities to realistically manage all that we did before. For those first few years, you will learn that certain things won’t get done – and it’s okay. Whatever that ends up meaning for you, I’m here to tell you: it’s okay. It won’t be this way forever.

Do you know what else is okay?

It’s okay if you sometimes miss the life you had before becoming a mom. This is so normal! Whether your baby was planned or not, becoming a mother is a huge change and it is normal to mourn what you knew before. New motherhood brings about a major identity shift and it is not uncommon to go through a period of time where you aren’t sure who you are anymore outside of being a mother. It can be hard to remember that you have hobbies you love, friends and activities you used to regularly see and attend, and quite frankly a marriage or relationship that revolves around more than keeping a tiny human alive. Because let’s face it — taking care of a brand new human being, who arrives with no instruction manual while physically and emotionally healing from birth is all-encompassing – it is A LOT! And ~the village~ is not as common as it once was. Many of us are navigating motherhood, miles away from our families, or never had supportive families, to begin with. I don’t say this to scare anyone but rather to remind those new moms who are in the thick of it, that they are not alone. It is important to recognize that there are so many feelings in early motherhood especially, that are completely normal yet not widely spoken about.

For me, the lack of community around me when I had my first child was exceptionally hard. Not everyone has this struggle, but I did, and I know others struggle with this too. When I became a mom at 24, it was a while (read: years) before I made my first “mom friend”. I didn’t have much of a village and I didn’t have the kind of relationship with my own mother where I could lean on her for any kind of support.

I had always hoped to be a stay-at-home mom and was so happy that we were able to make that hope a reality. However, I would be lying if I said that those early years before I made connections with other moms (mainly online), were not at times very lonely. I had to learn to adjust to my personal situation and make peace with it. I learned that community doesn’t have to mean exclusively “in-person” friends.
So, I made online friends who had babies close in age to my daughter. And while we could not set up play dates together, we could offer each other support and encouragement and that is something that made all the difference [for me] when it came to feeling lonely as a new mom.

Five years later I rarely feel that same kind of “lonely” that I felt in the beginning. Of course, it helps that my daughter and I can have conversations now! But in all seriousness, as she got older and able to go to the park and meet up with other kids, and I learned to open up more and cultivate friendships with other moms in person, it has gotten easier. Having a friend who is also a mom, especially with children around the same age as your own, is a really special thing. I am very grateful to have this now, especially since I remember what it was like not to. I’m willing to bet, if you’re reading this, that you will find that friend, or friends eventually. But it can take time.

Being a mother has become an integral part of who I am, and the work that I am doing as a mother is what I am most proud of and dedicated to. With time I “found” myself again after those identity-shaking early days. I’ve learned to accept some help and prioritize both my hobbies and my marriage. But that was not possible at the beginning – and that is ok – because the beginning of motherhood is a huge life transition. Eventually, you find some confidence in your mothering, and you start to see bits and pieces of who you were before returning to you.

In those early days though, it would’ve felt good to be reminded that no one knows what they are doing and that our confidence comes with time.

Motherhood is a role we grow into. We learn along the way.

This is why I love that someone coined the term matrescence. Because yes, becoming a mother is a process and it takes time to adjust to. In the same way that a thirteen-year-old and eighteen-year-old are both coined “teenagers” but are very different, a new mother and a mother of many years will no doubt feel differently in regard to where they are at in their motherhood journey. We are not born confident caregivers on day one. We learn and grow into the role by doing it, experiencing it, living it – all of it – the good, bad, beautiful, and ugly.

I hope that if you are a mom, especially a new one, this post helps you take a moment to recognize matrescence for the journey that it is. I hope you realize that your feelings, all of them, are valid and that with time you’ll find your groove in motherhood even if you start out feeling like you’ll never make it through another night on no sleep. You will make it. It may take time, but you will settle into this new role.

You got this.

Sending love and light,

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