The shift from maiden to mother begins here. You can feel it, the delicious contrast between the dull ache and excitement for what is to come.
In the days that followed my first birth, I only felt comfortable within the four walls of my home with my mum and my husband. I was aching all over, milk filling up my hugely engorged breasts, ice packs in my undies and eye bags down to my knees. I was vulnerable in every sense of the word. I sat glued to the lounge with a cluster feeding baby, one moment I’d be staring in awe at this magical human and the next crying for no apparent reason. My mum, my safe person, set off these tears on day three post-birth by telling me what a great job I was doing. Well, that was the end of me. Tears flowing out uncontrollably, they wouldn’t stop. Was it the plummeting hormones or was it the validation of my right of passage? I’d say both.
Mothers, especially fresh, postpartum Mothers, feel it all. We are shifting from one phase of life to the next, birthing a new identity while grieving the old, of course there are going to be tears. There’s discomfort and comfort in the same space, if we allow this shift to happen within our safe place, with our safe people. It is terrifying but at the same time overwhelmingly beautiful, if we let it.
In learning how similar my needs were to my babies in the early stages of Motherhood was life changing, enough to push me down the Postpartum Doula life path. Looking at my newborn baby girl, only a few short days ago, she was in a whole other world. She grew and existed within a space that was shared by both of us. Now she was in a world where everything was new, she had to start from scratch, everything she knew no longer existed. I wondered how she felt, was she devastated? Nervous? Overwhelmed? Or was she delighted, thrilled and eager to learn about her new world? I realised what a shock this must be for her, in a body she couldn’t control with emotions she didn’t know how to express. I empathised, because her and I were still one. Those emotions were mine too.
I knew she needed to be held in her transition to earth, because I too, needed to be held as I transitioned back to earth. Life as we knew it, had changed for us both, but we had each other. Guiding and holding one another through each phase, each lesson, each challenge, each ache. As we shedded one layer after another that no longer belonged here. My daughter became my safe space and I became hers.
It wasn’t the books that were going to teach me how to best support her, she was going to teach me how to support her. She was going to teach me how to best support me. My body had changed, my emotions were uncontrollable, what was once the makeup of our life, changed the second she took her first breath. A shift that happened in a split second and it was painfully beautiful.
Matrescence – the process of becoming a mother is a term coined by anthropologist Dana Raphael, she has helped us describe the rite of passage that we all knew existed but lacked a dictionary meaning. Women collectively around the world go “yes, that’s it!” when they hear it, because it resonates so deeply, making us feel truly seen and understood as Women and Mothers.
Matrescence is the unfolding of a Mother, her hormones are uncontrollable, her body no longer feels like hers, her emotional state is vulnerable, her identity is shifting. She is morphing from one person to another.
We’ve been longing for recognition of this transitionary period for decades. Adolescence goes through a very similar phase, widely recognised as the awkward phase. They are growing rapidly, extra hormonal, and don’t know how to control their emotions.
Yet, Matrescence is still largely unexplored in the medical community and the focus still remains on the baby.
We deserve to have our transitionary phase honoured too.
But not as the awkward phase, as the transformational phase, where everything shifts for the better.
Where we recognise and reconnect with the instincts we lost along the way, the intuition we told to be quiet, the strength we denied, the vulnerability we thought was weakness.
The transformational phase where we decide to take back our power and surrender to our sacred shift of moving from Maiden to Mother, the psychological birth of her, embracing all the hormones, emotions, body changes, in all its glory.
Moving through our Matrescence, our early labour phase of Motherhood, requires us to give ourselves empathy for how uncomfortable and out of our body we may feel, as the surges of the birth of a Mother begins.
Those powerful surges are birthing a new woman, are you ready to meet her?