by Tara Stoll, MA
Registered Clinical Counsellor
After reading this post, I know you’re going to want to bring this word into rotation so let’s start with the pronunciation. Matrescence rhymes with adolescence. Spoiler alert: that’s not the only thing it has in common with adolescence. The term was coined by Dana Raphael, a medical anthropologist, in 1973 and its been getting recent attention from reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks. Check out her podcast “Motherhood Sessions” or Ted talk if you have some time.
Matrescence, the transition into motherhood, is similar to adolescence in that hormones are all over the place. Bodies are rapidly changing, often in unasked for, and problems-to-be-solved ways (hello nausea, olfactory warfare, tight pants followed by can-no-longer-get-comfortable sleeping). Identity is shifting and women regularly find themselves wondering with shock and intrigue, “Who am I? This isn’t what I do/like/feel/think/eat!” There is new and unfamiliar responsibility (e.g., growing a human in your body) and one might wonder, “Can I even do this? Am I up for this? Can I change my mind?” Depression and anxiety see new opportunities to make first-time or repeat appearances – so many new things to worry about! And self doubt and comparison run amok leaving women regularly asking themselves/others/books/Google, “Am I doing this right?” and quite often deciding that a friend/relative/blogger/person in the grocery store seems to be doing it better/easier/prettier.
The gap between what matrescence more often is (an awkward, emotional, confusing, exciting transition) to what it is supposed to be (a consistently joy filled, blissful, peaceful metamorphosis) leaves many women feeling alone, isolated and questioning whether they are doing pregnancy or momming “right.”
Matrescence! Let’s name it, get ready for it, recognize it, normalize it, talk about it and cut pregnant and new moms some slack, much like we do teenagers, in terms of acknowledging that this can be a tough time. I am certain, based on my personal and professional experience, that if there was a smaller gap between what it is and what its “supposed to be” the transition into motherhood would be so much easier. So, don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you’re having a rough go of it because its not you it’s the process. The process even has a name its matrescence and IT’S A LOT!!!!
TL:DR: pregnant/new mom: hard!