Matrescence: The psychological birth of a mother
Have you ever heard the term « matrescence »?
Yes, it does sounds like « adolescence »; this phase when we experience pimples, moodiness and disorientation about growing from one life stage to the next.
If adolescence and matrescence sounds alike, it’s mainly because they both refer to times when hormone shifting and body changes shake the way a person feels emotionally and how they fit into the world. But if we are familiar and informed about the physical and psychological changes adolescents go through in their bodies, hormones, relationships and identities, we are way less informed or even aware of matrescence: the radical transformation women undergo in each of these dimensions when they have a baby.
Just like adolescence, matrescence is not a disease but since the term has not yet been popularized even though it has been around since the 70’s, it’s often confused with a serious condition called Postpartum Depression.
During matrescence, the release of oxytocin allows new mothers to become attached to their baby. However, a new mother is still a human being and her brain and body will still be sending her signals to take care of her basic needs such as sleeping, eating or going to the bathroom. On top of that, a new mother still has needs to exercise, have sex, socialize, to nourish her professional, intellectual and spiritual life. Trying to figure out how to listen to and answer their own needs and their baby’s need at the same time can feel like a constant internal battle, create confusion and lead to difficulties at making decisions.
One simple way to reassure new mothers is to encourage them to talk openly about the challenges and joys of going though matrescence so that it becomes as accepted in our society as the passing through adolescence.
Through becoming familiar with matrescence and its natural progression, new mothers may feel less alone, less stigmatized and as a result, the rates of postpartum depression might decrease.
If you wish to learn more about matrescence, you can watch this interesting Ted Talk by the reproductive psychiatrist, Alexandra Sacks: