Do you know that there is a term specifically pertaining to the process of becoming a mom? Yes, it is called matrescence. Surprised? Well, read on and know more about what matrescence is all about and how to better cope while you are at this phase in your life.
Let’s admit it, a woman’s life does not change by just marrying someone. The real change really comes in when a woman becomes a mom. It’s like turning your life 360 degrees.
The moment you find out that you are pregnant, your life changes into something more delicate and exciting and thrilling and scary – all at the same time. Well, who can blame us? It’s a totally extreme feeling knowing that inside your womb is a new person – a human being.
When I found out I was pregnant with my firstborn, I had a mixture of emotions. It was unbelievable. I never felt or have gone through such a phase until I was pregnant.
Slowly, my life transitioned from all about me to all about my baby. Every single day during my pregnancy was all about the tiny human being inside my tummy.
For me and my husband, it was a phase. It was a time for us to prepare ourselves – especially me. I thought about making sure that I eat the right food for my baby, I sleep well and complete my 8 to 10 hours of rest every night, and I read books about motherhood and babyhood, and so much more.
On hindsight, I slowly noticed how my body changed. My tummy getting bigger, my hair and skin getting dry, my hands and feet are swollen, oh, and my nose! It was as if it was flattened. Before pregnancy, I hardly had any breakouts, I had no dark skin, but when I carried my baby in my womb, I experienced all that. To be honest, it was unflattering and it did not make me happy.
Little did I know that all of these are part of a period I now know is called, matrescence.
What is matrescence?
Matrescence is a word created by an anthropologist named Dana Rafael, which is pertaining to the process of becoming a mother. It pertains to that period when a woman transitions from being a single and a free woman to being a mom to a tiny little bunny we call, baby.
During this period, people expect you to be happy and joyful despite not having control over the way you feel, and the way you look.
Pregnancy is like puberty stage with your hormones going unpredictable, your and skin don’t go the way they’re supposed to be, etc. During this period, you have no other choice but to accept and establish a new relationship with your body even if deep inside, it feels like it has a mind of its own, it wouldn’t follow how you want it to be.
In a neuroscientific point of view, the emotions woman go through while in the process of matrescence are as much as related to chemical shifts in the woman’s brain. It’s beyond what science could explain. The chemicals – estrogen and progesterone – are flowing through the receptors in your brain when you lose your temper with the people around you – be it your husband, your friends, or other family members.
What are the things to look out for when experiencing matrescence?
Let’s admit it, it’s not easy to understand a woman’s mood swing when she is pregnant until when she officially becomes a mom. Although people try to understand the roller-coaster of emotions, we must admit that it just sometimes gets into the nerve. But what people do not know is that we, ourselves are not even happy with how we react on things.
However, in psychology, they say that if people have more insight into what they feel, they can be more in control of how they react on things. Even when the focus of a mom remains on her child, giving time to understand the psychology of a pregnant woman and postpartum can make a huge difference in promoting healthier parenting. Women particularly moms with better understanding and awareness of their own psychology may be more compassionate towards their children’s emotions.
It is important knowing the psychology of matrescence. It helps normalize, at the same time, confirm how new moms feel. Here are key things that you should look out for:
- Altering family dynamics.
Having a baby is not just a typical act of creation. It is more than just creating a new human being. Having a baby is about building a new family – a family of your own. The presence of a baby could create new possibilities for more, better intimate connections, at the same time, create new stresses as well in a mom’s closest relationships particularly her husband or partner, her friends, and loved ones.
According to Paola Mariotti, a psychoanalyst’s book, “The Maternal Lineage”, a woman’s maternal identity is defined and will depend on her mother’s style. Meaning, how she was raised by her own mom.
Becoming a mom gives a woman an opportunity to experience her own childhood by parenting her own child – it doesn’t matter if the mom raises her kid the way she was raised or follow a different parenting style. In the case of women who had bad relationships or bad experiences with their own moms growing up, their parenting may depend on how they wished their mom was or what they longed to have with their own moms.
I, for instance, I grew up without having a close relationship with my mom. So growing up, I had this vision of how and what I wanted to be when I become a mom myself. True enough, now that I am already a mom, I try to do whatever I hoped my mom did to me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a grudge towards my mother, but I must admit I really did wish we had a better relationship.
- The feeling of ambivalence or uncertainty.
When you are a mom, it’s normal to feel uncertain. Well, after all, everything in life is uncertain anyway. When you are a mom, you have like a push and pull kind of thing with your emotions. At one point you want your baby close to you, but at the same time, you want space and time for yourself. It’s as if you are always torn between things, which by the way is normal especially once you are a mom.
Ambivalence pertains to the feeling that arises in the roles and relationships a person – whether a mom or not – is most invested in, which happens because they are always juggling between the act of taking and giving.
When you are a mom, all the more that you are not exempted on feeling ambivalent. You sometimes (rather most of the time) are torn between giving in to your child and giving in to yourself. Your child’s needs first or yours. No doubt why a lot of people are having a hard time dealing with uncertainty because it’s really weird to feel two different things at the same time.
When it comes to motherhood, it’s not about good OR bad, rather it’s both good AND bad. That is why it is important to learn how to accept and be at ease with ambivalence, no matter how irritating or discomforting it can be.
On a personal note, I have experienced being in this state. Well, even up to know, I still have uncertainties. Although I now think it’s really just normal. I have not mastered the art of motherhood yet, and I must say, I am still in the process – getting there. For instance, as simple as during the day, I am torn between wanting my child awake, at the same time, wanting him asleep. I am torn, I am undecided, I am uncertain which one I really want. So, yeah, it’s not easy but we sure will get at the endpoint.
- A battle between fantasies versus reality.
The moment a woman receives the good news about her pregnancy, as I mentioned earlier, everything changes. As the change happens, moms-to-be start dreaming and think about their child being the gender they hoped, and then the behavior – being nice, funny, cute, and well-behaved baby. Pregnant women tend to fantasize their babies.
I must admit, I did too! For once, I thought our baby will be a girl. So I already imagined the kind of parenting we will practice towards her, her name, her outfits, even her behavior, I already pictured everything until we were told it’s a boy.
Nevertheless, I started fantasizing how my son will be – this and that. Of course, as I fantasize the kind of baby we will have, little did I know, what I was hoping to be is actually based on what I hoped my own mom was, at the same time, the good things I saw from others that I want to practice in my own child too.
Now here comes the reality. My child was born. He was the complete opposite of what I fantasized him to be. He is cute, funny, lovable, but he is not well-behaved, he doesn’t sleep on his own like other kids, he feeds a lot, and the list goes on. Apparently, the reality of life is disappointing – not because it really is but one of the biggest factors is, because we tend to fantasize things as perfect, when in fact, they’re not.
- The feeling of guilt, shame, and that “the good enough mom”.
When you become pregnant, as you fantasize the kind of baby you will have, you also create a picture of an ideal mother in your mind. That’s true because I did too! I thought I’d be that mom who is always happy, positive, with lots of patience, will never run out of energy, and that mom who will always put my child’s needs first before mine or other people. I thought I was a superwoman without needs of her own.
When my child was born, when the going gets tough, hardly without sleep and all that, I tried looking for that mom I created in my mind. I tried to keep up. I would remind myself to be calm, to stay positive happy and all that. I was aiming to be the kind of mom I pictured myself to be. I tried measuring up that kind of mom, and never accepted that common phrase people say, that “you are good enough”. For me, it was unacceptable.
I was so into it only to realize that I was already striving for perfection leading me to feel guilt and shame because I was not keeping up. It was as if I did not meet my own standards of the kind of mom I should be. It was really bad.
Needless to say, here’s the society who is judging me to be exactly the kind of mom I pictured while I was pregnant. I felt even guiltier especially at times when I would attend to my personal needs first because I and the society said I should always prioritize my child. He should always be on top of everything.
Apart from that, there’s also shame. Shame because I started comparing myself to other moms. I thought about why I can’t when others can. I felt shame on myself because I thought there is something wrong with me.
I kept all that to myself. Every negativity I felt, I just kept for fear of being judged or be tagged as a bad mom. Do you see yourself in my situation? Well, no wonder because most moms are exactly like me. Well, not totally, but in the essence, just the same.
Apparently, when we keep it to ourselves, there’s a possibility that it may trigger postpartum depression, and when that happens, that’s another thing, a battle that we need to win.
We, women, moms per se, often find ourselves feeling lost somewhere between who we are before and who we think we are now that we are moms. While a lot of people thought that is something wrong, in reality, it’s actually a common thing.
How to deal with matrescence?
After all, that’s been said, the next question that needs an answer is, how to deal with all of these. Hang in there mommy, that exactly what I am going to share with you now.
- Give yourself a break!
Believe it or not, you need a break – a break from being the perfectionist you. You need a break from trying to reach the standard you gave yourself. You need to take a break from yourself. You’ve already given too much pressure on yourself, when in fact, you should not. You are just an ordinary human, you do not have superpowers, so please, give yourself the rest it deserves. Lower the bars and stop reaching for perfection, because really, there is no such thing especially when in it comes to motherhood and parenthood alike.
- Have a moment with your partner, talk about it all.
We, moms, thought that sharing what we feel to our husbands is being weak and dependent. Well, we can be sometimes. But really, talk it out to your partner. Talk about how you feel. Talk about who you are now. Be honest with how you feel. After all, you should not go through all this alone. Precisely why we have husbands/partners after all.
- Acknowledge the new you.
It pays to accept that things are different now. Stop holding on to what was then rather adapt and focus on your now. Slowly but surely. No pressure, but start working on it. You will be surprised at how much you have changed and for sure, you will be proud of yourself.
- Look for social and professional support.
Yes, your husband is there, but sometimes it pays to hear from someone who feels and is going through the same stage as you. Seek for fellow moms and share their experiences. All the more, it feels better if you seek professional help – but of course, only if you feel comfortable about it. No, it doesn’t mean something is totally wrong. It’s just that sometimes we need professional help on how to deal with things so we can deal with them effectively.
- Acknowledge that you are not perfect.
It pays to accept that you are not perfect. I know, I have said this a couple of times already, but really, one of the major factors why we sometimes think we are failing because we thought we are superwomen, we are perfect. But hey, the reality is, we are far from being one. So hang in there and gladly accept your flaws. They’re forgivable, don’t worry.
Let’s face it, being in the state of matrescence is no easy feat. Becoming a mom is not a walk in the park. While you are on this stage, while it is normal to envision a good and perfect mom in you, also take this time to think of how you will address your flaws. How you will react with your own flaws.
You know, being a mom is a very exciting moment in our lives. From what I learned from my own experience, I wished when I was in the matrescence stage, I was just being real. I could only hope now that I should have remained true to myself and not thought of becoming this perfect mom for my son rather I should have just focused on how to adapt my current self to the new self ahead of me.
Well, it’s never too late. We can always do something about it. That’s what moms are good at anyway, right?
So, if you are on matrescence, I highly recommend enjoying it instead of putting too much pressure on yourself. You are and will always be a mom – imperfect but real.