Matrescence - how do we support this journey for a Mother-to-be?

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Matrescence: “the physical, emotional, hormonal and social transition to becoming a mother”

Matrescence was coined in the 1970's by Dana Raphael The very real changes that happen each and every time we have a baby have been known about for a long long time in the medical profession. If you take a moment to look back into the support provided to a new Mother in just about every traditional culture across the globe, it is clear…..

Matrescence has been understood and valued since women have been having babies....long before it was given a label.

Traditionally, Mothers are cared for. Be it their first, second or fifth baby, the Mothers Mother or Mother-in-law, her aunties, women in the village, would all come together to care for her. To cook for her. To care for older children. To keep the home in order. To shop. To massage her regularly as a means of restoration and repair. To honour her. To celebrate her. To allow her to sleep. To allow her time to recover. To nourish her. To give her time to find her feet. Learn to breast feed. Get to know her baby.

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And yet in our Western culture, the concept is somewhat brushed aside, often replaced with full focus and investment on baby's needs.....Baby Showers and toys and endless groups for baby play......

In recent years there has been a shift where the Mothers needs are becoming recognised again. For many the understanding of the value of supporting matrescence is becoming clear and a return to honouring a Mother, body mind and soul is becoming popular again.

For many others in our Western culture, this term is still a foreign or made up word to them. There is still so many women entering Motherhood alone. Sure, most have their partners. But not so many have the support of true village. Few Mothers or Mother-in-laws have time to move in with mum and bub for 6 weeks and care for her. Many geographically cannot. For many others, this kind of support is not even wanted….or very helpful, depending on the relationship dynamics.

But history and science, and basic observation show that the supported Mother, the nurtured Mother, the honoured Mother will thrive. So….

Why do we diminish the value of supporting Matrescence?

Our Western culture is relatively young. And BUSY!!

It is the last 60-70 odd years that have seen a shift. Birth becoming a medical process to be treated by Drs rather than left in the hands of the midwife and doula, Dr only called in IF there was medical cause. There has been so much growth for women in the working world and becoming recognised as equals (so much more to go), and with that, most women today work, loving their career, others just needing to pay the ever growing bills. There has been a massive shift in the mindset that women belong in the home, to women being a prominent and valued member of our workforce.

How blessed we are to live in these times when we have choice and are valued for who we are, not just for keeping house and having babies.

What I am going to suggest next may sound very controversial, and I beg you to take a moment and hear what I say in the context of Motherhood. I fear that if not, you may interpret my words to suggest the progress we have made as women is wrong. This is absolutely NOT what I am suggesting.

I am however going to go out on a limb and suggest that generations of women working hard to prove our equal worth has had both positive and negative impacts on us. SO MUCH positive in our growth as women accepted in a man’s world.

In the process of this, particularly for our Mothers and Grandmothers, the only way to forge forward was to try to match men step for step. To the point even our fashion has periodically tried to ‘prove our equal’ with the huge shoulder pads becoming popular again from the late 1970’s to early 1990’s. In our battle to force men to see us as their equal, we had to dumb it down a little and make it simple for them to see….in our clothes and haircuts and determination to work every bit as hard.

Except we already had that. Determination to work every bit as hard. The challenge Women had then is that while proving their equal in a man’s works, they were still expected to come home, care for children, keep house and manage all the ‘women’s work’ as well. I believe it was a little later, as the boys raised in these homes were taught equality begins in the home, that boys began to help in the home more too. And so today most men are more helpful in the home and with the children where before women juggled ALL of this whilst also juggling a full time career.

Over these generations, where women fought hard for our equality, I believe there was a mindset shift. A shift that was inevitable if they were to have any chance of succeeding for the future generations (us), and that was to prove they could do it all. And they bloody well did!

But here’s the bit where i suggest we have a negative. Where we did not mean to, and cannot be blamed for the outcome, but we shifted the collective mindset of women to stand completely on their own two feet. To say “I’ve got this” and put on a brave front, even when they are secretly falling apart. They only way to survive and thrive through a period of wowen’s rights that gave us the freedom we have today.

Except there is one time when we are not supposed to say “I’ve got this” and try to do it all alone. And that is Motherhood!

Motherhood was always supposed to be supported by the village

Traditional culture shows us this and finally we are beginning to see the truth ourselves, but still, we have generations of powerfully strong women echoing in our psyche to prove to world we can juggle it all. Because we had to.

But when it comes to Motherhood and Matrescence, believe me when I tell you, if you try to juggle it all, there is a pretty high chance you are going to drop some balls! Or if you maintain the juggle, it will become a pretty mediocre performance as the performance must remain ongoing, one shift rolling into the next, and you will become exhausted. Simply focusing on the basics to keep the balls afloat will become all you can manage. And it will become less fun in the process.

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But invite in your village…..then your performance is likely going to pick up in quality and value. You can begin passing those balls between you, throwing in some tricks, sharing what you know, brainstorming together on ways to progress, laughing off mistakes, or perhaps not laughing, but picking up the pieces together. And starting again fresh. Realising that everybody makes mistakes. And that is perfectly okay.

Motherhood is supposed to be shared, and I promise you it is so much more fun when it is.

Matrescence, the transition to Mother, is a time in your life that is incredibly valuable and influential on the entire rest of your life to follow!

There are real structural changes going on in your brain. Physical and hormonal changes in your body. Social changes that impact all of your relationships. With partner, with friends, with family, with older children.

When we are supported and nurtured and these changes are understood and respected and CELEBRATED, then we experience holistic positive shifts that can impact us for life. And our children benefit from our experience.

Conversely, when we are left to juggle all the balls and become exhausted, depleted and/or overwhelmed, this can often lead to deeper problems. Self doubt, anxiety and/or depression. Challenges that none of us deserve in Motherhood, but so often suffer with. Also shifts that can impact us for life…..or take a lot of hard work to recover from.

How do we support Matrescence in our modern world?

It can be really HARD! Especially as often our family live a long way off. Our closest people who we immediately consider our ‘village’ are simply not at hand.

And so we must adapt. We must reach out for our modern village.

Before we can do this, we must first acknowledge that we cannot do everything, and nor should we have to. We must be okay with releasing a generational mindset because our Mothers and Grandmothers and Aunties have paved out way, and made it possible to release it.

We are strong enough to do it all. Absolutely. But we will suffer. And then so will our children. Our stress will eventually reflect on them. And so we must also be strong enough to know when it is time to ask for help. to show them it is okay to ask for help.

We live in a time now where we do not need to prove our equal by trying to do everything a ‘man’ does the way a man does AND juggle everything a ‘woman’ does. Men today were the children of Mothers that taught them equality begins in the home and it is important to share the load. We do not need to wear our shoulder pads anymore.

We do not need to prove we are ‘equal to men’ because we are so much more. We now live in the time when we can re-embrace our feminine, and rather than be ‘equal’ by doing things like a man does, we can be better, by doing things like a woman.

Because we are not only strong enough. We are also soft enough.

Because much of our strength lies in our abilities to not only juggle a heap of balls, but to come together with other women and share the juggle. Share the joy. Share the tears. Embrace the mistakes. Pick up the pieces. Together. Share the knowledge and wisdom. Share the experience! And with that, our performance is so much more than mediocre and ball dropping. It is extraordanary.

And that is what makes us uniquely different.

For these reasons, Matrescence should not be tackled alone. Together we are so much stronger.

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How do we embrace matrescence in the best possible way?
  • sit in with yourself and think about what is important to you (not what other people tell you is important to them)

  • accept help where it is offered

  • ask for help where it is needed (food, housework, care with kids, a few hours a week to sleep or have you time)

  • outsource where you need to (our modern village is bigger and less personal. outsource help for any of the above. For physical or mental care and repair)

  • set up boundaries for the less helpful help (the ‘help’ that tells you what you ‘should’ do regardless of how it makes you feel)

  • lean in to Mother groups

  • Share the load with other Mothers (lean in as much as you support)

  • openly share your experience and wisdom. Others may benefit from what you share. The good, the bad and the ugly.

  • Remember that sharing is not telling. No ‘YOU SHOULDS!!” Do not accept them thrust upon you. Do not put them on others. Share, and absorb so that each mother is welcome to take or leave what she wishes. Including you.

  • Ask questions

  • Trust your instinct

  • Do not overly google

  • Do not believe everything you see on social media.

  • If you are feeling anxious or depressed, steer clear of social media altogether.

  • Remember, real women are far more authentic than a social post

Consider a Mother Blessing honour the very beginning of your Matrescence journey

A mother blessing is a sacred ceremony to honour a mother-to-be, the idea born of “indigenous traditions of blessing way ceremonies, historically held for women who were embarking on the journey of birth”. A Mother Blessing is a coming together of women to celebrate the Mother and support her in the birth of her matrescence journey.

Our Western culture has been more about baby showers to shower baby with gifts. A Mother Blessing borrows from the wisdom of traditional culture and generations of knowing what a Mother-to-be needs. It embraces the sacred beliefs of the Blessing way, remembering to focus on honouring the Mother. It is a day where women come together to share stories and wisdom. To share in special practices that bond the group of women (the village) in support of the Mother.

Although I hear of more Mothers that choose a Mother Blessing over a baby shower, many others have not heard of this experience. Others still love the idea, but friends do not live close, or they feel their friends may not understand or appreciate the value of this day. It is these reasons that encouraged me to create a Mama Blessing Retreat. A day that is inspired by the traditional modern Mother blessing where friends come together to support and honour one pregnant Mama. The Mama Blessing Retreat instead invites ALL pregnant Mamas to come together for one very special day. To connect and begin to grow your Mama tribe. To honour yourself as you prepare to be Mother. Or Mother again.

This day is packed full of wonder:

  • prenatal yoga

  • other mama connection

  • knowledge and wisdom shared around birth, postpartum, physical and mental health, (changes and repair), relationship changes and more

  • sound healing

  • lunch and snacks throughout

  • a beautiful gift bag

This day is 100% about supporting the pregnant Mama and preparing her for her Matrescence.

Our very next retreat fast approaches. July 17. If you are curious, or know a Mama who might me, check this link to learn more about our sacred retreat. Xx

Mama Blessing Retreat

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