Explore the meaning of the term matrescence and learn the signs and symptoms to look out for if you are suffering from maternal depletion or overwhelm.
In the pre-parental stage, one can often find oneself idealising the kind of parent one might become. There is the list of things for the baby bag, the birth preparation (maybe) and the breastfeeding awareness (maybe, but mostly we’ll worry about that later).
All being well, baby is born, one way or another.
And THEN, speaking from personal experience, I was unceremoniously thrust – alone – into an alien world. I was left to my own devices to work out… well…. pretty much everything about raising a small human.
Add to that the sense of bereft confusion from the lack of any meaningful guidance on how to negotiate my new identity as a mother, and the overwhelm was quick to follow.
To say that I was required to surrender feels like a vast understatement. My body, my time, my emotions, and my mental space, are all now dominated by the day to day raising of said small human. There is no deep sleep. There is no rainbow over my house as I had imagined. And there most certainly were no bluebirds singing as the baby awakes each morning.
Hair is everywhere.
Clothes are everywhere, mostly unwashed.
And sanity, well I don’t even know how many years it took for some semblance of that to return.
If you are a parent of multiple children then pretty soon it happens all over again. Same, same but different. Each time with more children in two to juggle along with the chaos described above.
If you don’t relate to any of that, I implore you to please write a book and share your magic with the rest of us.
As a result of some hefty conditioning, movie-driven stereotypes and a general lack of information I put a lot of pressure on myself to be some kind of perfect.
If I wasn’t achieving the tidy house, hair-done, happy-baby sacred trilogy I would make it about me. I would imagine that if I were different, better, or more capable in some way, things would be different.
The only difference that was truly needed now that I look back up on those years, was in understanding and support.
Enter the concept of MATRESCENCE.
“Understanding that motherhood is the psychological and spiritual birth of a woman is the greatest story never told.” Aurelie Athan
Matrescence, or the experience of becoming a mother, references a multi-system change that occurs over time before and after birth, and can continue for many years into parenting.
The term ‘matrescence’ was originally created by Dana Raphael, an American anthropologist and breastfeeding advocate. She also coined the use of the word ‘doula’ in breastfeeding and birth support.
The critical transition period which has been missed is Matrescence. The time of mother-becoming… Giving birth does not automatically make a mother out of a woman… The amount of time it takes to become a mother needs study.Source: https://www.pbbmedia.org/matrescence.html
– DANA RAPHAEL, MATRESCENCE, BECOMING A MOTHER, A NEW/OLD RITE DE PASSAGE (1975)
The only other time we feel so many shifts internally and externally at once is adolescence, and even that pales in comparison.
When we look at the way a mother’s body contorts, expands and contracts, it is almost the perfect metaphor for what we are doing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well.
We experience radical changes to our hormones (or endocrine system), within our minds (or mindset), and out into our cultural identity and place in society.
It is no surprise that in a culture that has lost many of its mother-loving or mothercare practices women can often remain depleted and exhausted, even decades after birth.
This is where the right support comes in.
So how can we find the right support, if we barely even know what’s happening to us? If we are too tired to read the book on the subject, or seek out the assistance we require?
Signs and Remedies
Some of the tall-tale signs that it’s time to get help or support are listed below, as well as some suggestions for the type of support that may assist in your path to wellness.
This is a list of some of the signs or symptoms to look out for and may point to overwhelm or depletion so you know when it’s time to get some assistance or support.
Also listed are some suggested remedies plus possible avenues to lead you to that support.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, this information is based on my personal experience, extensive research and the experiences shared with me by clients I have worked with as a mentor and facilitator. If you need urgent assistance please speak to a trusted friend, family member or qualified medical or health practitioner as soon as you can.
It is not exhaustive but rather just a place to start on your path to wholeness and wellbeing so you might feel better in your body and begin to experience the nurture that you need to really navigate this experience in the most healthy and holistic way possible.
In general, many of the above signs or symptoms can be lessened or remedied when adequate nutrition is in place. The key nutrients often shared in relation to postnatal depletion are:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3 fatty acids
Eating a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, proteins and healthy fats will help you stay on top, as well as sipping on herbal teas and water. Splash out with a squeeze of citrus in your water bottle to beat the boredom and alkalise it.
I sincerely hope that this helps you to navigate your way through a period of depletion but please do shoot us a message if you’d like some help finding further resources, or simply to ask a question.
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