Anthropologists call term the ‘birth’ of a mother as matrescence. It’s a little-heard term, but an important one, and we think it ought to be shared more often!
Sometime last year, I heard an informative and interesting Ted Talk about a term I was not too familiar with. The term? Matrescence, and it means the ‘birth’ of a mother.
Considering the ‘birth’ most think of when it comes to ‘motherhood’ is that of the children, I love the perspective the term takes, and how it shines light on the new people we are as we become mothers to those little pieces of our hearts. Mostly, though, I love the realistic reminder that much like our bodies and minds change during adolescence, so do they as we become new mothers.
The term was developed in 1973 by medical anthropologist Dana Raphael. You may recognize her name, as she also is known for popularizing the term ‘doula’. It’s been recently reintroduced by reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks, who believes that if more people knew about matrescence, and the transition to motherhood, there may be fewer cases of postpartum depression diagnosed.
According to Sacks, matrescence is similar to adolescence. Hormones are raging, our bodies are going through incredible changes very rapidly and our relationships change. Much like adolescence, a ton of new and not necessarily familiar responsibility is put on us as we are responsible for these new little lives we’ve been given. Sacks says that book on top of book has been written about adolescence and change, but few speak about the real and raw push and pull of emotions and feelings for new mothers.
Sacks says that mothers are fueled by oxytocin-pumped pull toward their children, yet, nature’s survival instinct pushes them away as they remember that they are human beings with basic needs and wants as well. This push and pull is normal, she says, and all too often, shame and embarrassment about feeling this way can lead women to feel they’re not ‘doing motherhood right,’ and maybe lead to true postpartum depression without support.
Dr. Sacks suggests that not only is it important that we know about and expect these shifts in the transition to motherhood, but for vulnerable populations, it’s imperative that we support them for their and their baby’s best mental health and wellbeing. She believes that the more we talk about ‘mothering the mother’ as new babies are born, the happier and healthier both mama and baby will be.
We’re all in.
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