What is Matrescence, and how to cope and overcome it.
Updated: Feb 10, 2021
Have you heard of Matrescene before? If you haven't, don't worry, you are not the only one. I only recently came across this term via Mom Body Soul Podcast's interview with Julie, the co-founder of Ben and Ellie Baby.
I was intrigued about the topic, as I never gave it much thought after I became a mother. Little did I know that I will be experiencing it first hand after the birth of Jasper. (I am not going to lie, it was kicking my butt for a while.)
What is Matrescence?
Matrescence is the transition from womanhood to motherhood. Even though this seems to be the most natural thing in the world, this transition is a massive transformation for most women. (It certainly has been for me.)
According to Psychology Today, Matrescence is like going through "adolescence" all over again. Where our body is changing, and hormones are shifting, which affects us emotionally and how we define ourselves in this new role. As Matrescene is not a commonly known term, most people mistake the emotional journey or transition as Postpartum Depression. (Which is something more serious and something else entirely.)
Even though Matrescence isn't as severe as Postpartum Depression, they share some similar traits and should still be acknowledged and understood.
New mothers or mothers in general often have mum-guilt when they feel the following:
"I love my baby, but I don't have the right maternal instincts."
"I'm not enjoying this, mostly I feel tired."
"I feel so overwhelmed, and I don't know what to do."
"I feel so guilty because I wanted a baby more than anything, but sometimes I find myself feeling bored and even resentful."
"I want some me time."
"My firstborn doesn't love me anymore because I am not spending as much time with him/her."
and many more...
Does the above sound and feel familiar? If so, you are not alone; in fact, it is very normal to feel this way. Most mothers feel this way; we just don't talk about it because we worry about people judging us and think we are ungrateful or incapable. The truth is, it is just our body and mind dealing and coping with this new transition and stage in our lives. After all, once you become a mother, you are no longer just caring for yourself. You are constantly in demand and caring for your baby as well.
Of course, like all things, there is also a beautiful side to Matrescense. The bond you have with your baby, the unconditional love that you feel for your child. These are all parts of Matrescense as well. It is this push and pull feeling of loving this new stage in your life, letting go of your previous one, and finding the right balance for motherhood.
Matrescence on a Spiritual Level
Now that we have talked about what Matrescence is like psychologically, let's talk about it spiritually.
When I discussed this topic with my spiritual mentor Jann Healing, she gave me a different perspective about Matrescence, which I found very interesting.
Even though she is not a mother herself yet, she completely understands where we are coming from after watching her sister go through it. Here is how she describes it,
"Giving birth is not just about the physical pain you go through. There are a lot of emotions and blockages being released as well during the birth of your child.
As mothers, you created this baby with your own energy. In order to create this being, you have to release a lot of fear along with other things to create space for this new ball of energy. When you give birth, you suddenly lose that big chunk of energy, and your vibration drops, hence the feeling of baby blues."
This makes a lot of sense to me, the feeling of "loss" even when you are gaining something new. The "loss" you feel is the loss of energy. When you are pregnant, you and your baby are one unit. It absorbs all the nutrients and energy you provide for it, and the baby is a part of you. When you give birth, you are splitting this energy, it leaves your body, leaving an empty space inside where the energy once was. So it is perfectly normal to feel like something is missing.
How Matrescence Was For Me
My Experience After Joshua Was Born
With Joshua, I remember the feeling of relief when I gave birth. As I was so worried and nervous throughout the pregnancy, I was just happy and relieved when he was born, and I can finally see him and touch him.
The feeling of Matrescence came a little bit later for me. I was very fortunate to have a great confinement nanny who was constantly checking on me, not just physically but mentally as well. She would always ask how I was feeling, and how I was coping as a new mother. This made a big difference. Most new mothers feel neglected because once the new baby is born, all the attention goes to the baby, and people often forget to ask about how the mother is doing and coping.
Matrescence only really hit me once my confinement nanny left, and no one was making a fuss over me anymore. I remember before she left, I felt so nervous and worried that I wouldn't be able to manage with the new baby and taking care of myself at the same time. Luckily matrescence wasn't that bad with Joshua. I got over it pretty quickly, and I was really happy with my new role as a mother.
My Experience After Jasper Was Born
Matrescence with Jasper was a complete different story. When the baby blues hit me, I felt like I had been swallowed up by an emotional monster of grief, sadness, and hopelessness.
It was truly one of the most awful feelings I had ever experienced. As you cannot control it, it is like a wild beast that cannot be tamed. I remembered on the third day after giving birth, I was in the hospital crying uncontrollably for an hour when I was talking to my husband over face time. I am not sure if it is because the birth experience was so different due to Covid, or the fact that I am further in my spiritual journey, so I am more sensitive to the drop in vibrations in my body. I just remember the wave of emotions that washed over me was unbearable. My hormones were running wild, and all I wanted to do was cry. (It was lucky that by then, I had the room all to myself, so I can cry until my heart content.)
Things got even worse when I got home. We just felt so unprepared, and I was so exhausted that I pretty much cried every day, if not several times a day. It was awful. The smallest thing can trigger me off, and I had no control over it.
I just felt so sad, so emotional, so angry, so lonely, and so disoriented all at the same time. It was all very overwhelming.
The first few days when I got back home was the worse. It honestly felt like a madhouse. It was so stressful that I wanted to shoot myself!
The confinement nanny just started, and she has no idea where anything was. She doesn't speak English, so I had to go through everything with her. It hasn't quite hit home with my husband that we now have a newborn and a toddler to look after. The next day was Christmas day, and we have no help, and the pressure of giving Joshua the "perfect" Christmas was just an unrealistic expectation.
It was super stressful, that I wanted to check myself back into the hospital so I can have some rest. The only thing that kept me going was seeing Joshua and how excited he was to meet his little brother. Everything else was a shitstorm.
Meanwhile, my postpartum hormones were running wild, and when things got too much or whenever I had a minute to myself, I just cried. It was a very dark time for me. It wasn't until when we found our new routine, and I found my trigger, that things got better.
Finding Our Rhythm And Figuring Out My Trigger
It took us around two weeks to find the best way to handle having a new member of the family in the house.
My husband taking the night shift, which didn't work. As he can't sleep during the day, and he was so tired, he couldn't function the next day.
Both of us doing the night shift together but doing different duties at the same time. That also didn't work because both of us had broken sleep throughout the night, that my husband was too exhausted and grumpy the next day.
I did all the nightshift but tried to breastfeed in bed. This seemed like a good idea, but it also didn't work, as I needed the light on, which woke my husband up, and both Jasper and I couldn't find a comfortable position to breastfeed in bed.
I did all the nightshift but slept most of the day. This worked for a few days, but it was also not ideal, as I don't get to see and spend time with Joshua.
It was only after lots of trial and error until eventually, we found our rhythm and a schedule that worked best for us. Now we divide and conquer; even though we are like passing ships in the night, this seems to work for us so we can both function and be good parents to both our boys.
I am now doing all the night shift where I nap as much as possible during the day, and I mainly look after Jasper. While my husband is on the day shift, and he mainly looks after Joshua. However, I make sure I spend some quality time with Joshua each day.
Spending quality time with Joshua each day was the key to getting better, as I soon realised that Joshua was the trigger for my matrescence. Every time I talked about Joshua or even mentioned his name, I would just burst into tears. At first, I didn't realised why, but the more it happened, I realised it was the mum-guilt I felt because I wasn't spending quality time with Joshua. So I knew that had to change. That is why each day, even if it is only for 30mins, it will be me & Joshua's time. As I am still recovering from my C-section, we would do activities such as read together or doing some simple educational play.
Adjusting To Being A Family Of Four
I always knew it would be a big shift in dynamic for the family when we became a family of four. What I didn't expect is how much it will affect me emotionally and how much I will miss being with Joshua. I knew I would have to split my attention between the two boys, but I didn't realise how much I would miss being with my eldest.
I also feel mum-guilt for not doing as much with Jasper as well. With Joshua, I did the newborn shoot, I took photos of him pretty much every day. While with Jasper, I had to cancel our newborn shoot due to Covid, and I have been so tired and overwhelmed that taking photos has been the last thing on my mind.
Joshua is going through conflicting emotions at the moment too, where he loves having a little brother but hates having to share the attention of Mummy, Daddy, and YaYa (our helper). We know he loves Jasper because he always wants to kiss and hug him, which is adorable. But after ten days of having Jasper home, and Joshua realised that he is here to stay. Joshua had a complete meltdown, where he was just screaming and crying for no reason. It was so out of character that we have no idea what to do. He didn't want anything or anyone, all he wanted to do was scream and cry, it was both stressful and heartbreaking.
After his meltdown, we realised Joshua misses his mummy time as much as I did, as I was the only one who managed to get him to sleep. That is why our quality together each day is so important. After we readjusted our schedule again and made sure I spent more time with Joshua each day, things improved. We make sure Joshua goes out each day, so he isn't bored at home, and we make sure each day Joshua has story and cuddle time with mummy, so he doesn't feel like Jasper has taken up all of mummy's time.
To be honest, we are all still trying to adjust to being a family of four. I am still constantly battling with mum-guilt, my husband is still trying to bond with Jasper, and Joshua is still trying to accept that he won't have all our attention anymore. All I can say is, every day it is getting better, and soon this will be our new normal. (Hopefully)
Acknowledging And Bringing Awareness To Matrescene
Matrescence isn't commonly known, as people don't talk about it. That is why I want to share my story because I want people to be aware of Matrescene and know the difference between Matrescene and Postpartum Depression. Even though Matrescene isn't as severe as Postpartum Depression, it is still something that needs to be dealt with carefully. Because if you don't deal with it properly and it continues for a long period of time, it would most likely turn into Postpartum Depression. (That was how I felt if I didn't manage to get myself out of it.)
Before I experienced Matrescence myself, I always had difficulty understanding people who suffer from depression. I have always been a happy and optimistic person, so I had always been able to get myself out of my funk. So when Matrescence hit me, and I had no control over my emotions and felt no way out, I started to understand how horrible depression must be. I know it is something very hard for people to understand or relate to without going through it themselves, but I am hoping by sharing my story and talking about it, more people will know about this, and start to understand what it is all about.
Things That Helped Me Deal With Matrescene
Find a support group. I cannot stress this enough, but finding a good mummy support community is so important. I am in several mummy group chats, and they have been so helpful. Not only for information but for emotional support too. Knowing that you are not alone and having other mums to talk things through makes a big difference.
Letting your spouse/partner know what you are going through. I have to say my husband has been great with dealing with my Matrescene. He has been so understanding and patient with me that it makes a massive difference. He didn't push me to talk about it, or give me any advice. All he did was be there for me and let me cry and deal with my emotions, which is the best thing that he could have done for me.
Finding out my trigger. Once I found my trigger, I was able to do something about it. This was my turning point, as I felt less hopeless once I knew what was causing my outburst of sadness. At least I know I can change certain things to make things better.
Asking people to back off when they are not helping. This may seem harsh but when you are going through Matrescene, your emotions are already hyped up. The last thing you want is unsolicited advice. When people want to help but are doing anything but, it is ok to ask them to give you space. (Try not to ask nicely and not lose your shit, which is hard...I know) I had to ask my family to back off and just give me space a few times because what they were doing and saying wasn't helping but adding more pressure and stress instead.
Know your limit. Everyone's limit and tolerant is different. Don't compare yourself with anyone else. If you are to your limit, ask for help, there is no shame in it. During the day when I have help, I make sure I use it and rest up as much as possible so I can function when I am on nightshift.
These are just tips and things that helped me deal with Matrescene, It might or might not work for you, but it is worth a try if you are going through a rough time.
I hope by sharing my story you have a better understanding of what new mothers are going through. If you are a family or friend of a new mother, please be patient with her. All the emotions she is feeling is not her fault. Be there for her in the way she wants it and not a way you think is best. As she will need your support more than ever. If you are a new mother who is going through a hard time, I just want to let you know, you are not alone. If you need to find a support group to go through this, please DM me.
Sending you love & positive thoughts,