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Matrescence: Navigating the Ups and Downs in the Journey of Motherhood

navigating motherhood in Charlotte NC

Becoming a mother is a journey unlike any other. We know the journey first-hand from birth trauma and NICU preemies who are Mind Body Baby NC's original inspiration over 18 years ago. The early motherhood transition is a transformative experience that brings joy, love, and fulfillment but also comes with new challenges, feelings of isolation, uncertainties, and hardship. This journey, known as matrescence, is the term coined to describe the transition to motherhood and parallels the concept of adolescence. You may have seen us use it before on our social media. It involves physical, psychological, social, and philosophical changes that shape a woman's identity as she embarks on motherhood. So how do you adapt? Let's look at how you can navigate the ups and downs in the journey of motherhood.

What is Matrescence?

Just as teens entering adulthood navigate the complexities of self-discovery and growth, mothers undergo a similar transformation process during matrescence. Matrescence is the process of becoming a mother. It's a process because it takes work. As women, we have to evolve and adapt to the identity that comes with motherhood. Let's face it! New moms are tired and overwhelmed with the joy of their new baby, but there are some serious challenges. Recovery, for one, and the concept of matrescence, acknowledges these challenges. A great NPR read perfectly spells it out: "The Emotional Roller Coaster of Being a New Mom." 

Early Motherhood Challenges

One of the most significant challenges of matrescence is the emotional roller coaster accompanying it. From joy holding your newborn to moments of uncertainty and self-doubt with late-night cries and lack of sleep, mothers experience many emotions adjusting to their new role. However, we know first-hand that this phase lacks support for many. These experiences often lead to feelings of isolation, underpreparedness, and inadequacy. Normalizing these emotions and physical aspects of early motherhood can foster compassionate conversations among providers, policymakers, and other mothers in the community to alleviate these feelings and provide mothers with the support they need.

Postpartum Physical and Emotional Recovery

Another aspect of motherhood is the recovery process. Physical and emotional recovery are part of the matrescence journey. Every birth story is different. Some are quicker than others, some end up in c-sections, and some are very traumatic experiences for women. Mothers may experience birth trauma, perinatal mood disorders, and the one we are most familiar with, postpartum depression (or PPD), after giving birth. Comprehensive support systems and resources to promote maternal well-being are vital. According to the National Institute of Health6.5% to 20% of women suffer from PPD, and it occurs more commonly in adolescent females, mothers who deliver premature infants, and women living in urban areas.

How Motherhood Inequity Effects a Mother's Journey

The harsh realities of inequality significantly impact the path of motherhood. From societal pressures to economic disparities, these inequalities create an uneven playing field for mothers, adding unnecessary burdens and complexities to their journeys. While every mother's experience is unique, the lack of affordable childcare, limited access to paid parental leave, and societal expectations that often place most caregiving responsibility on women negatively impact a mother's journey. It also can lead to feelings of isolation, exhaustion, and hindered career opportunities. Recognizing and addressing these inequities is crucial to fostering a more supportive environment for moms. Read more about supporting moms and their children in the 7 Protective Factors for Children.

Matrescence Strategies

Coping with the challenges of matrescence requires practical strategies and support networks. Mothers themselves can try and manage unrealistic expectations, prioritize self-care, and seek support and help from peers and professionals. Building strong support networks is essential for alleviating isolation and fostering community connection. We encourage support groups, gaining education through free online resources, attending events tailored to your unique phase of life, and asking for help when needed because we all need help sometimes!

Maternal Well-Being in Charlotte, NC, with Mind Body Baby

Ultimately, matrescence is a journey of self-discovery and growth, a process of evolution and moving into a new chapter rather than one of loss. By embracing our evolving identities with compassion and acceptance, mothers can navigate the journey into motherhood with grace and empowerment. We must ensure that every mother feels valued, supported, and empowered on their journey. 

Want more resources? We loved this NPR episode for further education, " The Process Of Becoming A Mother Has A Name: Matrescence, " which inspired this blog. If you need support, click HERE. Want to help a mother in need? Donate!


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