As a first time mother and birth doula, I’ve seen over and over again how our culture is lacking when it comes to taking care of the new mothers. I think things are getting better with both birth and postpartum doulas and awareness, but we still have a lot of work to do.
“Matrescence,” the process of becoming a mother, is a term that is getting more popular thanks to people such as Alexandra Sacks, MD and Reproductive Psychiatrist. In her article, “Matrescence, What is it?”, she says “ like adolescence, it is a transitionary period. Being pregnant is like going through puberty all over again: your hormones go nuts, your hair and skin don’t behave the way you’d like, and you develop a new relationship with a body that seems to have a mind of it’s own. The difference? Everyone understands that adolescence is an awkward phase. But during matrescence, people expect you to be happy while you’re losing control over the way you look and feel.”
Essentially, you don’t have control over you body due to pregnancy and due to literal chemical shifts in your brain, you are losing control of your emotions and becoming a new person during this period of life.
It’s such a complicated and confusing season for women because of the pressure to feel grateful and happy they are pregnant (or just after having a baby). And maybe they are, but at the same time feeling sad for the physical, emotional and relational changes that are happening in their life.
And I think the simple acknowledgment that it is okay to feel both things and more even more importantly normal.
We have to let women slowly become mothers, in whatever way that looks like for the individual. Yes, some mothers (a small percent) but some transition smoothly into this stage, some don't struggle with their new body. But most will need time to process their new self. And that needs to be more normal. We need to allow time for the mother to heal from pregnancy and birth. We need to make it more normal to give a good amount of time for the mother to bond with the baby (and it's normal not to for a while because you are both getting to know each other). And most importantly, we need to allow her to transition, process and become this new person and that doesn't happen overnight.
I have found such beauty in becoming a mother – I have loved mothering but I think that’s because of some important things, one of which is just simply time. When I first became a mom, I was not prepared for postpartum – I did not have a community of mothers, resources on PPD or the tools to do it well. And that is one of the main reasons I became a doula. But over the years, I have found a couple things that have helped me in the process of becoming a mother and I would love to share them with you.
Here are five things that I believe have contributed (over time) to learning to enjoy motherhood:
1. I am honest when I am not doing well and I’ve learned to ask for help – whether it is texting a friend how I’m truly feeling, asking my sister to watch my girls, telling my husband I need time away, etc. There's such beauty (and relief) in allowing yourself to be simply human, which means we need help.
2. I have found a community of other honest mothers – you know the ones who also admit they don’t love every second of it, who don’t try to pretend they are perfect and who also struggle with their body, emotions, etc. Mothers who are in this with me.
3. I’ve slowly found my rhythm – what works for me and my family and trying super hard not to compare to others. Please take care of yourself. Your health, along with the health of your baby is important. From now on, everyone will try to give you opinions about how to parent but you have to figure out what is best for YOU, your family and your kids.
4. I have found things outside of motherhood that give me life and that continues to make me a better mom – space from my kids, doing things that remind me that I am other wonderful things outside of motherhood.
5. I have learned to give myself grace. This is something we must do daily. We should not strive for perfection because it leaves us with guilt and shame.
*I want to talk more about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders but felt it needed a post in it of itself. Please refer to the article I've link by Alexandra Sacks for more articles on PPD.