There are practically entire libraries worth of articles and books and scholarly papers written about pregnancy and birth. If you’re a first-time mom, you can spend your entire pregnancy reading about what’s happening inside your body and how pregnancy affects your brain.
Childbirth is a whole industry nowadays, with loads of material debating different types of pain relief, when you might need a surgical intervention, and the pros and cons of hiring a doula.
But you know what doesn’t get discussed? What happens after you’ve given birth.
For most mothers, their post-birth support begins and ends with a breastfeeding consultant who helps you “latch on.” There’s almost zero support for your mental and emotional health.
Once you’ve given birth to your first baby, you’d be forgiven for thinking that everyone has forgotten about you and is only interested in your baby. Birth and motherhood magazines are full of useful articles about what is “normal” for new babies, but there’s not a lot of information about the perfectly normal changes in new mothers.
It’s time for that to change. We need to talk about matrescence.
“Matrescence” Should Be a Term We’re All Familiar With
The reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks came up with a new term for the experience of becoming a mother: matrescence. Just like adolescence describes the transition to becoming an adult, matrescence is the transition to becoming a mother.
We allow ourselves several years to get used to the roles and responsibilities of being an adult, but we expect women to snap into motherhood instantly. The term “matrescence” needs to be used more, so that we all understand that it takes time to get used to being a mother.
The “Motherhood Instinct” Might Be a Fantasy
We all have a pretty idealistic view of what happens when you become a mother. Popular magazines and social media make it seem like you fall instantly in love with your baby and feel nothing but happiness about your life.
Of course, that only makes it harder for any woman to admit that she isn’t blissfully happy about her new baby and the changes in her life.
Here is the truth that doesn’t get talked about: It’s normal to feel ambivalent about being a mom.
Sacks says that she sees a lot of women who think that they have postpartum depression (PPD), because they don’t feel a rush of love every time they look at their baby and aren’t totally happy about new motherhood. These women don’t have any of the signs of clinical PPD, but they think that something’s wrong with them for not being happy.
Motherhood changes everything
You probably heard this before, but motherhood really does change everything. Your way of life changes in a few short hours. Your home changes. Your hormones and your body change, and your relationships with everyone around you changes too.
With all these changes, it’s totally not surprising that most of us feel confused and lost at least some of the time.
It’s like your life has shifted overnight, and it’s normal to wish that you could get your old life back.
In time, you’ll adjust to your new role in life and find your feet as a mom. You’ll get used to the idea that you’re a mom and absorb it into your self-image, along with all the rest of your unique personality traits. Being a mom will become just another patch in the beautiful quilt that makes you you.
But there’s no denying that for the first few months, even the first year, it can feel like the earth is rocking beneath your feet. Be kind to yourself, new mommas.