Maybe before you had a baby you swore you’d always keep your career, partake in girls' weekends, and maintain your ability to talk about something other than your baby (or, at a minimum, something other than their bowel movements). Or maybe you swore if you could just get pregnant, you would never—ever—take a moment with your longed-for child for granted. Either way, once baby arrived, there’s a good chance those promises weren’t as easy to keep as you’d expected. But you know what? It’s okay to let go of them. You might be all-consumed by motherhood and want to talk about your baby all the time. You might be disappointed by the reality of motherhood (even if you love your baby!) and find it doesn’t match up with your prior vision of it. The things that used to be important to you—or the things you thought would be important to you—might not be anymore. If you don’t quite recognize yourself after baby, miss parts of the old you, or don’t fully grasp who the new you is, you are not alone. There’s actually a word for what you’re experiencing: matrescence. It describes the process of becoming a mother and all the pushing and pulling that comes with it. Because “when a baby is born, so is a mother” is not just a sentiment to needlepoint on a decorative pillow but one that actually carries real and significant weight and impact. Although it’s tempting—and even necessary—to turn our attention toward the new baby, the new mama is worthy of acknowledgment, understanding, and nurturing, too. Here are a few ways to give yourself the attention you not only deserve but also actually need to thrive.
1// Acknowledge that what you’re experiencing is both real and normal.This mom’s personal account will assure you you’re not alone.
“There is no timeline for having everything figured out. … Show yourself patience and acceptance that you are just as you should be and will continue to evolve.”
2// Understand that matrescence is a special and complicated process.If knowledge is power, this 6-minute TED Talk by reproductive psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks will give you strength for your journey.
“It’s not a coincidence that matrescence sounds like adolescence. Both are times when body morphing and hormone shifting lead to an upheaval of how a person feels emotionally and how they fit into the world. And like adolescence, matrescence is not a disease.”
3// Make time to process your feelings and assess your needs.This article can help identify and name what you’re going through, and bringing awareness to that can help guide your next steps.
“Ambivalence is a feeling that comes up in the roles and relationships a person is most invested in, because they’re always a juggling act between giving and taking. Motherhood is no exception. … Most of the time, the experience of motherhood is not good or bad, it’s both good and bad. It’s important to learn how to tolerate, and even get comfortable with the discomfort of ambivalence.”What do you think—does having a word for it make the transition to motherhood any easier? Or at least make it easier to grant yourself grace? Wherever you are in your journey, know that the hard and tender and difficult and breezy are all part of the process. You’re right where you need to be, friend.