Why you need to know the term 'matrescence' as a postnatal mum

Let’s go back in time a little. Do you remember what adolescence was like? 

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Maybe, like me, you remember raging hormones, dealing with spot-prone skin and greasy hair, your body constantly developing and changing, fighting between being dependent on others and self-reliant, learning how to relate to those around you in new ways, wondering what’s wrong with you because your emotions are all over the place. 

Now, you may be thinking, why is she going on about adolescence, or, you may have already spotted the similarities.

Having a baby and the time that follows is very much like adolescence. Your hormones are all over the place, your hair starts to fall out, your firm pregnant stomach is now wobbly, your emotions are all over the place and you have a whole other vulnerable human being to take care of. And let's not forget this is all whilst being sleep-deprived. 

This is part of matrescence: the process of becoming a mother. 

And it’s huge!


More than hormone imbalances

It’s more than hormone imbalances and sleep deprivation though. There are shifts that that take time to get used to and I’ve listed a few of these changes below:

Independence:

You’ve gone from being able to leave the house whenever and do whatever, to being bound by baby-appropriate activities and having to consider naps, feeds and nappy changes. That’s a huge shift in itself and it takes some getting used to.

On top of this, you’ve gone from working to being on maternity leave. You’ve lost your routine, perhaps what was previously your purpose. You may also be worried about your finances, your career progression, how to balance everything when you go back, thinking about whether you should/need to/want to go back. 

A shift in your social circle:

The social shifts come from how you relate to others and having a baby impacts on this. Firstly, having a baby can make us reconsider what is important, who we are and what we want for our children and that can have an impact on friendships. Perhaps you’ve noticed some of your friends drift away, perhaps you’ve prioritised some friendships over others, probably the ones that ‘get it’. 

There’s also the fact that meeting a friend for coffee with your little one also means you never have full focus on the conversation. Your mind is constantly on high alert, trying to keep your baby regulated, and making sure their needs are met. This means you might not feel as fulfilled from that meet-up as you may have done previously. It might leave you feeling more tired than normal because you’re working overtime and that can feel confusing. 

Changes in your brain:

Did you know that the brain actually changes shape and size during pregnancy and after birth? 

Researchers have found incredible changes that begin in pregnancy that are thought to ultimately ensure the brain is capable of taking care of a newborn baby. Some of the changes include volume reduction which correlates with memory struggles you may experience. Other research has shown that mothers have heightened activity in a region of the brain that leads to faster and more empathic responses to babies. The latter may also result in increasing anxiety as your brain is constantly in a ready state to respond to your little one. 

These changes in the brain are lasting. And that’s the thing about matrescence. We’re not just talking about the first few weeks, months or even the first year, it’s lifelong. 


Not feeling like yourself?

It’s probably because you aren’t your pre-baby self anymore. When you have a baby, you grow and develop as an individual. It’s a time when everything gets turned upside and we lose ourselves to some degree. We lose a lot of what we know. Sometimes though, it takes this undoing to reconnect with ourselves on a deeper level, to become a new version of ourselves. A different us, with different strengths, values and dreams.

This is why I want to share this with you. Matrescence isn’t talked about enough and it can make us feel like we’re going crazy. Like we’re the only ones, that there is something wrong with us. I want you to know that there is nothing wrong with you. You don’t need fixing. There is everything wrong with society and how little it prepares mums for this transition though. How little support is given once a baby arrives. That elusive village that people keep talking about should be a thing, we aren’t meant to do this on our own.

How different would it be if we went into motherhood knowing this? Maybe we would see it all so differently, maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to self-criticise, maybe if it was talked about more that ‘village’ might actually be there. 


If you’re struggling with these shifts, you’re feeling low, anxious or angry you’re not on your own. Dealing with matrescence and everything that comes with it is hard and that's why I do what I do. 

Postnatal counselling gives you a space to organise your thoughts, experience your emotions and work out what you need. It’s a space where you can voice any negative thoughts, fears or worries and have them heard by someone who gets it. 

If you want to be seen, be heard and find the changes you need, pop over to my profile and get in touch. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3
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Written by Claire Judd, MBACP PGDipCouns
Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3

Are you a mum of young children and feeling low, lost or not like yourself? Maybe you're feeling overwhelmed, anxious or angry? You're in the right place if you're ready for things to change. I'm Claire, I specialise in postnatal counselling, offering online and in person sessions. If you're in the...

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