This is the third and final post in this series covering Matrescence (for now). Just to recap, I've been speaking about Matrescence as the ' awkward phase' of Motherhood as it captures the period of time from pregnancy into postpartum and beyond and it helps us to understand the extreme highs and lows, and everything in between, that we experience during this transitory phase in our lives. It is really a time of deep self-reflection for many as one begins to assess how vastly different life looks and ponder about how different life will continue to be post-birth.
There seems to be a distinct 'before' and 'after' during the Matrescence period. Before, speaking primarily to life before your baby arrives earth side and after, referring to anytime post birth when ones responsibilities and priorities have, seemingly suddenly, changed drastically from pre-birth to post-birth. While there is nothing that can really prepare one for this huge transition, it is important to share with potential parents the magnitude of this transition so that they have a better understanding of what they can expect. I feel it is important to disclose that I am sharing from the perspective of Mothers specifically who carry a baby through pregnancy and go through a birthing process and then adjust thereafter; some similarities will remain for parents who go through a different process to become parents but for the purpose of this post I will be referring specifically to Mothers who go through pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
Mothers need a huge amount of support throughout this period and I want to point out some of the periods of time that seem to be lacking general support; I'll begin with conception.
Before any pregnancy even occurs there is a period generally a period of trying to conceive, whatever that may look like for different people. This period of time can be extremely stressful and emotionally taxing, on both Mothers and couples. There are many factors that can add stress, namely: fertility struggles; time pressures; financial stressors; family pressures; pressure from ones partner, etc. It often puts a large amount of pressure on the person who is to carry the child and likewise puts a lot of pressure on the couple as a unit. We need to normalize gaining support from as early on as the beginning of the conception process. This may look like individual therapy or couples therapy to help navigate this, often stressful, period. It can be so enriching to have a dedicated space to talk about ones fears and worries during this period and work through any practical stressors that could potentially be resolved through talk therapy. It also stands an individual or couple in good stead for every step that follows this period as it provides a sturdy foundation for holistic support.
During pregnancy there is generally quite a lot of support to help, especially for Moms in the second and third trimesters and as they prepare for birth. There are a lot of different classes, courses, books and podcasts one has access to to help normalize this period and it is common to seek out emotional support such as therapy or coaching to prepare oneself. However, I believe the first trimester is not well supported enough as often parents choose not to share their pregnancy during this period due to fear of miscarriage or complications. The first trimester can be one of the most grueling periods of pregnancy; often the fatigue and nausea can be completely debilitating and yet women are expected to carry on working and/or caring for their family as usual while simultaneously keeping this all to themselves? I strongly believe that Moms should consider sharing their pregnancy with people they trust very early on in the pregnancy so that they have support right from the get go to help them through this period. While one may not want everyone to know just yet, it might be helpful to choose to share the news with a few deeply trusted individuals who can be there to support and who can also be there if there are any complications with the pregnancy early on.
There is also a fair amount of support for Moms during what they call the 'fourth trimester' as it is known that this stage post birth is a very difficult one for many reasons but it seems that this is where the support seems to abruptly end... as if you get three months to adjust post birth and then you're expected to know what you're doing and be fully adapted to this new way of life with a little one. This is definitely unrealistic for most and I think it is, again, important to normalize that it is normal and necessary to gain support after this period. In fact, some people have defined the period of Matrescence to cover up to the first SEVEN years of your child's life. Take a moment to let that just sink in... and allow yourself to comes to terms with the fact that you will need a lot of support for at least the first couple of years of your little ones life. That even six/seven years later you may be struggling with this adjustment and that this is totally okay and normal!
Many parents choose to start work again or have to resume working around the three month mark (especially in South Africa) and this change can be extremely anxiety provoking for both Mother and baby. There needs to be more support around this transition and some real handholding through the whole process. Work spaces need to become more Mother and child friendly but if this is out of your control choose to focus on what is in your control and set boundaries within the parameters in which you can to help support yourself as best as possible.
In my last post I covered some of the forms of support you may seek out in building your 'village' so refer back to that if you're unsure of what kind of support you may need but as a general rule it's important to come back to your intuition and check in with yourself for what kind of support you may need. It's likely that the forms of support you will need will change over time and during different periods of time, depending on how you're feeling and where you're at; physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. You deserve to be held and cared for deeply by both yourself and others.
I believe self-care is an important part of the puzzle and should not be discredited but self-care should never be a replacement for gaining support from others. As humans we have a primal need for connection, nurture and care from other people and so it's normal to need this too. Sometimes the people around us may not know or by equipped with the right tools to support us properly in the ways we need and so it is important to learn to ask for help and get in touch with what your needs are so that you can ask directly for them to be met by others. Another way to find connection and support is through joining a moms and babies group of sorts so that you can be around other moms who are going through the same or similar experiences. This can help you to feel less alone and have a space to talk openly about the joys and challenges of Motherhood.
Another important aspect of taking care of yourself is learning how to set boundaries. Boundaries with yourself and others to ensure that you do not feel even more stretched by the demands of others during this period. You need to learn how to say 'no' and how to use your voice to speak up when you are not comfortable with something.
Lastly, it is super important to be compassionate with yourself and not place unreasonable expectations on yourself. Your capacity pre and post pregnancy will have shifted drastically and so you cannot expect yourself to be able to do or achieve the same as you used to pre-pregnancy. You need to adjust your expectations and be gentle with yourself and help others to understand this too.
I hope this post has been helpful. If so, please leave a comment sharing your thoughts and subscribe to my website to show your support and to keep up to date with all my latest posts.