Providing support for Mamas is at the heart of my work. This support is essential since becoming a mother is a rite that divides life into before and after, a process called matrescence.
Matrescence is a term created by an American anthropologist Dana Louise Raphaël (1926-2016), who also created the term doula. For her matrescence refers to becoming a mother, like adolescence refers to becoming an adult and is equally marked by a series of intense physical, psychological, hormonal and emotional modifications. She says: “Childbirth brings about a series of dramatic changes in the physical state of the new mother, her emotional state, her relationships with others and even in her identity as a woman. I distinguish this period of transition from others, calling it matrescence to highlight the mother and focus on her new way of life.”
Indeed, we need to highlight the mother because the well being of the mother defines the well-being of the baby and the whole family. Read it again: the well-being of the mother defines the well-being of the baby and the whole family. So Mamas, you are the ones who should get the most needed attention, care and support. YOU SHOULD BE MOTHERED, TO BE ABLE TO MOTHER YOUR BABY.
Understanding matrescence as the rite of passage gives us a more holistic view on motherhood where pregnancy, birth, postpartum and early years after birth are all included and equally important. It helps us better to understand and support all changes to our physicality, physiology, emotions, identity, sexuality and spirituality. It helps us adapt to the new role, readapt to life, redefine relationships, often also our professional life. It takes weight off the negative connotations given to postpartum, that has become a synonym of depression in our society, understanding it as an integral part of the process, not something to be dealt with or solved, but simply lived as an important phase. It also gives us the opportunity to look at ourselves with more empathy and compassion with less demands to be perfect, to perform or to know. Because we simply can’t. We can’t be always perfect, can’t perform 100% and can’t know it all. And that’s OK. It allows us to see it is a learning process – with all challenges, failures and successes on the way.
Us too, like our babies, have the right to learn. Us too, with our babies, have the right to rediscover the world that we thought we knew so well.
Matrescence is such an opportunity for renewal!
One of the most facilitating ingredients of matrescence is CONNECTION: self-connection and baby-connection.
When we are self-connected, we know better what we need, and we also know better what the baby needs. We make our matrescence flow smoother.
There are many different practices that facilitate this connection and certainly you have your preferred ones. But do not get surprised if they prove temporarily not working, not efficient as before or not available as before in your Mama routine, state or body. You are different and maybe you need something totally different too. You may need to look for some other ways to self-connect to be able to embrace your new role.
The practice I want to propose you today is very simple. It is very natural to some and very challenging to others: it is SPEAKING TO YOUR BABY. Speaking to your baby – your constant companion – helps you self-connect and connect to the baby all in one. It could be out loud, especially if the baby is already born, it could be silent, especially if the baby is still in your belly. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that with this sort of an internal or external monologue, you are establishing a dialogue, that helps you to hear yourself and the baby. You are creating a connection, a bond with your baby, inviting the baby to relate. You also stimulate the baby’s development as your words name the external world for the baby which helps to construct the internal world and to develop the language skills. But at the same time you also help yourself to live through your moment (your pregnancy, your birth, your postpartum, your emotions, your daily tasks of changing yet another nappy and giving yet another breast…). You give yourself an opportunity to self-explain, to find your own sense of things, to understand: yourself, the baby or the situation. You give yourself the opportunity to release and heal your emotions, the guilt, fears and uncertainties. And, of course also to fully celebrate the joys!
So try it now.
Stop reading and start speaking. Always in the first person.
Say how you feel.
Say what is happening to you.
Say what you see.
Say what you are doing.
And see how you feel and what is happening. Inside you and with the baby.
No, you are not getting crazy by talking to yourself out loud. You are entering into the realm of the subtle, the intuition, the invisible: the realm of mothers. This will help you give birth. This will help you understand and care for your baby. You will simply know better than anyone else.
So just try a few times and see how it makes you feel. Practice forms a habit.
And please tell me: is it easy or difficult for you to speak to your baby to self-connect?