Life ~ honoring transition: matrescence

Updated: May 4, 2021

Are you ready to embrace the transformative experience that motherhood brings? To step into the unknown? To walk your unique path of self-discovery? To awaken to new beginnings?

There were 60% of you on social media that voted to know more about Matrescence. I felt like you needed to learn more about it.

As I’ve been researching and learning a lot about this topic for more than five years now, I felt called to share a bit with you and invite you to explore some resources.

So let’s start honoring the transition and learn more about matrescence.

What is matrescence?

The word and meaning “matrescence” was first described in the 1970s by Dana Raphael. But it was recently that matrescence was brought to life again by Dr Aurelie Athan from Columbia University. The stage of matrescence is a beautiful, groundbreaking and revolutionary way to understand what occurs when a woman becomes a mother.

Dr Aurelie Athan first described matrescence as being like adolescence. It is a time in a woman’s life when everything changes - her whole identity shifts. When a woman becomes a mother, she splits in two: who she used to be, and the mother she is. And unless she honours that radical shift, she will get lost trying to figure out who she is now.

History of matrescence

During the late 1960s, Dana Raphael (previously mentioned) was an American anthropologist and a big advocate for breastfeeding in a time where it was becoming less popular. Raphael looked at how a woman was becoming a mother. As she was studying the birthing process, Raphael saw there was such a strong need for advocacy and support for women and not in a medical way.

At this stage, it was always just seen as the birthing of the baby, not the birthing of a mother. As Raphael was studying this, she realised the need for someone to be in the room to support the woman - this is when the term “doula” was born.

Doula is an ancient greek work for ‘a serving woman’ and is now used worldwide to advocate for women during the time they give birth, and the weeks following.

The work Raphael has done on lactation and supporting a new mother has changed the world. However, during this time the word to explain the transition into motherhood “matrescence” disappeared.

Of course it wasn’t until Dr Aurelie Athan rediscovered this stage that it was brought to life again. Dr Athan was also an anthropologist, and also struggled to find a term to explain the transition a woman made when she became a mother. Once she found the work of Dana Raphael on matrescence.

As Dr Aurelie explained, like adolescence, no matter where you were born, matrescence is a phase we all experience (whether you become a mother or not).

Life ~ honoring transition: matrescence

How is matrescence an important phase of life?

As described in the article The Wheel of Life - the phases of being a woman, it is an important phase to recognise. It is because as women we often feel like we are drowning. It can feel like there is something wrong with us when we are struggling. We stay on top of everything everyday, but still have those feelings that something is missing.

As mothers we love our children/fur children (or something we have given birth to - a project), but we aren’t always the mums we want to be. BUT it is time we no longer suffer in silence.

The phase of matrescence changes the way we see and support mothers. This support goes way beyond the first weeks or mothers of motherhood. It allows us all to see this important transition in our lives and the lives of the women around us.

Matrescene finally allows us to stop expecting women to push through, suffer in silence or hide behind their smiles. It allows mothers the permission to speak up about their needs and desires. We need to reconsider motherhood and what we expect of women. We can’t expect them to take time off work, have a baby and figure out who she is. She is a mother while also trying to work out how to be a mother, how to return back to ‘normal’ life in the workforce and act like nothing has changed.

Everything has changed. Matrescence, as a study, allows us to reconsider and define how we value and support women in this phase.

How can you honour the transition to matrescence?

So how do we honour this life phase ourselves or for the women around us?

  • Organising a blessingway for your pregnant friend or asking for one. We will cover more about this in the coming weeks. A blessingway is all about nurturing and connecting heart to heart with the mother to be. Filling her cup so it overflows with love and confidence as she awaits the impending birth of her baby. Message me if you are interested in having your own blessing way.

  • Prepare yourself for the Birth. I highly recommend She births program and they have a list of doula's to work with:

  • Explore resources - see list below

  • Having a holistic approach to your transition. Check my Soul Alchemy Program if you are ready to beginning your journey

What do you feel called to do or do for someone you love?

My experience with matrescence

When I discovered the word matrescence, my first born was a few months old. It changed my approach to it. That’s why I decided to create Neoma (my previous business - see below) with Emmanuelle (my best friend) as we both went through this transformative phase. It was to support women in the motherhood transition. The first time I heard the word it was in Amy Taylor-Kabbaz’s Podcast: Happy mama movement. Link in resources blow.

I’ve always been career driven, clear about my goals and my next steps: studying in a great business school, working in different countries, getting jobs with responsibilities as a strategy consultant or a general manager in big companies.

But something changed when I became a mum. First, I felt the time I was spending outside of taking care of my family had to really be worth it. More than ever. Second, I discovered I wanted to be a role model for my daughter.

So I started asking myself questions that I had been somewhat avoiding for a long time: What would actually be my dream job? What do I want to spend my day doing? What are my key values and priorities? If I was not afraid of failing, what would I do?

This is when I discovered the missing piece, matrescence.

The thing is that we often don’t give ourselves permission to ask (let alone answer) those questions, like I’ve done for myself at this critical time of my life. You might find it scary and uncomfortable to challenge the status-quo. But when you do, when you truly let yourself think about who you want to be, you won’t want to go back. It changes your mindset, your perspective, and your motivation to live the life you’ve put on hold for way too long. And having a mum who has found those answers, found how to self-realize herself and how to balance all sides of her life is a true gift for any child.

So it became crystal clear to me. I realised I wanted to coach and help guide other women in this precious and unique transition time of motherhood. While going through all this questioning myself, I realized I was coaching long before I knew I wanted to actually become a coach. In fact, I have a hard time trying to think of when I am not asking questions to help people to reinvent themselves.

That’s why I’ve created my business, Essential Shift, to help women like me, who are looking to nurture themselves, their motherhood as well as their career. I’m thrilled that I’ve learned tools and techniques that I am confident will be able to help you embrace your journey and find YOUR way. So now that you’ve found me, I really hope you will give yourself a chance and make the commitment you’ve been circling around. I would love to help you.

Life ~ honoring transition: matrescence

More on Neoma, my previous business

Neoma was built to bring support to women throughout the profound journey of motherhood. We gave guidance to connect with your body, emotions, mind, baby, and to embrace the change and live your best life.

We wanted to help women feel good and be joyful and happy at all stages on this path: pregnancy, birth and motherhood.

Neoma brought support to women throughout the profound journey of motherhood. We gave guidance to connect with your body, emotions, mind, baby, and to embrace the change and live your best life. At Neoma, we offered: Blessingway, New mothers circles, Private pre-natal and post-natal yoga sessions, Transition Coaching, Birthing and Doula support.

As with all times of transitions, so many questions and fears come up during pregnancy, especially for the first pregnancy. We didn’t know what to expect. We were lucky to find great people to support us and help us through this transformative experience. However we sometimes felt lost with the overwhelming and often contradictory advice.

We felt the need for a holistic support system from pregnancy through to post-natal and back to work. We felt the need for some tools to help us deal with the inevitable challenges, and to keep a sound mind in a sound body. Most of all we felt the need for a community of women that can grow together, step into their power and awaken to their true self.

My top 5 recommended resources for you

Here I have put together some resources to guide and support you.



Final thoughts

After reading all about this beautiful stage of life, I hope you begin to alter the way you think about this period of motherhood.

I want you to see yourself through a new lens. The lens of grace, understanding, compassion and beauty. We are meant to gather together in a circle and in tents to give wisdom to one another. If this inspires you to take part in your own circles, you can gain more knowledge on the power of circles in my previous article.

We as women need to have rituals and to be acknowledged. We are here to reclaim the role of a mother and bring it to life as it is. Not just the time to raise a family, but to find who we are! We are breaking away from the “good mother” stereotype and will no longer allow perfectionism and comparison rule us. Let us change the way we see this life stage. Not just for us, but for generations.

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