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Can one word describe what its like to become a mother?

by Whitney Poma |

Becoming a mother is so much more than having a baby.

For more than nine months, you try to picture what it will be like, you set goals and create expectations for the type of mother you’ll be, and you begin to realize that life will never be the same. It can be inspiring and overwhelming at the same time. Some, in bittersweet reflection, mourn the end of their former life as they prepare for motherhood. These feelings have always been complex for moms to convey to the uninitiated. Friendly conversations during baby showers often include phrases like “You’re life will never be the same!” or “Get ready, parenthood is hard.”

Will your life ever be the same? It won’t. Is parenthood hard? It is.

So, these statements from well-intended individuals aren’t wrong but they’re also not helpful to a pregnant woman nearing the arrival of her baby. Instead, they’re a drastic oversimplification for the beautiful and complex process that many women have a hard time articulating. 

With every mom’s transition to motherhood being so unique, it seems impossible to have a single word to represent this season of life. 

“Matrescence” was coined in 1973 by anthropologist Dr. Dana Raphael and is defined in the Cambridge English Dictionary as the process of becoming a mother; those physical, psychological and emotional changes you go through after the birth of your child.

Over two billion mothers in the world who have all gone through this process and have likely shared their stories with friends and family, yet the word “matrescense” is hardly used.  Also not surprisingly, it has hardly been studied in the medical world.  

One doctor is trying to change that.

Dr. Alexandra Sacks shared a new way to think about the transition to motherhood with the objective of promoting the use of the word “matrescence” in modern society as a way to normalize and increase discussions about this critical phase in a woman’s life. Her TED Talk has been viewed nearly two million times.

Evolution of a Mother

Hopefully moms will be able to find more confidence and articulation in their stories about matrescence.

Hopefully science will study more about the physical and emotional changes of women as they enter motherhood upon delivering their babies. Both of these things will break down walls of guilt, fear, and stigma surrounding motherhood. It seems today that moms are expected to either be the confident, care-free, and glowing moms we too commonly see on Instagram or to be a mom who is struggling with postpartum depression. There is a much larger spectrum than this binary portrayal that could be revealed by the study of matrescence.

Recent studies have shown that mom’s brains are impacted for as many or more than two years after the delivery of a baby.

The process of labor and delivery can also leave mom in a state of postnatal depletion for a decade or more. If breastfeeding, her baby is also removing essential ingredients from her body by way of her breastmilk. Combine these depletions with the hormonal shifts of new motherhood and it’s no wonder that a mom can quickly find herself in the middle of a physical and emotional identity crisis.

For Momful, nourishment during the first year or motherhood (and beyond!) is about so much more than just the quantity of breastmilk produced.

Nutrition is critical to the emotional and physical wellbeing of each postpartum breastfeeding mom and her young baby. Too commonly, the needs of her baby are prioritized, and she becomes her last priority. Our convenient and complete vitamins and supplements make it easy for moms to get the nutrition they need so they can be at their best.  

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