It’s a joy to be a mum from being a first-time mom to a second or third-time mum. Becoming a mother is a profound experience that involves psychological, emotional, and physical commitment. It’s a wild ride, with good days, bad days, easy days, hard days, and really strange days. During pregnancy, the physical transformation is constant. Women’s bodies change faster during pregnancy than they do during adolescence. Hormones surge, complexion erupt, breast swell and leak, and waistlines become nonexistent. But the elephant in the room is, are they aware of what comes with being called a mum?
One woman’s first trimester leaves her feeling sleepy and hungry, while another woman vomits for 90 days straight. Ankles swell, hair thickens beautifully and then falls out, babies kick ribs, heartburn, and trips to the bathroom reach their peak, and finally, blessedly, the discomfort of week 40 surpasses the fear of labor and delivery, and things get real. A mother is born.
The world expects women to love every second of becoming and being a mother, and of course, much of it is joyful. The challenge is, that for many decades, the only feeling it was acceptable for a mother-to-be or new mom to express was a steady stream of unmitigated bliss, whether or not that was what she was feeling. Until recently, and perhaps still, there was shame in feeling sad or mad or frightened as a new mother, or especially in feeling (or even mourning) the loss of a women’s pre-motherhood self.
Mastrescence (developmental transition to motherhood) is a term not so common to everyone but was brought to our common vernacular by Aurelie Athan a clinical psychologist and head of the maternal psychology lab at Colombia University. Just as the baby transition to toddlerhood and a child transition to adolescence, matrescence is a natural but distinct period of life that describes a woman’s transition into motherhood and all the psychological and physical change that comes with it. It begins during pregnancy and continues after the baby is born.
In the first two weeks after delivery, several women experience baby blues. This could include a change in mood and increased sadness and crying, along with anxiety. It is normal for women to experience ambivalent or mixed feelings about becoming a mother, in fact, the enormity of the role is intimidating for many. As delivery approaches, they may also feel some anxiety regarding the actual delivery and what comes immediately after in terms of practically caring for an infant. It is not intuitive at times, it does take work and most especially teamwork with your spouse, partner, family, or neighbors to help you.
Postpartum depression is a disorder that occurs anytime within the 12-month period after delivery. After prominent women like Serena Williams and Chrissy Teigen opened up about their struggles with it, the stigma is falling away and people have now started acknowledging that it is happening.
Mothers and their partners need to know that having a baby is the biggest life change one can imagine. And after delivery, it will take time to feel yourself. It took nearly 9 months to grow this baby, it will take time to feel like you again.