Menopause is not a disease

Menopause is not a disease

Menopause is not a disease
I wanted to write an article for International Women’s Day to celebrate the amazing progress the world is making in women’s health, in particular brain health and mental wellbeing.

I wanted to rejoice with you how we are finally beginning to educate and support women through the huge hormonal and neurological transitions of postpartum and menopause, so women can thrive.

But then The Lancet’s series on menopause came out on Wednesday and took us straight back to 2002.

The commentary Time for a balanced conversation about menopause suggests more empathy by prescribing physicians, yet cites outdated studies to scare women and gaslight their experiences. They suggest that menopause is a natural process (Yes!) that has been overmedicalised (No!) and is being positioned as a disease (No!)

Menopause is not a disease; it is a transition due to declining hormones that can lead to disease.

Menopause (the end of the menstrual period) occurs due a reduction in hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) from the ovaries i.e., there are no more eggs being released, so women can’t get pregnant. This is not a chance occurrence (or a measure of probability), it is a medical fact! A woman’s hormones will decline as she enters midlife (sometimes even before). It happens to every biological female if she lives long enough.

But it isn’t just a sudden stop of periods. For reasons we don’t know yet (but I am sure it is at least in part to do with the brain needing time to adapt to the reduction in hormones) there is a long transition period into menopause, known as perimenopause. This is a turbulent hormonal time for most women, that can last from a few months to 10 years.

80% of women in Australia report experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, which are due to the reduction in hormones.

Let me tell you in simple science why.

The body and the brain have an abundance of oestrogen receptors. These need oestrogen to bind to them so they can carry out their function; like decreasing inflammation, lubricating joints (and your vagina), regulating neurotransmitters, protecting your heart, your bones, and your brain.

 

Think of an oestrogen receptor like a light fitting, and oestrogen like a light bulb. Only when the lightbulb (oestrogen) is in the light fitting (receptor) will the area be illuminated (function). 

 

Otherwise it is dark, much like the experience of perimenopause for many women.

This is a medical fact that does not paint menopause as a disease. However, this oestrogen deficiency can lead to many diseases in older age including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and dementia.

To suggest that replacing hormones in perimenopause, so a woman can increase her physical and mental wellbeing, makes it a disease, devalues and excludes women. This is not at all in line with the International Women’s Day 2024 theme of “inspiring inclusion”.

For some women perimenopause is too much to bear.
Statistics show that suicide in midlife-aged women increases tremendously, as does depression, women leaving their jobs and alcohol consumption.

 

You don’t have to take Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) when your hormones start to decline, but you need to know how the reduction in hormones may affect you physically, psychologically, emotionally, socially, and even spiritually, so you can make educated decisions about your current health and your health into older age.

It is inspiring and empowering when a woman takes her health into her own hands and decides she wants better for herself. Every woman is unique, and menopause is not a one-size-fits-all experience. My advice is read and research what you can, and find a doctor who is educated on the latest research, who has your back and who honours your personal experience.
If you read information ask who wrote it, who sponsored it and what have they got to gain from it (yes, even ask that about me!). You don’t need to white-knuckle through perimenopause and play down how you feel. You deserve a wonderful midlife and you deserve to feel illuminated.

 

Dr Jennifer Hacker Pearson is a PhD-qualified neuroscientist and trained psychotherapist. She teaches science-informed education and tools to help women boost their brain health and mental wellbeing, from postpartum to menopause, so they can thrive in life and work.

For more see www.DrJen.com.au.

Episode #36: The 4 Seasons of Matrescence w/ Nikki McCahon

Episode #36: The 4 Seasons of Matrescence w/ Nikki McCahon

Motherhood fears and how to overcome them – with Belinda Hughes

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Imagine a world where matrescence, the developmental transformation from woman to mother, was truly recognised. Where this rite of passage was as understood and spoken about as adolescence.

While matrescence isn’t a household word YET, my guest today on MAMA, UNLEASHED!, Nikki McCahon, has created a framework and language around matrescence to make this uncertain, and often challenging, time of becoming a mother more clear and less scary.

Nikki created her Seasons of Matrescence model to support mothers through the varying transitions and changes of motherhood and to offer the woman a map of where she is, and where she is most likely heading.

In this episode we talk all about matrescence, Nikki’s model (which incorporates the 4 seasons of the year) and how matrescence has the power to break the societal standards of motherhood.

In this episode you will learn: 

[Timestamps]

[3.45] In matrescence we ask ourselves a lot of questions: who am I now I’m a mother?

What happened to me?
What happened to me?
What’s going on in my life?
What’s happening to my relationship with my partner and with myself?
Why am I alone and isolated?

[5.45] Mothers need community to thrive. Isolation and loneliness are risk factors for postpartum/ postnatal depression.

[8.45] The importance of having language and a framework around matrescence. Otherwise, every mother will feel “there is something wrong with me”.

[11.30] Motherhood is a rite of passage – a moving from one group into another. Society tells us who we need to be to fit into the new group. This puts immense pressure on new mothers.

[13.00] How our society and culture benefit from us feeling like we are an inadequate mother and feeling like it is all our fault.

[14.33] The follow-on and full-circle effect of not supporting mothers: if society doesn’t look after the mother, the mother struggles more to look after her children. Research has shown this can lead to mental health issues in the children, which in turn will burden society.

[16.00] How Nikki created her Seasons of Matrescence model and program.

[19.55] The importance of understanding yourself, and how your life experiences have shaped you to this point, when you enter matrescence. How your current situation affects your transformation.

[22.00] Matrescence is different for every mother, and even every time the same mother has a new baby.

[23.20] The Seasons of Matrescence model – the Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer transformations of motherhood. We cycle through. Matrescence lasts a lifetime.

[36.40] Why pregnant women need to know about matrescence before they have their baby.

[40.00] How the transformation of matrescence empowers women to challenge the status quo and find their voice.

Listen to the full episode FREE 👇
MENTIONS AND MORE INFORMATION

Find out more about Nikki McCahon and her Seasons of Matrescence program

Explore Dr Jen’s new masterclass How To Be A Happier Motheruse your unique neurobiology and your motherhood transformation as the catalyst to thrive. Released late January 2023.

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About my guest NIKKI MCCAHON

Nikki McCahon is a matrescence educator, women’s life cycle guide, podcast host and mother to her six-year-old son.

As a matrescence educator and guide, Nikki helps mothers navigate the often-unexpected changes and challenges of becoming and being a mother, whilst simultaneously supporting mothers to explore the opportunities that mothering can provide for their own personal growth and expansion.

Her model – the seasons of matrescence – applies a seasonal and cyclical lens to matrescence, providing a map for mothers to use when navigating times of change and transition and support to explore their matrescence journey within the context of their broader life cycle and rites of passage.

Nikki is passionate about creating community and normalising the physical, psychological, and emotional changes women go through during matrescence. In 2017 Nikki founded Australia’s largest meet-up community for mums, which grew to 40,000 members in three years, before it was acquired by a national not for profit, the centre of perinatal excellence (COPE) in 2020.

Her work now focuses on providing matrescence guidance and education to mothers through her podcast and group programs, and supporting those who work with mothers to integrate matrescence education, guidance and support into their practice through her Seasons of Matrescence teacher training program.

You can find out more about Nikki and her amazing work HERE.

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Episode #35: Do This To Feel Happier In Motherhood (“Hack” 1)

Episode #35: Do This To Feel Happier In Motherhood (“Hack” 1)

Motherhood fears and how to overcome them – with Belinda Hughes

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What is the best motherhood brain hack to be a happier mother?
Today on MAMA, UNLEASHED! I explain why I don’t like the term “hack”, especially in motherhood, and why we should instead be focussing on tools, strategies, exercises and protocols, to get real and long-lasting results.

In this episode, I talk about the similarities, differences and connections of the brain and the mind, and the role each play in your feelings of happiness in motherhood. I give you my first of many non-hack motherhood brain hacks (you’ll see why I named it that) and steps for how to use it immediately and start feeling happier.

In this episode you will learn: 
[Timestamps]

[1.50] Why it is important to decide what happy means for you.

[4.30] What is matrescence?

[5.11] Two reasons I don’t like the term “hack, especially in motherhood.

[6.36] Why you can’t hack your way out of doing the work to feel happy – physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual work.

[7.50] Neuroplasticity and how our thoughts help shape our brain and mind.

[8.13] What are the brain and the mind are and how do they work?

[13.28] Steps and tool you can use to influence your happiness.

Listen to the full episode FREE 👇
MENTIONS AND MORE INFORMATION

WORKSHOP POSTPONED: How To Be A Happier Mother – use your unique neurobiology as your catalyst to thrive in motherhood
An introduction to the motherhood brain and mind, yourself in matrescence, neuroplasticity (the way your brain changes especially when you become a mother) and how you can train your brain and mind to feel happier in motherhood.

MAMA, UNLEASHED! episodes about matrescence

 

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Episode #27: Alcohol, Motherhood and You – with Sarah Rusbatch

Episode #27: Alcohol, Motherhood and You – with Sarah Rusbatch

Motherhood fears and how to overcome them – with Belinda Hughes

For information, tips and support on your journey through motherhood follow Tough Mothers on Facebook and Instagram  or join our FREE Tough Mothers Village

Talking about not drinking alcohol is quite taboo. But Grey-Area Drinking Coach Sarah Rusbatch and I dared to go there in this episode of The Tough Mothers Podcast. We want you to know why alcohol is making you unhappy and anxious, how you can find your true self by putting down the bottle, and why mummy wine culture is so very damaging.
Don’t think this is a You-MUST-Stop-Drinking-Now episode. It is not! We merely share Sarah’s knowledge and our individual experiences with ditching booze, and how it has affected us and our mothering.
Key takeaways from this episode of the Tough Mothers Podcast:
♥    Taking a break from alcohol can be beneficial in more ways than one

♥    Alcohol does not make motherhood easier

♥    Your kids are affected by your drinking, even if you don’t realise it

♥    Choosing to ditch the drink will change your life

HEAR THE FULL EPISODE Click on your favourite podcast app below
WATCH THE FULL EPISODE By clicking the play button below
Motherhood fears and how to overcome them – with Belinda Hughes
In this episode you will learn: 

[Timestamps]

[5.55] Many women’s drinking changes when they become mothers – alcohol becomes a reward in motherhood.

[7.15] Is alcohol self-care for mothers?

[8.00] Are you making rules around your drinking?

[9.45] Anxiety, alcohol and motherhood.

[12.50] The benefits of taking a break from drinking

[17.48] How not drinking improves your relationship with your kids

[20.00] What is a Grey-Area Drinker?

[22.10] You can have an addiction to alcohol and not be an “alcoholic”.

[23.00] How your brain changes when you drink alcohol

[25.00] Why drinking two or three times a week stops you from being your best

[26.32] Allowing yourself to face emotions without alcohol, helps you deal with them and makes you more resilient.

[30.40] How not drinking affects your kids

[33.45] The danger of mummy wine culture

[37.30] Sarah’s tips if you are worried about your drinking or are sober curious

MENTIONS, MORE INFO and SUPPORT
Download Sarah’s free guide to taking a break from alcohol

See Sarah’s top resources for changing your relationship with alcohol at www.sarahrusbatch.com

The book Sarah mentioned: The Wine O’clock Myth by Lotta Dann

Learn how you can truly thrive during motherhood with our TOUGH MOTHERS COURSES

A little more about my guest Sarah Rusbatch:

Sarah Rusbatch is a certified Women’s Health and Wellbeing Coach, an accredited Grey Area Drinking Coach and a keynote speaker sharing her journey to sobriety with audiences around the globe. She is also the face behind Perth’s growing Alcohol-Free Movement.

After developing what she describes as a ‘dysfunctional relationship with alcohol’, Sarah made the decision to remove alcohol from her life in early 2019 and has never looked back. She now works with women across the globe guiding them from feeling lost, stuck and out of control (something she fully understands herself), to a healthier and happier way of living. She is also the host of a thriving, global online community (The Women’s Wellbeing Collective) which offers a safe space where women feel seen and understood.

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Get amazing motherhood support, friendship and information in our FREE private Tough Mothers Village. We would love to have you there.

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Mental Health Support

If the topics in this episode are triggering for you, or if you need support, please contact your doctor or local mental health service. Simply Google “mental health help”.

Episode #26: 3 Ways to Create More Mental Space in Motherhood

Episode #26: 3 Ways to Create More Mental Space in Motherhood

Motherhood fears and how to overcome them – with Belinda Hughes

For information, tips and support on your journey into and through motherhood follow Tough Mothers on Facebook and Instagram  or join our FREE Tough Mothers Village

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space, your mental space, lies your power to choose your response, and your response will determine how you feel and how you view the world.

As mothers we are often in knee-jerk mode*. In this state, when a stimulus comes our way, we do not have the mental space to choose our best response.

It is, therefore, imperative to elongate our mental space, so we can consciously and deliberately choose a response that serves us and our children, and help us create a fulfilled life.

This episode of The Tough Mothers Podcast details what mental space is, why you must elongate yours to thrive in motherhood, and three ways you can create more mental space today.

Key takeaways from this episode of the Tough Mothers Podcast:

♥    Make motherhood easier by learning how to consciously choose our responses.

♥    Knee-jerking your way through motherhood will make you unhappy.

♥    You can train your brain and mind to create more mental space and thrive.

* Tune in to the episode to find out what a knee-jerk reaction is.

HEAR THE FULL EPISODE
Click on your favourite podcast app below

WATCH THE FULL EPISODE
By clicking the play button below

Motherhood fears and how to overcome them – with Belinda Hughes
In this episode you will learn: 

[Timestamps]

[3.45] What is mental space?

[5.00] How motherhood is like a game of whack-a-mole.

[7.57] Motherhood trains our brain and mind to have a short mental space.

[11.00] What drives our knee-jerk reaction?

[13.55] Everything is a stimulus!

[15.30] Be happy in motherhood by elongating your mental space

[17.15] How to train your brain and mind to elongate your mental space

[20.15] The importance of deliberately choosing our response to every stimulus

MENTIONS, MORE INFO and SUPPORT

START CREATING MORE MENTAL SPACE TODAY Download your FREE MORNING MAMA MEDITATION

Your simple 5-minute guided meditation that will help you create calm, joy and fulfilment in your mind, and train your brain to elongate your mental space.

 

WORK WITH ME to elongate your mental space in motherhood and thrive without even thinking about it.

We have TOUGH MOTHERS COURSES and WORKSHOPS to suit everyone

We implement a three-step framework to:
1) Help you understand how becoming a mother changes you, your brain and your mind
2) Show you how you can use these changes to create more mental space, to truly thrive in motherhood.
3) Teach you simple, science-based exercises you can easily modify to your unique self (and to fit into your busy day) to create more mental space, feel more fulfilled and be a truly happy mother.

WHO IS ONE PERSON THAT NEEDS TO HEAR THIS EPISODE?

Forward it to them! There are icons at the top of this page to make that really easy.

Check out the Tough Mothers Library for more episodes

You are not alone!

Get amazing motherhood support, friendship and information in our FREE private Tough Mothers Village. We would love to have you there.

PLEASE HELP ME KEEP THIS PODCAST FREE!

To help me keep this podcast FREE, please subscribe to Tough Mothers on YouTube, and subscribe rate and review The Tough Mothers Podcast on your favourite podcast app.

Mental Health Support

If the topics in this episode are triggering for you, or if you need support, please contact your doctor or local mental health service. Simply Google “mental health help”.

Matrescence and Bipolar – one mother’s experience. By Katie Rickson

Matrescence and Bipolar – one mother’s experience. By Katie Rickson

Bipolar and Matrescence - one mother's experience. By Katie Rickson

MY BIPOLAR, WHICH FOR THE MOST PART HAD LAID DORMANT FOR THE SIX YEARS PRIOR, ERUPTED AFTER THE BIRTH OF MY DAUGHTER.

Before I go on, I wasn’t officially diagnosed with bipolar before my daughter arrived. We thought it was major depression and I had no words to describe my mania (…a frigging relief from depression? Me being a party animal?). One psychiatrist brought it up, but I didn’t have any understanding of bipolar, so I shut him down with, “No, it’s not that.”

Within weeks of my daughter’s arrival, I had horrible waking dreams, night terrors that I had left her in my bed and fallen asleep, and she got suffocated or forever lost in the duvet. They were so vivid and one of the most distressing things I’ve experienced.

Then I sensed, not quite heard, but sensed, this violent masculine voice almost without fail, at her 3am feed: “Why don’t you bang her head against the wall?” I would never bang her head against the wall. Or do anything this voice told me to do. If it popped up during the day and I was with someone else, I would tell them I’m sorry, but I can’t be with my baby right now, please can you help while I calm myself.

Then panic attacks. Then the thought that I had psychic powers.

I WAS SLEEP-DEPRIVED. DESPERATE FOR SLEEP. THEN WITH THE NIGHT OF TERRORS I WAS SCARED TO FALL ASLEEP. NEXT I DIDN’T NEED MUCH SLEEP AT ALL.

I was awake, cleaning the kitchen, catching up on laundry at 3am. Sending emails to my boss about amazing fundraising opportunities and long rambling messages to my family and friends. Trying to do some copywriting work in the dead of night. In short, everything but what I should be doing – sleeping.

WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE THE LANGUAGE FOR AN EXPERIENCE, YOU CAN EITHER SHRUG IT OFF AND THINK THAT IT IS NORMAL, OR YOU CAN AMPLIFY IT UNTIL IT BECOMES ISOLATING AND SCARY.

My brain and body were experiencing two seismic shifts: psychosis and matrescence. Each on their own are massive. Going through both at the same time threatened to destroy me.

WHAT IS PSYCHOSIS?

From: mothersmatter.nz: “The most severe form of postpartum depression (PPD) is known as postpartum psychosis. This occurs in one to two out of every 1,000 pregnancies. Postpartum psychosis is commonly seen in women with bipolar disorder; however, research has shown that many women are misdiagnosed with postpartum major depressive disorder due to the absence of a manic or hypomanic episode at the time of diagnosis. Some affected women may experience a break in reality that causes them to have delusions or unusual thoughts that they believe to be accurate. Additionally, they may report hallucinations, irritability, hyperactivity, decreased need for or inability to sleep, paranoia, rapid mood swings, or difficulty with communication.”

WHAT IS MATRESCENCE?

Matrescence is the “physical, emotional, hormonal and social transition to becoming a mother.” It’s not something that’s talked about much in general discourse.
Dr Jen from Tough Mothers
is doing all she can to change that.

PART OF WHAT MADE ME SICK WAS THE EXPECTATIONS I PLACED ON MYSELF, AND HOW HEAVY THEY WERE.

I “should” exclusively breastfeed my baby until six months; I “should” be able to have lots of visitors and get the rest I need. I “should” return to my pre-baby weight, my pre-baby lifestyle, my pre-baby work as soon as possible. I “should” know how to keep a tidy home and not argue with my husband. I “should” know the difference between what’s normal for me and what’s a symptom of something.

We give adolescents a fair amount of grace when they go through the transition from young person to adult. Why aren’t we the same with ourselves when we become a new mum or with other new mums?

“ADOLESCENCE IS A GRADUAL PROCESS –

it isn’t instant in the way motherhood can be divided into pre-baby and post-baby life. But we need to be forgiving of ourselves, and to acknowledge that it might take time to adjust to all the shifts and challenges happening at once. Your body, your brain chemistry and your identity are all changing.”

“IF YOU CUT OUT THE MAJORITY OF ACTIVITIES THAT WERE ESSENTIAL

to your routine before having a baby, you may feel disconnected from your identity.”

Both quotes are from: Can weaning your baby cause maternal depression? by Alexandra Frost published by todaysparent.com

UNDERSTANDING MATRESCENCE WOULD BE HELPFUL WHEN YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT STARTING A FAMILY AND AGAIN WHEN YOU FALL PREGNANT.

At the time, I thought antenatal classes were helpful, even inspiring at times, but as I reflect on them now, it was just surface-level stuff. The focus was on the baby and the external or physical things. The birth – which is a big deal, but one moment in time. Like before you get married you might focus all your energy on the wedding day and not what it’s like to actually be married. What that does to your identity.

The external, physical things – how to put on a nappy, how to read baby’s cues, how to drink cold coffee – can all be picked up. What’s much harder is the identity shift, the loss, the grief of the life you once had. You’re grateful, of course you’re grateful if it’s planned, you have the privilege of being a mum, but you’re going to compare your new life to the life you once lived, the freedom and impulsivity you once enjoyed.

NOBODY CAN GO THROUGH MATRESCENCE FOR YOU.

It’s a journey you have to go on. It’s like the story We’re going on a bear hunt. Only the bear is a cooing, crying, cluster feeding, glorious smelling human. You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it. You have to go through it.

My introduction to matrescence was muddied when I experienced postpartum bipolar and a full-blown psychotic episode.

WHERE DID THE MANIA END AND MATRESCENCE BEGIN?

I remember fantasising about going for long car rides by myself or checking into a hotel for a couple of nights. I wanted the impulsivity back. I wanted my freedom back. This made me feel yuck about myself and ashamed – further adding to my postnatal distress.

The thing about matrescence – and any experience with mental distress – is it’s so important to have a label, a framework, a context to hang your experiences onto. I wish I was introduced to matrescence during antenatal classes, or during my interactions with psychiatrists and the maternal mental health team. I wish we discussed it at coffee groups instead of who needed the least amount of pain relief during birth (not me, by the way).

But we hardly have the language for it. How can we talk about a thing when we don’t realise it’s even a thing?

How can you practice mindfulness or meditation or cognitive behavioural therapy when you don’t have a reference for these changes?

I THINK BIPOLAR ONLY GOES SO FAR IN EXPLAINING MY CHANGED THOUGHTS AND BEHAVIOUR. MATRESCENCE WAS STILL HAPPENING WHETHER I HAD A WORD FOR IT OR NOT.

A few months later, after being hospitalised and diagnosed, I slowly began to feel more myself. Whatever that is after matrescence. I started reading Dear Mummy, you’re important too by Tui Fleming. The exercises on self-awareness and self-care and finding your identity – during the sleepless nights, disturbing thoughts, and unending nappy changes – were so nourishing to me at that time.

Once you’re in the mental health system, you get access to new support around motherhood and planning your family. When we were ready to think about trying for another baby, we got to have pre-conception counselling.

During pre-conception counselling, we talked about medication, the risk factors and the concern that bipolar is genetic, so there is a chance of it being knitted into your child’s genes. My deepest concerns were the impact of the medication on a foetus and then the breastfed baby. It’s not without its risks. But it’s also dangerous for your growing baby if you stop taking medication and become unwell again. It’s a delicate balance.

Also, pregnancy and the postpartum period are some of the biggest risk factors for setting off a bipolar episode – either a deep depression or an uncontrollable high. Or both. We wanted to grow our family, but the idea came with its anxieties.

MATRESCENCE NEEDS TO BECOME A COMMON WORD, A GO-TO WORD IN OUR VOCABULARY.

I hope that when I write matrescence on my updated version of Word that it’s recognised and not underlined by a red squiggle.

Whatever the make-up of families, I hope that fathers and other caregivers understand matrescence too, so that they know how to best support mothers. I hope that matrescence is talked about in antenatal classes, maternal mental health support groups and coffee groups.

Just as we give grace to adolescents as they go through their seismic shifts, so should we extend grace and understanding to ourselves and other mothers as we transform – emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually.

And when I’m being kind to the mum I was, I remind myself that I just wanted to be mothered. I wanted to be held and listen to lullabies and live in a safe, gentle cocoon. I did listen to a lot of lullabies with my daughter in the first three years of her life – as much for my benefit as for hers. Lullabies are a gentle antidote to the mean voice in your head telling you you’re a piece of crap and you don’t deserve to be here.

I found myself turning to lullabies in languages I don’t understand. Most had a kind of melancholy sewn through the melody which I appreciated. For me, matrescence and melancholy are first cousins.

Matrescence is a nod to the past and a mirror, forcing you to reflect on how you were mothered and how you want to mother. It forces you to stop neglecting your inner child and think about how you speak to yourself. How you self-soothe. Or self-harm. How you sit with your emotions and your fears and your darkest thoughts.

SOME PEOPLE LOOK LIKE THEY GLIDE THROUGH MATRESCENCE. YOU KNOW THE ONES. THEY LOOK NATURAL AND INSTINCTIVE AND RESPONSIVE. THEY LOOK SERENE AND BEAUTIFUL AND UNSCATHED.

I thought I was doing well. I thought my mania was sheer, unadulterated happiness. It was a relief as I expected to be depressed.

I thought I was a natural. Maybe it was adrenalin. We were experiencing a lot of stress.

Writing this is painful. That’s another reason why I want to have another baby. I want to try and have a more serene start to motherhood.

Although matrescence is not a common word, it’s still loaded.

I surrounded myself with so many ideologies and so much pressure at a time when I was feeling rubbed raw and vulnerable. Thinking about it now, I do that a lot. It’s a form of self-sabotage – stockpiling on different people’s opinions, drowning my own intuition out with the voice and advice from experts.

Everything becomes polarising and stripped of nuance.

Cloth nappies or destroy the environment.

Breastfeed or open your baby to infection.

Take your medication or drink green smoothies and eat activated almonds.

I DON’T THINK MATRESCENCE CONVENIENTLY STOPS AFTER THE FOURTH TRIMESTER (THE THREE MONTHS AFTER BUBS IS BORN).

We become new versions of mums when our child first goes to kindy, and then school, college and leaving home. Each milestone demands a new way of being. New decisions to make. New identities to try on.

When my daughter went to school, I felt quite overwhelmed by the invitations we received to participate. The events and the paper slips. The fundraisers and the parent’s mornings. I talked to my counsellor about this. With each experience, she said, you navigate the new choices you face.

Participating at school as a parent, like most things, exists on a spectrum. At one end there’s little to no engagement – and I mean no judgment here, some parents can’t afford to participate, especially during school hours. To the other extreme, there’s the parent who’s on every board, attends every PTA meeting, sets up and runs fundraisers, you name it.

I need to ask myself where do I fit? Somewhere in the middle, I think.

So matrescence isn’t a one-time experience. A set and forget. I’m going to keep going through it. I’m grateful that I now know that there is a word for it. Like my bipolar diagnosis five years ago, I can now reframe what I went through (and what I’ll probably go through again at some stage) and how I behaved and forgive myself for where I fell short. I did my best. I continue to do my best

I WONDER WHAT IT’S GOING TO BE LIKE WHEN WE FIRST TELL OUR DAUGHTER ABOUT MY BIPOLAR CONDITION.

For now, I’m parking it and doing my best to focus on the mother I was made to be – imperfect but whole, trusting my intuition but letting some expert voices in, leaning on other people’s support while being myself.

And trying my darndest to forgive myself when I screw up. Because I will, and that’s okay.

 
Written by Katie Rickson from Compassion Poetry and reproduced with permission
Katie Rickson is a mother, writer and creator of Compassion Poetry. Compassion Poetry is Katie’s way of exploring the pain, hope and healing of life’s challenges on the page. Through her poetry and essays, she shares her insights on mental unwellness, motherhood, miscarriage and marriage, and any other topics that capture her pen.

You can find Katie and more of her amazing work at www.CompassionPoetry.co.nz and https://www.instagram.com/compassion.poetry/

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