On Matrescence: Let’s Stop Wearing Bikinis in the Blizzard

I love the month of November. In Northern California, this means we survive months of scorching sun, thick layers of sunscreen, and even wildfire season. Now that it’s sweater weather, it’s time to restock our hot chocolate cabinets, and enjoy the streets splashed with vibrant Fall colors. Mother Earth is so kind that she will give us an annual rhythm of change that will lead us into newness. And how thoughtful you are for throwing leaves in front of your house and creating an attractive pile for others to enjoy. I suppose it’s as good as the weather: Please don’t be alarmed if you see a new face dancing among the crisp leaves. No need to call the police. Probably yours truly.

Now that we’ve got everything set up, I’m ready to go for a walk. do you want to join me? As we felt the cold wind whipping our faces, I found my mind drifting from seasons to seasons of life, more specifically—motherhood. Talk about a mammoth season. Or maybe I should say, it’s an epic adventure full of seasons with sunshine, drizzle, rainbows, storms and avalanches. You name it, it happens. What’s confusing is that even though mothers are everywhere, for most of us, the season of motherhood is a—huge—surprise. It’s like we waltzed through a blizzard in bikinis. We baby-mooned (literally or figuratively), staring into the sunset, captivated by the image of our future toddler picking dandelions with no idea what monumental changes had begun to take place inside.

Every mom needs to hear the truth that babies and children change us—forever. When these new darling creations enter our lives, they launch us into a true process of self-development. The word that captures this concept is called “matrescence.” Yes, it’s a real term, no, unfortunately, I don’t understand why it hasn’t penetrated mainstream discourse, and I promise it’s easier to pronounce after a little practice.

It was first created by anthropologist Dr. Dana Rafael, and then developed by psychologist Dr. Aurelie Athan. Think of it this way: Just as “adolescence” is the process of children becoming adults, “matrescence” is the process of women becoming mothers. Technically, it begins preconception, lasts for many years (perhaps indefinitely), and begins again with each additional child. In this time of change, all women are experiencing a major shift in identity. You literally can’t stay who you are and you can blossom into more of—you! As journalist and activist Amy Taylor-Kabbaz says, “if you feel like something deep is happening to you, it is because it is!”

Now, it goes without saying that change processes are not easy. I remember middle school-metal-mouthed me, navigating friendships and algebra while secretly wondering when my breasts would cooperate and grow. How desperately I want to be “me.” And how unsure I am about what it means or will look like. Thank you, adolescence, for carrying me forward, believing in my potential and not leaving me in a padded bra forever.

While laundry, dirty dishes, late nights, runny noses, and tantrums can make moms want to hide, it’s comforting to know that like puberty, matrescence, isn’t all for naught. This time, we lift up the person(s) we love. Sweet smiles, hugs and precious moments keep us going.
In the process, matrescence also gives us expanded horizons and opportunities for growth. For example, who knew that stepping in a puddle could be a grown-up hobby, that narwhals weren’t just fairytale creatures, and that mosquito eaters don’t actually eat mosquitoes? Who knew motherhood would help me express unconditional love, be more patient, more articulate, less self-absorbed or even help me develop cat-like reflexes. Go figure. We need fresh little people to show us the way.
The message I am most excited to share with fellow women and moms around the world is this: Matrescence—motherhood—is no joke. This is a transformative time that can rock your world, bring you to your knees, and bring joy, anger, and frustration. It is full of irony. Motherhood is deep and yet mundane. Nice and messy yet. It fills us up and even depletes us. It can close its eyes and yet be alone. It consumes everything we have and still makes us inadequate.
And yet, you, dear mother, do it. A moment, every day. You don’t have to be perfect. That’s right. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to wear the heavy suffocating mask of motherhood. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t need to do more. You are beautiful and very special. Together, we can change the narrative and expectations of motherhood for ourselves and others.

Matrescence is a long period of change that frees each woman to individually experience and develop in her own way. There is no one-size-fits-all and no room for judgement. May you have the courage to look within, the community to take deep roots, the words to celebrate change, and the wisdom to bloom uniquely. And above all, may we all dress appropriately for the season.

In Matrescence: Let’s Stop Wearing Bikinis in the Blizzard

Author Bio: Emese C. Parker, RN, WHNP-BC, MPH, PMH-C, NCMP

Emese Parker is a board-certified women’s health nurse practitioner (NP), certified perinatal mental health specialist, public health geek, author, and mom. Her new book is called To Carry Wonder: A Memoir and Guide to Adventures in Pregnancy and Beyond. Combining storytelling and art with evidence-based information, she aims to care, inspire, and equip pregnant and postpartum women in a joyful new way through the four trimesters ( He can be found on social media as @tocarrywonder.

After completing bachelor of science degrees in exercise science and nursing, Parker earned her master of science in nursing from Boston College and master of public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She has over twenty years of experience in healthcare and is passionate about supporting people in pregnancy and motherhood. She loves partnering with women across the lifespan in a variety of OB-GYN settings, advocating for them as they navigate their unique life journeys.

In her current role as a women’s health NP, Parker strives to promote health and wellness through compassionate, holistic care while empowering women to make informed decisions about their bodies. Her devotion to improving care for the marginalized fueled her involvement in public health leadership positions with organizations such as the University of California San Francisco and the Health Disparities Collaborative of the US Health Resources and Services Administration. Parker lives in California, where she is a wife and mother to three mischievous children. He enjoys spending time with his family and friends, road biking, the outdoors, playing the piano, and traveling.

Keywords: matrescence, change, growth, transformation, motherhood, parenting, postpartum, mental health, hormonal changes, perinatal, pregnancy

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