Matrescence: how Raglan handles motherhood

Matrescence is a term that describes motherhood as a developmental phase akin to adolescence. The term was introduced in the mid 70’s with the intention of exploring conception, birth, adoption, surrogacy & post-natal. 

Covid-19 lockdowns have put pressures on new mothers never experienced before; many countries around the world are developing systems and services to enable new mums to connect. In Raglan we have been lucky enough to slip back into level2 quickly this time, although many residents are estranged from family in Auckland. New mums on this side of restrictions can access classes and community. For those that seek quiet and solitude, or for those that remain isolated due to Covid, we have our beautiful natural surroundings to uplift and bring joy.

Matrescence can be a landscape of conflict. Many of us seek to replicate our childhoods, others want to re-write the script. All experiences are valid, and by allowing ourselves to experience motherhood as a rite of passage we enable a playful exploration of identities and parenting styles.

I spoke with Raglan midwife Gemma who promotes reading up on the ‘fourth trimester’, “There is often a huge discrepancy in expectations versus reality in the early days of motherhood”. This is great advice for women and their partners to rationalise the “non-stop feeding and cuddling”. Gemma also touched upon a sentiment I have experienced, “We’re raising kids in a world that is very different to the one we grew up in. It can feel really daunting”.

I asked local counsellor Maree Haworth about common challenges mothers face, “Communicating with other mothers is probably the best way we can be informed; we need medical input but actually mother to mother is the best way to inform ourselves in how to move through difficult situations.” Meeting-up with other mothers is a great way to get the ball rolling and to share experiences in feeding, sleeping, relationships, body changes. Also it’s a great way to learn simple songs to sing with babies, and places to go for fun and adventure. Raglan has coffee mornings (Plunket, ISO), playgroups (Scout Hall, Te Mata, Toy Library), Mainly Music (Te Uku & Raglan) as well as the community garden schemes and other WEC (Whaingaroa Enviroment Centre) groups full of wonderful families with children. 

Covid-19 responses across the globe have created a contemporary obstacle to intergenerational parenting. Many families are parenting differently due to closed borders and travel restrictions. The beauty of being in small-town Raglan is the community spirit that epitomises the extended family. Closed borders may cause distress for many of us, yet there is also a beauty in fostering our relationships with friends and family.

 I spoke with Maree, a mother, stepmother and grandmother, about the rite of passage of motherhood, she described the process as, “the development of who we are as women, the extension of who we are”. I asked her about the benefits of raising children in Raglan, “It takes a village to raise a child, and knowing your village has a therapeutic impact on your child. Our Josh was born and bred here and it’s a wonderful feeling, it’s as safe as safe can be. We know each other here and that’s beautiful.”

Gemma the midwife is a mother of three – I asked her about the benefits of raising children in this small town. “Rad mums of Whaingaroa! I find it inspiring to see the mama’s who raise their kids in a way that speaks to their values and beliefs rather than doing what society expects.” I also asked from her professional experience if she had advice for new mothers, “Trust yourself as I guarantee whoever you are, wherever you are, you’re doing a better job than you think. Create and utilise a support network. If you need help, ask for it. Love, love, love that baby”.

It is a sentiment shared by counsellor Maree, “For me it’s very simple, you can’t over-love your children. You can’t over-encourage. To me motherhood is the most important thing we will ever do in our lives”.

Adolescence can be a wildly different experience for each of us, and so, therefore, can motherhood. Matrescence is influenced by our country, our culture, our family, our values, our partners, and our passions. If we look at motherhood from an intergenerational and international lens, then we can appreciate that what works for one may not work for another.

Raglan’s community is eclectic, we have a lot to learn from each other. As Maree notes, “It’s the most amazing thing we will ever do in life, it’s intergenerational, it’s ongoing and it never stops, its beyond compare, its huge, without mothers we have no life.”

If you had asked me 6 years ago if I would be living in New Zealand I would have laughed out loud. But, like seeds in flight, children bring us on unimaginable journeys. As New Zealand poet @jessurlichs_writer so aptly notes, “For I thought I was growing you. When you were growing me too”.

by Katie Lowes

Contact details:

Maree Haworth Connect Counselling email: mareefaithcounselling@gmail.com

Jessica Urlichs        Poet: Instagram @jessurlichs_writer

In 2018 Dr Galea’s team in Vancouver published their findings of significant physiological changes in mothers. 

Peptide and steroid hormones are elevated in pregnancy, post-partum ‘grey matter’ is reduced in numerous regions, physiological differences are maintained years after birth. Indeed, childbearing mothers are more at risk of developing mental health disorders due to increased neuroplasticity and cognition during pregnancy and post-partum. 

Becoming a mother is not just a physically challenging experience, it also comes with emotional challenges.