What do we call women who experience emotions ranging from complete joy to anxiety to ambivalence in new motherhood?
In the words of Dr. Alexandra Sacks: totally normal.
In her work studying “matrescence”, or the identity transition to motherhood, Dr. Sacks shines light on the wide range of these normal emotions that tend to be hidden from public view. Some of these very normal and natural feelings include: fear of childbirth, disappointment in learning your child’s sex, not enjoying the work of childrearing, feeling disconnected to your baby or your partner (or both!) during what you thought was supposed to be a deep bonding moment, and much more. If you’re like me, this podcast will leave you feeling much less alone and much more aware of the complexity of your own experience in motherhood.
Alexandra Sacks, MD is the leading expert on “matrescence,” the term that defines and captures the transition to motherhood that is as demanding and transformative as adolescence. She is known for popularizing the concept in her TED talk as well as the New York Times article “The Birth of a Mother.” She is the host of Motherhood Sessions, a podcast released in April 2019 by Gimlet Media, and coauthor of What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood.
On today’s episode, we get to talk with Dr. Sacks about the range of psychological experiences that women encounter during pregnancy and new motherhood — from joy and bliss to anxiety and guilt. She also tells us why these experiences are totally natural and normal for a period of such dramatic identity shifts as well as hormonal, bodily, and relationship changes.
“Going through a diversity of emotions doesn’t necessarily mean you have postpartum depression. It’s the natural course of matrescence,” she explains.
She breaks down the harmful myths of motherhood and opens up space for a conversation full of nuance, paradox, and honesty. In our culture, it’s time to redefine motherhood and show the broad range and spectrum of emotions, feelings, and experiences that accompany this huge transition and journey in your life. Becoming a parent means that all of your relationships shift, that a new person is joining your family, and you are responsible in a way that you might not ever have been before. If it feels like a lot, that’s okay, because it is a lot.
IN THIS EPISODE WE TALK ABOUT
- Dr. Sacks’ transition from studying postpartum depression to focusing on the diversity of emotions experienced naturally in matrescence.
- Matrescence as an extended phase of all women’s lives, including women who choose not to have children or who experience infertility, and Dr. Sacks focused work on the period of pregnancy and the first year of motherhood.
- The Bliss Myth and other honest stories we’re missing about motherhood.
- The harmful trope of the “bad mother” as the cornerstone of evil characters in myth and popular culture.
- The idea of the “Good Enough Mother” as permission and guiding light for mother’s overwhelmed by messages of perfection; that we should aim for not superhuman perfection but providing a safe, stable, loving childhood.
- How being a “perfect” mother can actually harm our children in the long term, leading to decreased resiliency, slowing the learning process, and interfering with children’s ability to grow and achieve independence.
- How the power of behind the #MeToo movement of naming the unnamed inspired her to start the Motherhood Unfiltered project to showcase all aspects of motherhood on Social Media, not just those of perfection.
- How the concept of identity related to motherhood is a global rather than national phenomenon.
The Startup Pregnant Podcast Episode #110
Some Quotes From the Episode
- “We need to do a better job educating women about what sorts of psychological experiences they’re going to encounter during pregnancy and new motherhood that’s based on identity shift and hormones and relationship changes and body changes.”
- “Going through that diversity of emotions doesn’t necessarily mean that you have postpartum depression at all. It’s natural to the course of matrescence.”
- “Matrescence is the arch of what this is like for women when they’re going from their lives before motherhood into motherhood. It captures a very same phenomenon that adolescence captures because it’s both body hormone and identity, it’s all of those.”
- “Where did we get the concept that [motherhood] was a constant single note of joy?’”
- “We can be both thrilled that we’re becoming a mother and sad that we’re leaving that sort of private, spontaneous time in our romantic lives with our partner where we were unencumbered by child care.”
- “Disliking the work of parenthood in moments is not the same thing as not loving your child. You can love your child and simultaneously dislike doing the dishes. Those emotions are totally compatible with each other.“
- “You can’t control everything. You are the best mom your baby needs but you can’t control everything. Including your own human ability to read situations.”
- “You can feel sad about a miscarriage and happy about a new pregnancy at the same time. And you know what? That is okay.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT DR. ALEXANDRA SACKS
Alexandra Sacks, MD is the leading expert on “matrescence,” the transition to motherhood that is as demanding and transformative as adolescence. She is known for popularizing the concept in her TED talk with over 1.4 million views, and in her article “The Birth of a Mother,” the number one most read piece of 2017 for the New York Times “Well Family” section, where she is a regular contributor. Her work has been featured in TIME, NPR, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. She is the host of Motherhood Sessions, a podcast released in April 2019 by Gimlet Media, and coauthor of What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood published by Simon and Schuster and available now.
EPISODE SPONSOR & SPECIAL OFFER
This episode is sponsored by Splendid Spoon, a meal delivery service that creates whole, healthy, plant-based soups and smoothies that can be a great fit for busy parents and new moms. Get $50 off your first order with the link splendid.to/startuppregnant
THE STARTUP PREGNANT PODCAST & HOST
- Sign up for the Weekly Startup Pregnant Newsletter with insights, strategies, and new ideas for working parents.
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you think!
- Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
- Want to sponsor the podcast? We’ve got great sponsors and only one shout-out per episode. We don’t shove tons of ads into our podcast. We only work with awesome.
- Still here? Definitely leave us a review on iTunes. It’s really helpful for the show!