Matrescence and Mindful Living

The walk through postpartum… It’s difficult for everyone, some more than others. The lack of sleep, learning your newborn’s language, the transitions your own body is moving through — it may seem like forever, but mama it is only temporary. Many of us learn intentional self-care and direct communication of our needs through necessity. We reach our breaking point and realize that what we are doing is not working and we need a better method. 

It takes longer for so many of us because of the messages we are given in our society. We praise our new mothers for being out and about in early postpartum, or for losing all the baby weight so quickly. The standards we hold ourselves to as new mothers are unrealistic and degrading when we truly understand the depth of the postpartum experience. Self-care equals a glass of wine or a new pair of shoes. Mental health is so often considered taboo that we are never given the proper tools to become resilient adults, and we wonder why our rates of postpartum anxiety and depression are higher than ever… We tend to ignore, fight against or mute our discomforts instead of leaning in and learning what that discomfort tells us. Our bodies are constantly communicating our needs to us, we only need to find the awareness to understand. 

The important lessons and tools we have the potential to learn in postpartum are integral to moving through life, especially parenthood. But that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare during our pregnancies. Creating a mindful existence brings our thoughts into an inquisitive state, and when we see the world with curiosity we are less critical of ourselves and others, and we flow more easily with the tides of our lives. Here are a few lessons that I learned as I moved through postpartum. 

Give yourself alllll the grace.

So many of us walk out of pregnancy with high expectations. But there is nothing that can prepare us for some of those early postpartum moments. We can only ride the wave and remember that the sleepless nights, the fluctuating hormones, they’re only temporary. Just like our transitions in labor, we must learn to take things one moment, one breath at a time. 

Create rituals that bring you sacred pause.

My life before motherhood was very structured. So much so that in early postpartum I fought against the flow of matrescence with everything I had. I wallowed until I realized that continuing on that path wouldn’t make things better. You see, I had never really had to prioritize self care. I was a workaholic before becoming a mother, but I never anticipated the depth of the fact that  the most important work I would ever do, raising my daughter, was a never-ending responsibility. Self-care was no longer an option, it was a necessity. It sounds so simple, but when we prioritize the care of our bodies and our minds and create routines and rituals to make these processes special, we set the groundwork for a life of intention and overflowing gratitude. 

Prioritize what is truly important to you.

This was a big one for me. As a recovering perfectionist, I still struggle with this… It was so difficult for me to realize that I could not do everything. Breastfeeding was a full time job. My daughter demanded to be worn or held at all times. Yes, I did work my way into finding a flow that worked for me and my family, but I also had to surrender to the fact that it was ok to let things like laundry or dishes wait temporarily and prioritize my self-care. Because if we aren’t functional it affects everyone around us, and if we flourish, so does our family.

Nourish and move your body.

Loving on yourself doesn’t always mean what feels good in the moment. We all know that our comfort foods might mask our feelings temporarily, but making intentional choices about what we put into our bodies can make all the difference in our physical and mental health. When I decided to invest more energy in preparing and eating wholesome foods, I was pleasantly surprised at the immediate affect on my mental health. When I prioritized time to go on a walk around the neighborhood or do some yoga in my basement, my anxiety noticeably decreased and I felt more grounded on a daily basis. “I don’t have time” is only an excuse we make from a place of overwhelm. I promise if you can commit to one week of prioritizing these things, the difference will be so dramatic you won’t want to stop. 

Breathe.

I read somewhere that we all need to meditate for at least 30 minutes per day. If we don’t have time to meditate for 30 minutes we should meditate for at least an hour. Again, “I don’t have time” is only an excuse we make from a place of overwhelm. When I first started meditating I was extremely intimidated. But I found that we have so many tools that simplify the process… in moments where I feel like my mind is too busy to meditate, I reach for guided meditations like this. But I do it daily, no matter what. It is part of my morning and evening rituals because I have noticed a significant difference on many levels. Our lives begin and end with the breath, and when we prioritize time to focus on our breath, quiet our minds, and become aware of our bodies, it creates room for growth and healing on a physical and emotional level. Studies show that meditation reduces inflammation, brings greater levels of self-control, and is anti-aging.  There are so many benefits, why wouldn’t we try it? 

It takes a village.

The most important thing I want you to know is that we are not meant to do this alone. This was my greatest lesson. Even with the best family support I could have hoped for, there were resources in my community that I was too proud to reach for… I wanted to figure it all out myself. But the truth is that every baby and every postpartum experience is different. We aren’t meant to figure it out by ourselves. It’s impossible, which is why we have so many amazing whole-body focused providers who specialize in postpartum doula support, pelvic floor therapy, chiropractic, lactation, maternal mental health, and so much more… it takes a village to raise a child. And it is ok to need help. We build some incredible relationships when we are able to reach out in our own vulnerability, and we equip ourselves to help others on similar paths.

More than anything, be kind to yourself. All of these life-changing efforts I mentioned above came over time. It was a gradual shift in mindset. Don’t expect to implement these all at once and change your life overnight — that’s not what this is about. Remind yourself that motherhood is a lifelong journey, and the deepest valleys make way for the most breathtaking moments. There is no book, there is no perfect. We don’t magically wake up as the mothers who made raising us look easy. Matrescence is not a mother made, you are becoming… 


“The most difficult part of birth is the first year afterward. It is the year of travail — when the soul of a woman must birth the mother inside her. The emotional labor pains of becoming a mother are far greater than the physical pangs of birth; these are the growing surges of you heart as it pushes out selfishness and fear and makes room for sacrifice and love. It is a private and silent birth of the soul, but it is no less holy than the event of childbirth, perhaps it is even more sacred.”

JOY KUSEK

Surrender and Trust the Process

In birth, everything is connected…

⁣⁣⁣The first time I heard the words “pelvic floor” was from Dr. Rice in my 11th grade vocal performance class at Fine Arts Center. It was 2004, late winter — sometime after Valentines Day, and I was sharing that I had attended my first ever yoga class and was fascinated at the level of body awareness that I had never experienced before then. He grinned and responded that yoga was great for the pelvic floor, and so was meditation.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

Not long after that, in April I experienced true surrender for the first time in my life. It was a pivotal point for me in my adolescence. I had a serious stage fright block, and this class required me to sing every day in front of four other students who were older and had more training and vocal maturity than I did. That day, after much coaching — LOTS of constructive criticism and pushing me to my limits — I was emotionally spent but fully committed to moving past this block. I closed my eyes, shut everything out but the music, and my soul became one with the song I was singing. 𝗪𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐟𝐞𝐥𝐭 𝐢𝐭. We all knew what I had experienced — 𝘸𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘵 𝘵𝘰𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳, and that moment was extremely empowering and transformative for me.

⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣You see, something I’ve always loved about singing is the energy work. In order to master your instrument, not only do you learn to manipulate your pelvic floor in all kinds of ways — physically and psychologically, through visualization, etc… but you must learn to intertwine yourself with the story and the emotions of the song. 𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘦𝘱𝘵𝘩𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘤.

⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣If you listen closely, or if you have a trained ear you can actually hear that surrender, and the result is 𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥. You can 𝘯𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘦𝘦 the energy of the sound and emotion moving through the air and exchanging with the audience. A vocalist who has experienced this sensation will never forget it.

⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣I always knew that voice was a calling for me, but I never could have imagined that it would pull me in the direction of birth. And I never really understood the depth of how connected the voice is to birth until I experienced and felt it first hand. In fact, everything I learned in the ten years I studied vocal performance I have been able to apply to my work in birth. 𝘙𝘦𝘭𝘢𝘹 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘫𝘢𝘸, 𝘴𝘰𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘦, 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴, 𝘯𝘦𝘤𝘬, 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦, 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘪𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩 𝘰𝘳 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯, 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦. Birth is just a lot more intuitive than singing. Our bodies already know how to do it. For most people, 𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐰𝐰𝐰𝐰𝐰 𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐬 engage the pelvic floor. But no matter what we cover and how we prepare, no sound is more productive or transformative than the sound of letting go. I can hear it in your voice when you stop worrying or caring about how you are perceived, 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘣𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘪𝘯𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘮𝘰𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘣𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳. 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐪𝐮𝐢𝐬𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐮𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐥 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐩𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

Understanding your pelvic floor and how those muscles interact with your body; cultivating the body awareness that is necessary to understand how to engage and relax those muscles; studying the breath and understanding how it affects every aspect of our existence, especially our movement through birth — these are all things that we can do to prepare our minds and bodies for the moments of surrender in our births.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

Some of us flow better with the unknown than others. Personally, flow has never come naturally to me in any aspect — my husband jokes that if you watch me dance for two minutes that fact is obvious. I attribute it to the long, strong, never ending drip of Pitocin at my own entry into this world. But for me, this work is a continuous reminder of the importance of surrender to the cycles of this life. The more I study the body and how interconnected everything is in the process of birth, the more fascinated I am. And I find that most people walking through pregnancy feel the same. Resistance stems from fear, and we are hardwired to fight against discomfort. Understanding how our bodies work help us surrender our minds as our bodies take control during our births. 𝘞𝘦 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴, 𝘸𝘦 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘢𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨.