A New Word For The Day (Or Year)

I may be dating myself a wee bit here, but one of the movies I got a huge kick out of when I was a teen was “Clueless.”  There’s this one scene where Cher (the main character who really has no idea what she’s doing) is trying to “improve” her new friend Tai, and sets out a daily checklist towards that end.  One of those self-improvement tasks is to expand her vocabulary, and they have this little snippet of conversation:  “Tai. We’ve got to work on your accent and vocabulary. See, ‘sporadic’ means once in a while. Try and use it in a sentence today.”  It’s a big win when Tai pulls the word “sporadic” later on in a conversation.  Woo!  Increased vocabulary=becoming a better person!  I can laugh at it, but I also get it.  

Birth and MotherCare is becoming better at a wonderful rate around us, and some of that means improved language…or in this case, invented language, which makes me just as happy.  I feel like I’m announcing a new baby–here’s our new word for the day:


Isn’t she beautiful?  There are so many possibilities and beauties in new life…err…new words.

The official definition, from definition-of.com, is this:

DefinitionMatrescence rate. (Noun) The process of becoming a mother. Coined by Anthropologist Dana Rafael. Usage: Women need more supportive attention during matrescence

We’ve needed this new word.  As our society has gotten back to reasonable and healthy expectations for new mothers, the term “Fourth Trimester” has come up, but that’s a little more ambiguous and still more focused on baby’s development than on the mother’s development.  We really need to have focus on the mother because the health of a Momma is vital to the health of a baby.  A healthy, thriving baby needs to have a healthy, supported mother; you cannot have the one without first focusing on the other.

The idea with this new word “Matrescence” is to acknowledge the huge time of transition and growth that happens when a woman becomes a mother.  And it’s not just a social/relational transition–there are as many hormones and brain function shifts happening during matrescence as in adolescence.  I just read a fantastic quote from Dr. Oscar Serrallach, where he stated:

“The brain gets a huge up-wiring during pregnancy; it’s the time of greatest neurogenesis outside of being a fetus, even more than adolescence.  People think adolescence is a time of physical and hormonal change; matrescence is way more.”   (International Doula, vol. 25, is. 3, Discussing Postnatal Depletion with Dr. Oscar Serrallach)

So, basically, do you remember when we were all teenagers, and all the internal changes made the whole world seem insane?  That happens on an even larger scale while having a baby.  It is normal for a mother to feel a bit “lost” for a while, to feel a bit overwhelmed, to feel a bit unsure, even if she has prepared well and educated herself and created a fantastic support network.

My hope is that we, as mothers, mother-helpers, and society at large, will start to use this lovely, brand new word to acknowledge the amazing time and process of becoming a mother, and re-learn strong and nurturing ways to support it. 

Having a baby and becoming a mother–each time, whether it’s a first baby or a second or a sixth–is a time of immense change and requires societal support and understanding.  So now that we have a new word, let’s go be like Cher and Tai and use it as much as we can.  Maybe it’ll make me sound smarter, and hopefully it will help increase understanding of the amazingness that is motherhood.

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