Matrescence: Coaching During a Time of Life Transition

What is Matrescence?

(pronounced ma tres ens).

The psychological birth of a mother, similar to adolescence, involving hormonal and identity shifting. According to Dr. Alexandra Sacks, matrescence and adolescence are:

  • Hormone dominant
  • Body altering
  • Irreversible
  • A rite-of-passage
  • Confidence-challenging
  • Awkward

Throughout this profound identity transition, an expectant individual undergoes an average of about 13 doctors’ appointments during pregnancy, 3 urine tests, 4-5 blood tests, 4 ultrasound tests, 2-3 vaginal exams/swabs, and 2 monitor exams. That is if they are healthy, give birth before or on their EDD, and do not need further diagnostic or screening exams. Then, they will go through the childbirth experience – an experience in which the transparent fabric of one’s routine is disturbed by pain, fear of death, and temporary loss of control as their body expel a new human being while they are under the care of medical caregivers- most of them practice from an “expert” position – an authoritative one. This abundance of encounters with medical maternal healthcare providers amplifies the neglect of expectant individuals’ emotional state and mindset during this profound transformation. Not even one behavioral assessment is routinely recommended for this individual. Instead of focusing on individuals’ well-being and mental health as they transition to parenthood and prepare for the profound transformation of childbirth, maternal caregivers and researchers tend to focus on how the baby is doing.

Not even one behavioral assessment is routinely recommended for individuals going through the identity transition of Matrescence

The acclaimed goal of the excessive prenatal testing mentioned above is to provide parents-to-be with information about their health and their babies’. It comes with no acknowledgment of the potential mental impact of undergoing so many doctor appointments, screening routines, and diagnostic exams – the potential increase in individuals’ anxiety levels. However, Descriptive statistics indicate that almost 60% of pregnant patients feel anxious mostly because of the fear of receiving bad news

Putting aside the fear triggered by these many prenatal testings and doctors’ appointments, it is hard to understand how negligent the modern maternal healthcare system is to the emotional and mental states of those who go through the transformation of pregnancy and birth. Some researchers have tried to call attention to this social failure. 

Women are Calling Attention to the Becoming of a Mother

Since the mid-70s, reachers have been calling attention to the becoming of a mother. One of them is anthropologist Dana Raphae, who coined the term Matrescence. More recently, Dr. Alexandra Sacks, a reproductive psychiatrist, has centered her work around making matrescence a well-known word as adolescence. According to Sacks, both Matrescence and Adolescence are hormone dominant, body-altering, irreversible, a rite-of-passage, confidence- challenging, and awkward. Additionally, becoming a mother changes our social status.  

Women have not only studied the transformation but also have written poetry about it.  Sophia Stid is a Californian poet who wrote a poem called “Matrescece’, describing the experience of a modern woman while becoming a mother:

Become a mother, become room, become food,
become miracle. The heart of each devours

the other’s heart. Hurry – become faster, Barely
made myself, I knew what they said meant 

my body was a door, made for someone else
to come through. Become sacrament. 

The commandments I kept, the ones
I couldn’t keep – all practice before

this one. Become sacrosanct. In birth, the pain
is not like other pain. In birth the pain is purpose-

ful and anticipatory. Anticipate. Become vanishing
act. Become numb, shaved, cut, split, crazy with pain-

become  bare beneath the wide washed
lights of medicine and angels – become everything

and so nothing, and no one, but a mother, a
miracle room, a heart in someone else’s mouth

Need a moment to catch your breath? I know that I needed to. Reading this poem shook me to the core. I have worked with expectant individuals and families for 22 years. However, this poem has allowed me to clearly see the importance of addressing our clients’ mindsets as they go through the identity transitions of pregnancy, birth, and becoming a parent.

Birth support figures who understand the nature and challenges of matrescence can become excellent birth support coaches!

I’m not suggesting that every expectant individual will engage in therapy. If we adopt Dr. Sacks’ comparison between matrescence and adolescence, we can agree that only some adolescents need therapy to successfully cope with this challenging period in their lives. Most of them are competent and functional. The missing link is coaching. Sports coaches and coaches who lead other types of school clubs become teenagers’ leaders for the transition into adulthood. It’s rarely their parents or teachers. There are so many books and movies with this theme. 

Can expectant individuals use coaching?

Yes, It’s the same as with adolescents. Birth support pros, who understand the nature and challenges of the life transition of Matrescence can become excellent coaches. Birth support coaches integrate transformational birth support coaching strategies to empower and lead throughout the transformation of pregnancy and birth. 

Coaching can help a pregnant individual to navigate throughout these transitions: to cope with the particular emotional, hormonal, physiological, and social changes that the transition entails for the unique individual, and the unique challenges that emerge for each one. Coaches can tap into expectant individuals’ mindsets and help them adopt new perspectives, which will in turn generate better mindsets. Clarity of one’s experience and vision for themselves as they go throughout the transition, higher levels of confidence, commitment to their positive and healthy transition, strong convictions about what they want and need, will all lead expectant individuals to take charge of their transformation. These states can’t be achieved by education – we don’t expect adolescents to read about the process of adulting in order to go with grace through it. We coach them! Let’s provide this complimentary and necessary care that the medical system neglect to provide, and coach expectant individuals and their family members. 

 

Facilitating Alignment of Expectant Individuals’ Visions, Beliefs, and Actions

Facilitating Alignment of Expectant Individuals’ Visions, Beliefs, and Actions

When doulas provide prenatal coaching sessions they can help clients be better prepared for the birth of their child and demonstrate a higher level of accountability for their childbirth experience. This is not done by means of education. Prenatal coaching goes beyond teaching and delivering evidence-based knowledge. Its purpose is to help couples discover hidden gaps, resistances, or inner conflicts, and work together as a team to resolve them.

Continue reading

Transformational Postpartum Coaching: Promoting New Parents’ Self-Confidence and Well-Being

Just like prenatal coaching, transformational postpartum coaching shifts the focus from helping or informing to elevating new-parents’ performance level, self-confidence, and well-being.

Most of my writing has been dedicated to pregnancy and childbirth support. During the pandemic, I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenges of new parents or parents who have expanded their family recently. I want to share how transformational coaching during the parents’ postpartum period can enhance their experience.

Continue reading

Revamping Labor Support with Transformational Coaching

You can learn to empower expectant individuals to perceive their own mindset and desires as the most valuable ‘data’ their providers should focus on, by doing so yourself! Learn to provide transformational birth support coaching, and you’ll get to see them conducting themselves brilliantly and with confidence throughout their birth experience, and celebrate themselves.

Continue reading

Being in Support of Vs. Supporting through Childbirth; What’s the Difference?

During this long-lasting period of social distancing, I find myself struggling when I can’t physically support my birth clients. I began searching for new meaning or a pathway to the concept of providing continuous labor support’ and was reminded of two very different states that I already explored while becoming a transformational life coach: Being and Doing. I am so used to thinking about providing continuous support as an action-oriented practice, filled with hands-on engagement. But the need to practice social distancing doesn’t allow this type of support. There may be many birth support figures who feel the same, and I hope that this blog post will serve all those who serve.

Continue reading

Convincing Prospective Clients that Doulas are as Valuable Now as Ever

Convincing Prospective Clients that Doulas are as Valuable Now as Ever

Doulas face a challenge: after many years of service and hard work, our value is finally recognized, but now with COVID-19, we find ourselves cast out of hospitals. 

It took us a very long time to get public recognition. Until not long ago, only a minority of expectant individuals knew what a doula is. I believe that it took too long for two main reasons:

  1. The refusal of the health care system to acknowledge the value of a doula, which makes it an out of pocket service, and quite an expensive one. 
  2. The affiliation of doulas with natural or unmedicated childbirth; an experience that doesn’t really resonate with the majority of birth givers. 

Doulas finally received recognition and then came COVID-19. Our challenge is to convince prospective clients to hire us during this time

Continue reading

Is COVID-19 Doulas’ Opportunity to Achieve Work-Life Balance?

Is COVID-19 Doulas' Opportunity to Achieve Work-Life Balance featured image

Some of the most heartbreaking news that doulas received along with the outbreak of COVID-19 was that we are banned from hospitals. Many of us were already committed to couples and families that we have come to love and care for, and with the increased level of uncertainty and fear, we knew that our clients needed us even more. As the numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to increase, it becomes clear that this crisis might last as long as a year or even more, raising a growing concern about doulas’ source of income. As upsetting and tormenting as this ban might be, the current crisis bears an opportunity; an opportunity to achieve work-life balance.

Continue reading

How to Provide Hands-Off Labor Support During a Time of Social Distancing?

In light of the current social distancing imposed on us due to COVID-19, Birth Coach Method is giving away free access to lesson #4 of the Birth Support Coaching Course-‘Prenatal Coaching’! We hope that it will help you as you keep providing valuable and necessary support for expectant individuals using online communication platforms (Facetime, Zoom, etc.) 

Birth workers are mastering strategies that relieve fear and doubt!

Our lives have been changing rapidly lately. In the past few weeks, the whole world has been reacting to COVID-19 with our fight-or-flight (FOF) response. Being alert and living every day on our survival mechanism might be as dangerous as the virus itself, if not more dangerous. We, birth workers, are experts in preventing or reversing the FOF response that leads to labor arrest. We are experts in managing the fear of pain and of what’s unpredictable or unknown. Psychotherapists might help their patients cope with anxiety and fear in a process that lasts weeks, months or years. However, we, birth workers, are first responders specializing in saving people from fear and doubt.    

Continue reading

How Can a Doula Make a Difference throughout Another Doula’s Birth Journey?

I am called to support my colleague and friend. How do I step up for her and make a difference?

I have been practicing as a doula for almost three years. I’ve also certified in the Birth Coach Method as a birth support coach and am extremely grateful for the training I received under Neri Choma. I love this role of supporting families. My main goal is for them to feel supported and loved as they welcome their baby to the world. I was a teacher for over ten years prior to launching my doula career, so planning and organizing was a big part of what I did. I like structure. As a doula, I try to structure my prenatal sessions. It helps me get to know the needs and goals of my clients in a systematic way and to understand how to support them and meet them where they are at. As part of my service, I also fill in any educational gaps as needed. I want to help them understand their options.

But what happens when I have a client who is a doula? How do I inform her? Do I just offer labor support and skip all my sessions with her? I usually offer each client three to four sessions. This client didn’t need to practice the tools of labor support with me since she is a trained doula and prenatal yoga instructor. She also had taken a childbirth class with her partner. So I felt like the bulk of what I usually offer my clients was off the table.

Now what?

I needed to go beyond informing and all the way to coaching.

Continue reading

Is the Doula Profession at Risk?

Doulas’ Dilemma #2: The Doula Scope of Practice

This is the second blog in a series of three that I began writing in November. I am very passionate about the doula profession. That’s why I feel called to write this series before it is too late.  And by “too late” I mean that I think our profession is in danger. Being a doula trainer and at the same time an approved continuing education provider for obstetric nurses, allows me to be connected and empathetic to both sides of the conflict – doula and medical caregivers. On top of listening to nurses’ pain points in their relationships with doulas, I recently have been invited to speak at a few OBGYN and midwives’ practices and heard that they are on the verge of banning doulas

Additionally, recent events confirm what I have been fearing – the current practice of doulas’ who share evidence-based information that supports better obstetric practice (while not being medically trained and bearing no liability for their clients’ health) is going to hurt us.

  • It puts our relationships with medical caregivers at risk.
  • It will lead more cities to follow New York in attempts to license doulas.
  • It will lead our best friends – hospital-based midwives – to ban doulas or have blacklists of unwanted doulas that they don’t trust.
  • It might also make it harder for us to find paying clients because they hear more and more stories about doulas who break the trust and rapport that couples have established with their medical providers.

Continue reading

  • 1
  • 2
  • 4
0