Matrescence: The Deep Spiritual Transformation of Pregnancy
Photo Credit: Getty/Ponomariova_Maria
“This idea has struck me deeply as I have watched my body change in fascinating ways—some beautiful, some almost gory. And I haven’t even given birth yet. I entered into this pregnancy unsure if I could do it at all, and I’m amazed by how my body seems to know a lot of things I don’t.”
As I enter the last short season of my pregnancy leading up to giving birth, I’m thinking a lot about annihilation. In a recent article for The Point, Dasha Filippova (Read “Annihilation” ) explores the idea of motherhood as a kind of disintegration—a physical shift that comes with plenty of blood and fluids leaking from all orifices, sure, but also as a deep cellular change from one kind of human being to another.
This idea has struck me deeply as I have watched my body change in fascinating ways—some beautiful, some almost gory. And I haven’t even given birth yet. I entered into this pregnancy unsure if I could do it at all, and I’m amazed by how my body seems to know a lot of things I don’t, to be following some script I’ve never read.
And as my body goes through these changes, so does my mind. I find myself changing in ways I never would have expected. I’m nesting, resting, and looking forward to the kinds of domestic tasks that were always far behind on my long to-do list before this time. My relationship to myself and my body is changing, and my relationships to other people are, too.
In their book What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood, Dr. Alexandra Sacks and Dr. Catherine Birndorf explore the concept of what they call matrescence: a kind of mother-adolescence. Much like during puberty, your body is changing, your hormones are going wild, and you are entering from one phase of your life to a another with plenty of new challenges and changes. There is a shedding of sorts that is happening, some new skin that is being created while I am still raw and exposed to the elements.
Spiritually, I am coming to think about these changes as an inevitable movement through a portal. Like the Mesopotamian goddess Innana, who goes to the underworld, dies, and is reborn again as a new kind of queen, my baby and I will have to dive into the death/life crucible of birth together. We cannot stay in this phase forever, and whatever happens on that day, we cannot return to what life was before. We will be in some new reality, some new sense of self that we cannot currently imagine. My baby came to me from spirit or nothingness to material life. Just a bundle of cells a few short months ago, this baby can now make my belly move and jiggle with kicks and rolls, getting ready to breathe the same air that I do. As the baby moves through the portal from the inside world to the outside, I, too, will be transported into a new state of being—with any luck, that of a healthy mom to a healthy child.
Parenthood is common, one of the most mundane things in the world. But, much like heartbreak, its commonness does nothing to ease the intensity of the experience, nor its uniqueness. Just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean it isn’t magical and transformational (and a little terrifying). As I think about the portal I am about to be shoved through whether I like it or not, I’m thinking about the many things in our lives that are like that: We are constantly, inevitably moving forward in time towards big changes, some of which we want and some of which we don’t. We can’t go back and shrink away from the call to change. The only way forward is through.