Motherly Collective

What words come up for you when you hear the word “postpartum”? 

Most likely depression and anxiety, right? Maybe the baby blues? Those quick answers suggest that there is an implicit bias informing how we treat mothers clinically and support them socially. Society often operates in a love-it or hate-it, all-or-nothing understanding of what it means to be a mother. 

Instead, I would suggest that ambivalence is the cornerstone to one’s matrescence (or the process of becoming a mother) and that in being a mother, it is both full of intense ups and downs, grief and joy and growth and challenge—often all at the same time. 

Educating on this concept of ambivalence widens our conversation when it comes to supporting mothers, clinically and otherwise. They are no longer forced into boxes defined by a clinical diagnosis or a perfect-mother image on social media; they are the majority of mothers in the middle. 

The messy middle, where ambivalence lies. 

They aren’t necessarily the ones who meet the criteria for a perinatal mental health disorder (PMHD) and aren’t the ones wearing matching outfits with their “littles” on Instagram. They aren’t the ones on either end of the spectrum. 

They too, the mothers in the middle, need support.

They feel the intensity of mothering and the pressures of motherhood too. They feel the rage, the joy, the chaos. They run late, they juggle, they play. They feel lost at times, question their purpose and their dreams, struggle to balance their values. They feel the constant push-pull, the tug of war in their emotions, needs and wants. They feel the relentless pressures to be perfect, do it all, sacrifice and keep going. They feel the weight of the world (their world) on their shoulders. They are the ones who cry at times when it all feels too big and too heavy. 

They are the majority of moms in the messy middle of their matrescence. 

They often are silent in their experience because the messy middle isn’t the loudest narrative in our society (yet!). 

And because matrescence is a spectrum, unique to every mother, with each child, it is possible to move back and forth within this spectrum given circumstance, support and other factors (like a previous mental health diagnosis, finances, relationship to partner, etc.). 

If you’re in the middle of your matrescence, what does this mean? 

It means you are normal. Becoming a mother is hard and being a mother is challenging. It’s not just that first year that is deserving of meal trains and extra mental health support… it is all of it; your whole life long. After all, once postpartum, always postpartum. 

It means you deserve to talk things out when you’re struggling. It doesn’t have to be “that bad” nor do you have to wait for it to feel worse… you simply deserve the support. 

It means that yes, being a mother is like feeling everything all at once.  How can you love it so much and also feel so tapped out? How can you miss your old life but also never imagine life without your children? 

It means you aren’t alone. The silent majority is in the messy middle and thankfully, more and more mothers are talking about it. 

And it means that no matter where you are, there is always room for movement, change and difference. With the right support (be it a therapist or friends), you can move in the direction you want to go or stabilize yourself where you are at. 

So here is to the messy middle—the moms in the thick of it. You are worthy of support too, no matter how many years you are postpartum. Your matrescence never ends—and the support you deserve and receive shouldn’t either.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.