Episode 24

#24 Matrescence – Navigating the Identity Shift with Yara Heary The Matrescence Podcast

In this episode, we sit down with Yara Heary, to talk about the identity shift that accompanies matrescence. Yara is a Perth Based psychologist who works exclusively with women throughout conception, pregnancy, and motherhood. Yara started Life After Birth Psychology following the birth of her first son which started her on yet another journey of self-rediscovery. Her experiences throughout early motherhood sparked her passion to support other women as they navigate their own family of origin dynamics, the social programming of the “good mother”, relationship changes with those around them, identity shifts, and role changes to find their place of balance and authenticity as mothers.Throughout this episode we take a look at our identity shifts when we become a mother.  We discuss the fact that sometimes the process of becoming a mother can cause us to  lose touch with ourselves, to let go of our goals, hobbies, aspirations and friendships, and what to do about it. We normalise the changes of matrescence, and the fact that sometimes we are not in love with every single part of it, and we give both hope and strategies to find your way back. me.This conversation brought us right back to the very reason we started this podcast: To better understand matrescence, and how it can affect our experiences as both women and mothers. If you have ever asked the question "Who am I now that I am a mother?" If you have lost touch with your interests and passions. If you sometimes feel discontent or restless in your mothering. If you are feel that your old friendships, career, goals or hobbies are no longer serving you, then this episode is for you. …To  find out more about Yara and the work she does visit  http://www.lifeafterbirth.com.au or engage with her on Instagram @lifeafterbirthpsychologyYara also has an 8 week coaching online group starting next year for mothers called the Rebirth. Interested people can find out more and register at  https://mailchi.mp/lifeafterbirth/rebirthwaitlistTo continue this conversation, connect with us on Instagram: @matrescence.podcast Head to our website: http://www.matrescencematters.com.au To chat to like-minded women, join our Facebook group: Matrescence Matters

Transcript

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Kelly: hi, and welcome to the Matrescence podcast. You hear in the closet with us today?

Uh, super excited about the conversation, which we’ll be having today in a three-way format. Yeah. And partly because we I’m looking in the rear view mirror through my Matrescence journey. Uh, I’m still in it, but at a different phase, Brie’s very much in it. And we’re super curious to talk to you about not only the work you do clinically and academically with women, but also what brought you to this work through your own Matrescence journey.

So, um, tell us your story. How did you end up knowing about Matrescence and doing this work?

Bree: Because really. Generally are bringing the term Matrescence to other people. We certainly didn’t coin it. We don’t claim it, but generally, most people we encounter have never heard of the term. And I do follow you on Instagram.

I love your work big fan. And I have come across you using the term before. And I was like, oh yes. She’s, you know, she’s on the Matrescence training as well.

Yara: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And it’s um, you know, I guess we’ll talk about this more, but the word Matrescence is a beautiful. Gift. I think that we’ve been given in terms of explaining, you know, what’s happening for, for most women from, you know, for all women as they sort of journey through that.

But my own, I guess, journey of ending up in this space in, in what I do for work is very much grounded in my own experience. As you said there, um, in becoming a mother. And I think, you know, many of the women that I have met that work in this space have had a similar journey. It’s often because they’ve gone through becoming a mother and their own challenges and, and, and wins and all of those things that come all together and they have a passion that comes from that.

In fact, I just got another email yesterday from another psychologist in Perth. Who’s on her third maternity leave. And he’s thinking about coming back and moving into this space of work, right. Really it, because there’s just not enough. There’s not enough people doing this kind of work. Um, and so for me personally, I had my first son.

And, um, and this is part of the Matrescence thing too. Like I thought I knew what I was doing and I had a fantasy about how that was going to play out. Once I became a mother in terms of, you know, I will be that kind of mother that, you know, just continues on with my life, the way that it was before. And that, you know, my son will be an easygoing child that fits into.

You know, my expectation of what motherhood is going to look like. And essentially my experience was absolutely not that and was very much like a 360 or 180, like completely on its head, you know, um, and very challenging. And for me, um, Some of the more challenging aspects of becoming a mother was certainly around the relationship dynamic with my partner, with my husband rather, and, and myself, um, as well as some of the relationship changes that happened in my social circle.

Um, so that was one of initially that was the biggest thing for me. And then what came after, because Matrescence is something that continues on it doesn’t end really. And we have, we can have multiple sort of iterations of that, um, is that, um, Over time, you know, it sort of got it got deeper than that. It got much more about myself and my own journey and, um, my own, my own experience of being parented, what that was like, what was missing, what I wanted to bring, what I wanted to leave behind, um, and healing that had to happen there for me as well.

Um, and so that very much was my kind of experience and certainly has continued to be sensitive. Um, another baby, who’s now not a baby anymore. Um, so that certainly was my experience. And I think when. I was in the early stages of my becoming of a mother. Uh, I found that there was just, I couldn’t find what I needed out there in terms of support in terms of, um, people telling me that it was okay and I wasn’t just going completely bonkers, you know, like I just, I couldn’t find that.

And in particular, around the relationship stuff with my husband, so that, because that was the biggest thing for me early on, I was really looking for information for me. Um, as a, as a woman, as a mother going through this experience, but also as a, as a therapist, in terms of how can I explain this to other people?

Um, what happens in the relationship itself? Because it completely changes and it has to, because we become different people and our partners have that same experience too. Um, and in my sort of research for what I could do to learn for myself in order to better, my relationship I came across, I already was familiar with the Gottman’s, but I came across there.

Um, workshop that they do, which is called, um, bringing baby home. And at the time there were no facilitators in Australia and there was no, um, education being provided for like, for training here in Australia either. So I was like, okay, well, I’ll have to fly to the states at some point and do this thing because I was so invested in learning more about that.

And then, yeah. By chance. I think it’s just one of those things. You put it out in the world and, um, you know, a year and a half after I’d already started down this sort of rabbit, Warren of looking for stuff to do the training in this space, um, uh, training became available in Canberra. So I went and did that and just had my mind blown in terms of going, why was these.

Not available for me. Like, why did I not know about this? Why it felt like this big secret that I’d stumbled upon. And it was like, everything was so clear and explained so effortlessly all of what I had gone through in terms of my relationship, but also there were parts of there that were very much about the mother as well.

And I was just like, wow, this is mind blowing. And that was really just, um, Just the very surface level level of that journey for me. And then going into this space of learning about Matrescence and then, you know, doing that sort of stuff. It, it was just it, the more I get into it, the bigger the whole thing gets.

And I think it’s really interesting because I think the process of Matrescence is very much, um, You know, one that continues to unfold throughout our journey as mothers and my, my experience of learning about it and, um, working with women in it is also that same thing as that, it just continues to unfold.

So the gift that keeps on giving, um, So that has been, um, a really beautiful thing. So, you know, naturally what happened then is because my world became so focused in this space that I just ended up deciding, you know what, I’m going to niche in this space, and this is what I want to do. And. Is a space I feel passionate about.

I think also, you know, being in this motherhood space, I have a real yearning to be with women as well. And so, you know, niching my practice into one that was about specifically working with women felt really good for me as a person, as a therapist. Like, it just felt very aligned for where I am in my life right now.

Um, and I feel like that’s not going to change. That’s going to stay there. You know, I feel like, um, You know, part of this Matrescence thing is learning more about myself as a woman and, um, and valuing all parts of that and valuing to a deeper degree, the relationship that comes from being with women as well.

And so that’s just something that, you know, has flowed on into my practice and that sort of stuff. So yeah, here I am now. Um, and it’s been such an incredible experience actually to see. How much response I’ve had from people in this space. It’s just insane. I, you know, I get people contacting me from all over the world.

From in Australia. I have people that I’ve met at various points in my personal life or that, you know, someone that I’ve met once it gave them a carrier. You know, dropped off a feeding, um, you know, SNS thing or something, you know, contacted me the other day, just saying I found your thing and it’s been so helpful.

And it’s just so mind blowing actually. Cause it’s like, oh, this is actually meaningful to people. You know, like, cause it’s my own experience. I’m like, hopefully this is useful for someone. And it’s a beautiful thing to hear people say, oh, it’s really, you know, making a change and a difference for my experience of motherhood.

So.

Bree: Absolutely. And interestingly, I was saying to hell before, just before we jumped on that, I mentioned on our stories that we were having you on to speak in a few people came back and said, oh God, I’m so excited. I love Yara as my ex. So that’s really cool. And you touched on it earlier, but that’s something that we hear time and time again as well is once people start to gain an awareness of what Matrescence is there going, oh my gosh.

Yeah. That makes so much sense. I wish I’d known before I had my baby. I wish I’d known when I had my first child, not my third. Um, and that’s kind of our mission is to share, but we are sharing that from our perspective as mothers, um, not, not coming from a psychological background or anything like that.

So I’m really curious to hear your understanding of Matrescence and what that involves, um, from your perspective.

Yara: Sure. And it’s interesting. Cause I think, you know, when I think about my own challenges, as well as all of the wonderful things that motherhood brings, and then I compare that to the things that women bring to me.

So in my one-on-one work, I have the same things that come up constantly with clients. And that is, um, things to do with relationship changes, um, that could be with their partners or with their friendship groups or with, you know, um, Making new friends being kind of like when you show up at school at a new school in your teen years, for example.

And it’s like that awkwardness of trying to find someone that you fit with and trying to connect with people. So you have someone to join you on that sort of journey. Um, so that kind of, that kind of stuff, there’s lots of. Guilt and all of that, and, and shame is a really big one identity shifts, you know, physiological changes, including, um, you know, actual changes that you can see in your body as well as internally what’s going on.

So for people like hormones and, you know, things like that. So there’s, so for me, Matrescence is really, uh, It describes the process of becoming a mother. And I, I just want to say there though that it’s not necessarily goal orientated, so it’s not about like you get to this certain point in your mother and then from then on, you know what you’re doing and you operate from this space.

It’s very much that the becoming is a continual evolution. I think that happens for us. And as I said earlier, that every child that we have, and at different phases throughout our mothering, that we can sort of like. It can bring itself up more sort of, um, More than the same recipe. That’s the word that’s coming up for me, but it becomes more salient, I guess, at those sorts of points as well.

And so really the term Matrescence for me is explaining what happens for women when they’re moved from maiden to mother, in terms of, um, the physiological changes for us, the spiritual changes that happen for us, our social changes, um, you know, all of this sort of stuff, stuff to do with our identity changes.

Changes of values, um, you know, sociopolitical aspects as well in there. So it really explains all of what happens, um, in terms of, uh, the guilt and, and that sort of stuff. I think, knowing that there is a term for this, that there is this term called Matrescence. One of the things I have found about that is it has allowed me to switch off the narrative.

Um, Which is, you know, the social narrative, I guess, in, in our kind of culture anyway, which is about women being these kind of matters, or these people who, you know, give everything of themselves and ha and, and, and, and kind of disappear in motherhood and knowing about matricis has allowed me. And I think for many women to switch that off a little bit and tune into their intuition a little bit more.

And allow space for all of the experiences that happen, um, in motherhood without feeling guilt and shame about them, which is what we would feel if we really take hold and intern and internalize this narrative of like motherhood fulfills you and makes you feel great all the time. And you know, you never want.

Get away from your children and you know, like this kind of peachy, Sunday vibe that, you know, that are, um, that is the sort of social narrative for us here in Australia and other kinds of west really westernized cultures obviously. Cause that differs depending on where you are. Um, You know, when I was talking before about that, um, experience of trying to fit in, in a new school, for example, and, you know, get new friends and stuff.

The reason also why that came to my mind is because Matrescence is really, um, similar in a way or comparable to that shift that happens for us when we’re moving through being children, to becoming adults. And there’s that space in the middle, which is adolescence and all that awkwardness that exists there and that self doubt and not knowing where we fit.

Physiological changes, spiritual changes, you know, um, psychological changes. It’s the same sort of experience that we have. And I think for, um, for, for us as we’ve journeyed through that development, there was a period of time where even adolescence was not really understood and there wasn’t even a word for that.

And it was almost like. Um, you know, the perspective during that time they’ve been, you know, these people, these children are acting very mad in this space in between, you know, moving from being children, into moving, to being adults. And I think that, you know, when we don’t have an understanding of what Matrescence is, and in terms of having that label and knowing that this is all normal, that the challenge is normal, that the pain that we experienced throughout that process is normal.

We can think that we’re going. You know what I mean? We can feel like our world is falling apart. Like we’re doing this alone that no one else is here. When we have that word, we know that actually all women are going through this. We’re all struggling with the same things. Um, you know, and we feel less alone simply from that, um, from, from having that kind of label around that.

So I think it’s just, it’s just so important. And I think also, you know, everyone’s experience of Matrescence is different depending on, like I said, the. Social space that you’re in, um, you know, geographically, um, the age that you’re at, the history that you bring with you in terms of your own childhood and the kinds of, uh, role modeling or.

You know, unmet needs for example, and things that you carry from then. So it really depends. And, and that’s also what explains, why people experienced Matrescence with less or greater difficulty at different points throughout that journey. So some people, you know, initially may have a really wonderful transition in those first months, for example, but then really struggle, you know, moving towards that year or later, or some people might really struggle right from the begin.

And in some cases that can be because we’ve got unresolved birth trauma that, you know, that is there right at the beginning with us. So it really, for me, it really just allows women to know that they’re okay, that they’re normal, that everybody is going through the same thing, but it also, um, allows us to know here are all of the parts that make up becoming a mother.

You know, like there is this, um, the social part, you know what I talked about, the emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical, all of those different parts. And there are so many parts within each of those, of course, but it allows us to know that this is all normal. It also allows us to make space within the kind of narrative of motherhood, which allows for the good and the bad, rather than.

You know this idea that it’s always going to be sunshine and, and all of that sort of thing. So I think it’s beautiful because it means less guilt and shame for people in terms of accepting that things are really difficult. There are, they are painful, but also we can have that and we can also have the good, you know, I can have days where.

You know, it’s that thing where, you know, mums often talk about their kids finally go to sleep and then they’re just like wake up. You know, it’s like those two things can absolutely exist. We go and finally get a weekend away. And all we think about and talk about is our kids. While we’re gone, we can have both those two things.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, but not crazy. This is just normal part of. Of being a mother and becoming a mother. So yeah, hopefully that’s clear.

Bree: Yeah, no perfectly said. And I think it speaks to, I think the term is dualities that right? The duality of motherhood where you can experience both. And, um, interestingly, I had this conversation come up in my personal life recently where, um, Someone had gone through a lot of work to become a mom.

She’d really had to go through IVF, multiple rounds, and she expressed a lot of guilt and shame surrounding not loving every single second of it. And I’ve heard multiple iterations of that story. Um, From people in my life and people need to net, and it’s such a bizarre concept that we should love and enjoy and be present in every single moment of motherhood.

It’s it’s just so unrealistic.

Yara: Yeah.

Kelly: And to your point before you, you, you obviously called out the fact that the relationships that you had with your partner and your friends came into lens. I feel like the complexity of how evolved those relationships are. I really put under the microscope when we have children, particularly if you don’t have, um, the, the communication beforehand, there can be a bit of all, this is what you wanted.

So now it’s on you and yeah, we, we will often carry that ourselves, even when someone else doesn’t say it. Yes. And so, you know, I guess from, uh, one of the reasons we really came to have this conversation was we’ve been thinking a lot and talking a lot about the birth that, you know, The mothering beads, but not about us as women and how we evolve our identities.

So that, that piece about what is an identity and what shifts. Inside of that. Is it a complete trying on, of new things? Is it an evolution? How does that work from a psychological perspective? Because identity is something that is consistently comes up.

Bree: Yeah. And who am I now? Something that I love from your Instagram.

I believe it was on your page, correct me if I’m wrong. Was that you said that it’s not identity loss, it’s identity evolution. Does that sound like something

Yara: you’d say yeah. Yes. Yes. Cause that’s exactly what I was thinking. As you were saying. Yeah. Evolution. Absolutely. Look, I really think that, um, I actually spent some time this week talking to clients.

The idea of where they’re at in their journey, that they feel good and you, you know, some of them were raising the concern about, but what about when I get to that next struggle? And I think that, you know, when I think sometimes we can get into this space where we think, okay, if we get into a next struggle, it means that nothing we’ve done so far has worked, or we haven’t moved.

At all, or we haven’t evolved in any way. We’re back to square one, if we struggle again. And I think that that isn’t the case at all, because what’s happened is we’ve used the skills that we’ve learned up until then to get to that point. But we’ve just come up against another challenge we haven’t faced before.

And so for me, when I was talking to those women, it was like, I was trying to explain to them, you need to see it as an evolution and you need to see your journey in life as a whole, as being. That thing about being an evolution, it’s not like you get to this point in a similar to Matrescence, you don’t get to this point.

And then you’re like, okay, cool. I know all the things, and now I’m set for life and never going to have an issue again, you know, it’s like, you know, your, your skills are always going to be tested throughout life. And that is the process of growth. And so similarly for an identity identity is really just the way that we view ourselves, the things that, um, that we do on a regular basis consistently.

That we do that make up our belief system about who we are and often the things we do, other things that matter to us. Um, we can obviously also do things that don’t necessarily matter to us, but feel other laws in terms of am talking, I’m thinking well, I’m sort of maladaptive kind of ways that, that feel roles in terms of allowing us to avoid or self-soothing or whatever, but generally speaking, in terms of identity, I think for mothers, when.

You know, me, myself, I had this thing of like going, yep, I’m still going to be the same person. And I remember, you know, lots of people saying this will change and that will change. And this will change. And me and my husband being very protective about our space and, and, um, our identities going, oh, what would they know?

We’re not going to change where these people, we know who we are, all this sort of stuff. And I think that. You know, it was so painful to realize that actually there really was a shift. There was a real shift and there was a big shift for me. And there was a big shift for him. And I think it’s, um, you know, this idea of not knowing who we are.

Um, in terms of our identity is a normal part of Matrescence and it’s because everything has changed. So nothing has stayed the same. And I, and I think that on a spiritual level, you you’ve, you know, you’ve birthed another person. Um, and there is someone else here now that needs care, even if it takes you some time to get that.

That love, you know, we taught some women have their babies and just feel completely loved straight away some, but some women have their babies and it takes them a while to develop that. And there is nothing wrong with either of those two things. But now we, we have this person who we are responsible for.

Right. And there is a spiritual essence in there too. And I think that for us to believe that we can do that to create life and still be the same person at the end of that in any shape way or form is just, it’s false. It’s a false hood. And I think to some degree that comes from this, I guess the way that our culture is here, which is a very individualistic type culture where we don’t share in the sort of transition to motherhood in any kind of ritualistic way.

And so we are sort of, you know, that happens behind closed doors. And so we don’t know that this is happening, so we’re not prepared for it, but it also has a lot to do with the social narrative around being a progressive woman, which is someone who. Manages to do everything basically, you know, and, um, you know, and has all sorts of challenges and remains unchanged.

And I think that it’s, um, it’s normal for us to internalize those things and then to go into motherhood and think that we can apply that in this space as well. But I think that, yes, I, I really view identity as this constantly evolving concept. And so. Um, you know, for many women, there is a lot of grief when they get into this space, they become mothers and they’re like, oh, I don’t, I can’t do any of the things that made up who I thought I was anymore.

You know, even just in terms of like spontaneity, like being able to just do things on a whim, right. I don’t have access to these things. And I also have all these weird feelings going on inside me that I haven’t felt maybe for a long time or ever. And I thought I was a grown woman. That I could manage all these things who could regulate and blah, blah, blah.

And then, you know, we get to this space where we just don’t know it beginners again, we’re novices again. And that really is, is a very rattling experience for most of us. And I think that one of the things that I often. Say to women, is that, you know, through the evolution that our identity goes through, it doesn’t mean that when, when you become a mother, that you can no longer hold on to any parts of who you were before.

It just means that we have to consider it as a seasonal thing. Phase thing. And I think that there is a trying on, of new identities that happens as well. And we, um, and, and I think that in order to do that, we have to make space for that within ourselves. And sometimes that means shedding parts of who we were before that no longer compatible with where we are in life now.

And sometimes it means, you know, getting creative and rethinking how we can act. You know, those parts of our identities that still matter to us, but in a way that fits within our phase of life at this time, you know? And so, so, you know, one of the, I love this, um, this metaphor about, you know, every flower has its season, you know?

And so there may be things that you really love, but when you have a newborn, you know, especially in that area, Stage. It’s just incredibly limiting in terms of what you can do, um, in terms of what you can go out and do. And so in that phase, it might be that what’s needed, there is a reframe. So we are in dormancy here in terms of some parts of our identity are being a dormant right now.

That doesn’t mean goodbye. It just means I’ll see you maybe. Amount of time, you know, um, you know, and also they’re getting creative about how we can be in contact with parts of our identity that matter. And one of the things that I shared recently, I think it was on the Instagram was just that, you know, exercise for me was a really big part of who I was.

But at the time when I had my first, um, And I really didn’t want to let go of that. And so I found ways to make it happen within what could be, you know? And so that meant, you know, in the past, because I was very athletic in the past, it meant, you know, spending like an hour and a half to two hours in the gym and like loving every second of it.

Like I loved it and now it meant, you know, like 15 minutes, but it meant that I still got to access that and I had to let go of that feeling. It’s not enough or it doesn’t, you know, it’s not equal to, if I can’t do it like I did before, it’s not equal to. And I think we have to become flexible, um, in our, in our thinking about how we access parts of our identity.

So, um, yeah. I hope that answers your question around. Yeah, I see it as an evolution. I see it as a. Rejigging of parts that already were, and trying on of parts that we haven’t had before, because you know, this is all new. We have to, we have to do that.

Kelly: Yeah. Look, I, it does answer my question and I really like, and I guess from my review, Looking back.

I’m now at the stage where I get to try on some of those things that I used to love, you know, in the last year I’ve had a chance to test out going back to playing volleyball, which I used to love. And I went three or four times went, yeah, not need that one anymore. And then I’m like, I want to go back rock climbing.

Cause I used to be a rock climber. That was part of my identity. It was something that I felt resonated with who I was. I went back a few times and then my poor partner. Don’t you want to climb anywhere? And I’m like, no, sorry. It doesn’t fit anymore. Like I wanted to do it because I felt like I wanted to go back, but you can’t go back.

There is no going back. So the question is, is this something I want to do going forward? Not go back. And so that’s. Lens was super important. And, you know, I often I do a lot of career conversations with, you know, people of all different ages, genders, et cetera, in my work. And it was sort of trying on my own advice of saying it’s a, it’s a winding road, but it is one directional.

It doesn’t mean there’s not cul-de-sacs and dead ends because there are contacts and dating. But it’s still one way you can’t go back. I’m sorry. But there is no, that reverses just feels bumpy and like, you can’t see where you’re going. You’re much better off going forward, even if that is a little bit scary.

So, um, that sort of helped me to frame that, that identity.

Bree: Yeah. I love what you said about it being dormant, because it’s such a lovely way to think of it. And I know for me as well, there was that grief of you don’t most of us don’t come to market. Well, hopefully not liking our life. We like the way we do things, the nature of our relationship, how we spend our time.

So, so often there is that that perception of I’m not going to change, you know, the baby’s going to fit in around my lifestyle. And for me, that just created a lot of resistance to what was, and so I was not able to enjoy mothering when I was doing that. Cause I was thinking about what I would have been doing in the past, how I would like to spend my time otherwise and frustration.

Like you, my idea of exercises an hour and a half, and it was next to impossible to make that happen. So I was just constantly frustrated. And this time around, I feel like I’ve more been able to go, all right, I’m going to get eight minutes of exercising today. I’ve got a 10 week old baby. That’s as good as it’s going to get.

And it’s better than nothing. And as he said, I think that it’s not always the case. You know, we, I think we have a finite amount of pieces that make up our identity and that’s constantly shifting. So in order to make room for some of the new ones, some are going to get pushed out permanently or just temporarily.

But yeah, while I think when you become a mum it’s quite old encompassing, you know, no matter how you, how your experience. It’s always the all encompassing, but as you get further along your mothering journey, there is more time and more mind space and more resources to be able to go. Hi. I wonder actually, if I can make space for that, I wonder if it’s still a good fit for me.

And it’s so interesting that you brought up the trying on of identities because I was in preparation for this interview. I was thinking about that and having high school. You know, you go through that phase of like, maybe I swear, maybe I’m the kind of person that’s, maybe I’m a vegan. I might be a vegan.

And like a lot of people get 30 days in there, like not for me. And so you kind of keep trying yeah. On different models for what a good adolescent looks like, what a good mother looks like. And then I think with time, you kind of people feel quite aligned with one identity when it comes to parenting. But for the vast majority of us, we just kind of settle into it.

This is me. This is how I mother, and it looks a little bit different to each and every other different person. And it’s kind of like a confident, you know, you can breathe a sigh of relief when you get to that point of, you know, feeling comfortable in

Yara: totally. When you were saying that something that just came to my mind was when you were talking about the adolescent thing, I think one of the differences that exist in the adolescence phase versus this Matrescence phase is that, you know, I’ve heard.

Quite a few mothers who’ve come to me. And when they’ve tried on parts of their old identity and it hasn’t felt right for them, that there’s a lot of grief there for them. They think something’s wrong with me. Like, something is really wrong with me. I used to love this and now I don’t love it. Like what’s wrong.

I mean, there’s a lot of like beating up and guilt that happens. Whereas I think in that adolescent stage, because we are not necessarily, um, Married to any particular identity yet there’s so much more freedom around trying on these different types of identities. And I just wanted to point that out because I was thinking about that also, when you were speaking earlier and, you know, I think that it’s just one of the things that I do is saying to women, like it’s okay.

It’s okay. If you don’t like that anymore, that means now that you’ve got space to try something new, let’s make a list of things that you’ve always thought about trying and yeah. And give that a go because there can be. And I think part of that is also that we can become so tied to this. Like I said, this social pressure and expectation that we remain the same that, you know, and we hear that, not just from, you know, advertising and media and stuff, but even.

People in, in our lives, I’ve had people say to me, you’ve changed, you know, like a negative thing. And I’m like, yeah, I have changed. And I’m so glad. Yeah. Change, you know, like my eyes are wide open, so, you know, and, and being okay with that and being firm in that, seeing that as a positive thing, not as like necessarily, I mean, you know, grieve the loss, but then we moved to the next phase, which is okay, great.

Now I’ve got space for something.

Bree: Yeah. And I think that Kellen, I was saying before that we think that generally, most people do actually become more aligned as they move into motherhood. And along in that journey, you like really find a sense of yourself and feel settled. But I was thinking before, and I’m going to tread lightly because I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to share, I guess.

A couple of years back, I was working in a Villa, well volunteering, um, in a parenting program where we worked with parents who were perhaps socially isolated or, um, asylum seekers, there was language barriers and social isolation and all that kind of thing. Um, but, but the demographic that we work with.

Also that interested me was mums who were high-achieving career-driven very successful. And so we had these, you know, we had maybe, um, low people. Low socioeconomic areas and, um, who didn’t speak the language and then this group of people, and it was so odd, but what they said was that generally we find that these women, not all of course, are having quite a tough time transitioning into that motherhood space and feeling settled.

And so they’re so restless and might struggle to bond. And is that something that you’ve seen in your practice? Is there a specific type of person that you feel. Struggles more with the identity shift, um, than others, or is it pretty universal?

Yara: I think that, um, yes, it makes a lot of sense what you’re saying there.

And I think that there’s a few reasons. One of them is also possibly because those women might be older women. I’m going to make a guess about in terms of, if they’re at certain more high. Yeah levels in their career that they’re older women who, and so for women who are older, they’re already very settled in terms of their identity and what their day-to-day looks like.

And, you know, they’ll potentially might have some, you know, especially if they’re career women, they might have goals, big goals for the future and that sort of stuff. And maybe come to mothering more. So with this idea that their child, their children, their babies, will fit in to allow them to continue down that journey.

And I think, um, So that’s one of the things. So when you say, is there a trend? I think it’s all the women in general might struggle more with identity stuff. And that’s because they are already very found in, in some way, you know, and they’ve been doing what they’re doing in their lives for a much longer time.

I think that women. You know, this is again, not all women, but I think typically women who are younger actually struggled less with that. Um, and there’s also stuff to do with the physical, the physicality of, you know, bearing a baby going through birth recovery. And those for, you know, that first year or longer than it takes for babies to settle into it.

And I think that that has more of an impact on older people in general as well, because we just don’t recover as quickly. Um, and so yes, I, a hundred percent can see that. And really it’s because what motherhood is asking for us to do is to lean in and let go, and to slow down, you know, that’s what motherhood requires of us in order to get to a space where.

We feel like we’re thriving and you know, I use this word a lot on my social media and stuff, and I’m always cautious to say, when I speak about thriving in motherhood, I don’t mean that you love every moment. I don’t mean that you feel like you always have control over everything. It doesn’t mean that your children listen to you all the time or that they’re perfectly behaved.

It means that you feel like you’ve got the skills, the resources, the support in order to manage the good and the bad. That’s what that means. And I think that, you know, and I think for us to be in that space, there has to be a letting go because if we don’t let go, we are resisting the whole time. And when we are in resistance, it feels terrible.

Our body is activated in, in a way, like, um, into like a threat response into a stress response. So it doesn’t feel good. It feels terrible. Um, you know, it ages us. And so I think that if we are, you know, coming into motherhood with this mindset, then. We aren’t going to change and that everything is going to fit into our lives.

We’ll be able to bounce back and you know, all of this sort of stuff. And if we also have, you know, one of the things I’ve learned is letting go of things that I had planned for the future and allowing life to just unfold. And when it feels like it’s going to fit and when it feels like everything’s aligned, well, then I make it.

But, you know, it’s really difficult. I think in motherhood to be able to say in this amount of time, this is what I want to be achieving say in my return to career or whatever it might be. Because even when you do return to work, for example, you know, since we’re talking about career women, you know, your kids get sick.

You know, also things happen all the time and you know, most mothers are the primary caregivers. And so they’re the ones that are having to let go, let go, let go. And if we hold onto this idea that, you know, um, we’re going to reach these certain goals and, um, And that our identity won’t change and that our circumstances won’t change.

We end up going through motherhood with them, a lot of resentment as well is the other thing that really builds through that. And that resentment then can be directed at our children because we see them as the reason why we can’t move forward in life. And I think that we have to be able to let go and say, I’m just going to, I’m going to let go.

I’m going to go with the flow, get on their level, get on their speed on our children’s speed. They operate very slow and they’re very present focused. And I think that that’s. Based that we really thrive in as mothers and taking the opportunities when they arise. So, yeah, I totally can see that. That is the case.

And certainly have heard that with clients that I work with and even friends that I have in this space as well. Yeah.

Kelly: Yeah. So it an interesting point. Yeah. And just a little personal anecdote. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was 30 and my, my husband. Nice was pregnant at the same time and she was 17.

So we’re were side-by-side in pregnancy. And just our experiences of talking to her were completely different. And a lot of it was expectation. So it wasn’t just that I thought on this point, change. It was that I thought I knew

Yara: stuff like, yes,

Kelly: I’m good at stuff. Like I know how to do stuff. Yeah. She had no expectation.

So there was this element of naturally slowing down, naturally understanding that she wouldn’t know how to do it, that she needed to learn skills that she had to receive help. Whereas 30 year old me who was moving to London for a big corporate global job was like, I got this. Like, I can, I can run a global team.

Cause I can have a baby. So there’s this massive expectation gap, which didn’t allow me to let go and be involved in the learning and the trying on, of different identities, which created friction. Yeah.

Bree: Sorry. And I imagine for a lot of people, maybe such, such as your Kelly’s that, you know, you find that you’re good at your career and that people then may gravitate back towards work, want to work more because they feel really comfortable and capable in that space.

And then when you come home, it’s like chaotic and you feel like, you know, nothing, whereas. For me. I had my little boy about a week after I turned 22. So it was really quite young and I had never, um, lived out of home. I wasn’t married yet. I was, you know, in a stable relationship, but I had this, like, I’d never had to cook for myself or my family or grocery shop.

And so I was learning all these things on the job while learning to mother, and that was challenging, but there was this real sense of like, all right, we’re figuring this out together, you know? I’m the person that has it figured out. And you’re the little infant it’s like, we are both learning a lot of things in this season and whatever

Yara: way.

Yeah. That’s a beautiful mentality to have. Absolutely. And I just wanted to also speak on this career thing about knowing what you’re doing and feeling like. Got it all figured out. The other part there, I think is that, you know, if we are career people and we’re doing well in what we’re doing, and we’re all, you know, all the women who in this space, it’s also that we tend to, um, derive a lot of pleasure through achievement, you know?

So achieving things, being able to say, I’ve done this, this, this, and then we enter motherhood and there is no. Achievement in motherhood. You don’t know how you’re going in motherhood until your kids are much, much older. So there’s, there’s a real sense of like there, there is, um, you know, expecting, you know, the way that it needs to be is that there is no feedback loop in motherhood necessarily, which continuously tells you that you’re doing a good job.

And so that I think is a really. Piece, and I definitely have struggled with that myself. Um, the other thing is that, you know, the trend that is happening all over the world is that women are having children later. So I think that this experience of struggling with identity change in particular, Um, and this achievement thing and all that sort of stuff is something that we will continue to see as a bigger problem, um, which is also why discussing Matrescence and making sure people know about it is so important because it gives people permission to not have to hold themselves to the same standards that they have before.

You know, so I think that’s really important too.

Kelly: Yeah. And the word Matrescence itself at allows, because language is so important. It’s so much more space when we use the word mother, it really zooms in on a relationship between the woman and her baby, but Matrescence is about so much more than that.

It’s about the relationship with yourself, with your partner, with your other siblings. Family, as you’ve mentioned with your own siblings and your own experience of growing up and your village and the social circle, how you make friends. So what I love about Matrescence is it’s a bigger container for us to find our place in.

Whereas if we only talk about it as mothering, it’s like, well, I can only do referencing in terms of how I relate

Yara: to your bank. Which is actually,

Kelly: they just like a mirror reflecting back on you, going, who are you? Who do you want to be? Who do you want to spend your time with? So that’s one of the one deserve Matrescence because it is such a varied experience.

Bree: For a lot of women who are goal-oriented high achievers, that lack of feedback and sense of achievement in motherhood. What we often do is we turn to trying to be and striving to be the perfect mom. So we’re doing the baby sensory where cooking all the meals from scratch, where trying to maintain a spotless house.

And I know I went through that and it was so unfulfilling. I really expected it to fill my cup and make me feel successful. But at the end of the day, I was just exhausted. Still it wasn’t fulfilling. And for me, I, part of that was learning to like, get comfortable with the lack of feedback. And part of that was going actually, you know, I, I need something for me as a woman outside of motherhood to give me those things.

So for me, that was doing some volunteering and returning to uni and that’s going to look different for different people. But I think that there’s huge value in acknowledging. Before you were a mother, you were a person, you were a woman, and you’re still that person in some capacity. So, you know, making space for motherhood to be part of your identity, but not the entire,

Yara: the only thing I love that I really love that.

And I think you really touched on such a key point there about Matrescence really being about centering the work. In this, you know, in this conversation rather than centering the outcome of the child, which is how it has been until up until this, this word that came around, sort of in the seventies and then was kind of revived in sort of 2008 or 2010.

And I think. You know, it’s such an important thing because women and the work of mothers and, um, and the experience of women throughout this process was invisible. You know, it didn’t matter. I, a lot of that has to do with how that came about the people who were doing the study of the experience of motherhood, you know, which typically were men, you know, so I agree.

I just love the way that it’s become. Something that we can hold like a torch and be like, you know, all of the stuff that falls beneath this is okay. And it’s also okay to send to myself. I think that’s the other thing that’s really, it’s given to the individual woman, the signal that it’s okay for her.

Distinct about her and to focus about her, to think about her needs, um, and what makes her feel alive in her world, in, in total and as a mother, you know? So I think that that’s really important. Yeah. Yeah. And w

Kelly: while I’m not an anthropologist or an evolutionary biologist, I feel like we’ve got into social narrative now that really.

Pigeonhole people it’s becoming polarized in black and white. You know, you’re either a career woman or you’re a mother, you’re a stay at home mother. Although, so we, we go into this. Identity shifts sometimes saying, oh, if I’m going to be a stay-at-home mum, that’s all I can be. And that really doesn’t allow the space to say during this season, when I have some restrictions around my time and movement, which is what you get when you get a newborn.

You know, what are the other parts of myself that I want to explore? Because I’m not in structured work or I am no longer doing that part. And even if in the very light research that I’ve done into different tribal cultures, none of those tribal cultures expect women to do it. Stay at home and feed their baby.

They’re part of a tribe of a village that have different roles. There’s collective other responsibilities and roles and parts of themselves. They explore during that season. And yet our societies, as we’ve pointed out, somehow we’ve ended up with a narrative that doesn’t allow us those spaces to see that it can be more than.

And to lean into that phase with that view of I’m adding something to my life, not stuff’s being taken away from me. And so being back in our.

Bree: Yeah. And I think we’re probably going to move towards wrapping up a little bit. We could talk to you all day and actually we were set on this topic and then I watched an IGT be from you speaking about the return to intimacy after baby.

And I was like, oh, maybe we need to do that topic. So I’m sure we’ll have you on again. But I guess there’s probably going to be a lot of people listening who are in the thick of this at the moment. And I think one part of this story is to normalize the experience and that is reassuring in itself. Are there any other strategies you have for women who are really feeling lost in this season?

Like they are really having that existential question of who am I? Yes. How can they find their way?

Yara: Hmm. I think, you know, there’s, there’s two things. So I talk often about values and sometimes I feel that when I start talking about that, people go, what is she? Because I feel like valleys is a thing it’s, it can be hard to, to grab onto and to make very clear.

But I think that when we are able to identify what our values are as women and in the space of mothering, I think that that can help clarify a lot of what’s happening in our lives. So. You know, for me personally, if I talk about myself, you know, my values, um, uh, around that I really value things like just being silly and playful.

And you probably see that on my Instagram, like, I’m really, you know, I like to talk about the serious things, but I also have this other side of it, which is a clown. And so I’m like I have to have that in my life. And so then I go and look at, well, what can I do? How can I be in touch with these families on a daily basis?

So some of that might be clowning around on Instagram, or it might be, make doing dance classes or whatever it might be. Right. Um, and then, you know, as far as me as a woman, I have got values around personal growth. So I engage in, you know, therapy in my own personal, uh, other kind of group, um, sort of pursuits that I do as well.

And things like that. Then I have values around my, my relationship and how I show up. Space. And then I have values also around, um, my mothering and what is important for me. And I guess, um, the memories and the foundations that I want to set up for my children so that when they are like, you know, in their twenties, if someone said to them, what do you remember about your mother and your childhood?

That I have clear ideas about what I want that to sound like. And a lot of it is for me, it’s to do with relationship and connection and things like that. And so when, when we become clear on what our values are, it means we can let go of some of the more socially prescribed parts that we bring to motherhood with.

So these expectations that you were talking about, um, you know, things like, you know, I’m not going to change or I’m going to snap back, or I’m just going to go back to exercise or I’m just going to go back to work or, um, you know, I’m still gonna be. The party girl or the whatever, whatever the person who’s not serious.

I can let go of that. And I have permission. I can give myself permission to say that actually isn’t, what’s important for me. If I want to live in an alignment with my values, then I need to let go of that. So that allows for that. So I think Valley’s work is so important. Um, sitting down and I know that this journaling thing is such a big, I always feel like yucky saying the word journal.

Cause I feel like everyone says it and everyone’s like, what am I doing? Like how does this look? That really is just writing things down. So I often say to my clients just write letters to the universe. It doesn’t have to be, there is no goal necessarily, but in Valley’s work, it’s really asking the questions of what’s important for me, what’s important for me as a woman.

And what’s important for me. Yeah. For my family. And what’s important for me with, um, in the context of my relationship and then in the context of my, um, sorry, intimate relationship, and then in terms of with my children. So getting clear on what that looks like, and I think that the part where you say what’s important for me is the part where the identity stuff.

Starts to show up more clearly. So, you know, and some of the work we can do there about identifying who we were in the past is really important first. So what did we used to do? What did we spend our time doing? What got us passionate? What got us angry about things in the past? Do those things still matter to us today?

What does our life look like? Right. What parts of those things that we did before might actually fit in right now, do we have the social supports and you know, or time, or, you know, um, availability in terms of the development of our children, to be able to be more in touch with those things. What are those things might I really be passionate about and love, but they don’t, it fit in my life right now.

So I just say, I came in to save and then bookmark you for later. And I’m going to come back and try this again later. So I think, yeah, being very conscious about doing this work. So I think people and part of this is just because we’re so busy as mothers, right? We have so much thinking that goes on in our mind, but one of the best things that we can do is start to get this stuff out onto paper so that we can look back to it.

And also so that in like, you know, Tom, if you’re having these same sort of worries and the same existential crisis, you can come back and look at it and think, okay, what didn’t work here that I’ve done before. So I think that actually doing the work of making things, you know, writing things out on paper.

So looking at what are your values and then specifically around your identity, what are the things like? How would you describe yourself? Who did you think you were before you became a mother? What parts of that? Do you have grief about, you know, um, What parts of that might you be able to bring to your life now?

That’s kind of the stuff that I would sort of, that’s where I work with women in terms of trying to actually, you know, put language to the experience that they’re having, as well as trying to carve a way out for them in terms of like, okay, well, because also I think that, that, that thing about being the invisible mother, you know, we do that as well in terms of, we, you know, we.

I focused on the outcome of our children. So we must disappear, right? Not really, but we made think that we must have, we must have to disappear. Our needs have to disappear in order to meet the needs of children, because children, children will take and take and take and contain. They are just like, it is nonstop.

If you, the more you give the more space they have for it, but you, you know, and so it’s really important for us as women to know. Where’s the boundary. How, you know, where do we need to stop so that we don’t give away all parts of ourselves. So we still have some, something left to be able to give. Does that make sense?

Bree: Perfect. I love that. Now wrapping up. The last thing that I want to ask is where can people connect with you? Because I’ve a feeling, a lot of people are going to listen to this and want to hear more from you and to engage with you and your work and your services. So where can we send people?

Yara: Sure. Um, so you can follow me on Instagram, which is at life after birth psychology.

Um, or you can find me on the internet through my website, which is life after birth.com.edu. Um, and yeah, so I do one-on-one work and obviously speak to people like yourselves, but also, you know, Plans. And this is one of those things, you know, I was talking about letting go of plans for the future and just letting things go as they go.

So I have all sorts of plans going on in my head around how I can create, um, you know, offerings that can support more women because I’m a solo practitioner and I, you know, have my family and all of that sort of stuff. So I’m trying to think about how can I do that? The information that I delivered to my clients in a one-on-one setting in a more educational based way so that people can take that away, apply it to their own lives, where it works, um, and make those changes that they need to make in their lives.

So that’s something that’s happening in terms of my mind, I’ve created. I’ve started creating towards that, which will be like a group offering. And so if people are interested in, in knowing when that actually comes online, you can check that out. There’s some links on my, um, on my bio in Instagram. So you can read a bit more about, about that there as well.

Yeah.

Kelly: Fantastic. Thank you so much, Yara. We’ve loved chatting with you and, uh, maybe we’ll get a chance to delve into some of those number of topics we might’ve skimmed over today.

Yara: That would be lovely. Thanks Kelly. Thanks Bree. Pleasure. Lunch. Okay.

Kelly and Bree


kelly@birthofamother.com.au
brianna@birthofamother.com.au

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