I was born a mother on the 25th of March 2016, the birthday of my son.
I did placenta encapsulation as I had heard that this was a great preventative measure in the event that a woman was prone to Postpartum Depression, i didn’t think i was but I did it anyway. Those first 2 months were wonderful, everything was going well and my boy, although he struggled with a bit of colic, was healthy and happy, I was managing and seemed to have a lot of energy despite being up many times a night. At around 3.5 months postpartum the wheels started to come off and I suffered a panic disorder episode that lasted 3 days and 3 nights where I couldn’t sleep or eat and every single thing - from breastfeeding to making a cup of tea- felt like a mountain to climb. I went onto anti-depressants and was told I'd be 'feeling myself' in no-time...
The thing was, I didn’t know who 'myself'' was any more, which is exactly what the transition to matrescence is about- forging a new identity and way in the world. A sense of familiarity and rhythm started to emerge at about 4 months until I got the dosage of the medication right, even still I felt different and knew it would be a long way to really familiarising myself with myself, for lack of a better description. What had changed was that this ambiguity wasn't terrifying anymore. I stayed on medication for 18 months before coming off and in that time did a lot of work on myself through therapy and research into this transition of matrescence.
The biggest epiphany was how normal this all was and how common it is for women to go through this spectrum of feelings- from being overwhelmed to morbidly sad at the loss of their old lives- yet at the same time loving their baby so much.
We've been sold one version of motherhood, that it is the happiest, most natural state for a woman at the expense of the more real and darker side. The journey I've been on and the work I do know as the founder of the New Normal (and soon-to-be practicing post partum doula) is that both of these versions of motherhood need to be felt, experienced, valued and above all shared in equal measure. If we cannot be authentic in this pivotal moment in our lives as women, then how can we be expected to live vitally and to raise well adjusted human beings?
Upon reflection, the experience of becoming a mother changed me indefinitely and now 3 years into this journey I don’t even miss my old life any more as I prefer the person I am now.
I started the New Normal as a way to empower new mothers during this transition and even beyond. I was shocked at what lack of support and information their was about the systemic shifts that happen to a new mother from the physiological right through to the emotional and mental. There is so much info and support on how to care for a new baby but a gross lack on how to do the same for the new mother. I started with the Instagram page which has garnered a modest yet vibrant following in the year since i launched it. In tandem I host regular events/talks with professionals in the maternal health sphere at a local cafe here in Cape Town. Six months ago i launched a postpartum support group with a well known psychologist here in Cape Town, Linda Lewis, who specialises in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders.
We are about to launch a similar group but for mothers who work a 9-5 and dont have the luxury of staying at home with their children. I've also collaborated with a new mom and psychologist, Carly Abramovitz to compile a curriculum for expecting moms and new moms on this transition to matrescence, basically everything ante-natal classes don’t cover because they are mainly focused on caring for the baby and not the mother. One of the biggest complaints from new moms is that they wish they were told, but more so, prepared for how a new baby impacts every part of their lives and that they don’t just 'slip' into motherhood seamlessly. On a personal note, I'm currently embarking on a postpartum doula training course to be able to provide one-on-one support to new moms during their fourth trimester. South Africa is a country that is still quite conservative in its approach to supporting mothers and only recently has the concept of the 'birth doula' become more popular but only in privileged communities and the existence of postpartum doulas is very rare. We have an unbelievable statistic of 1 in 3 moms experiencing a PMAD, unlike the US and UK where the ratio's are between 1 in 5 or 1 in 7. The need for postpartum support is therefore critical.
Genevieve can be found on Instagram here