What is Matrescence? From our friends at Seed Mother.

By Seed Mother | Photo by @_mariatoscano

Seed Mother is an evidence-based maternal education program focused on matrescence, created by Julia Sarewitz and Victoria Trinko. Developed and researched at Columbia University, Seed Mother’s program harnesses the power of education, ritual, and community to empower mothers in the transition to motherhood. With immersive live virtual workshops and personalized 1:1 coaching, Seed Mother offers expert-led guidance and essential support to mothers through every stage of their journey – from pre-conception to pregnancy and postpartum to early parenthood (including via surrogacy or adoption).

Welcome to the world of matrescence – It’s like puberty, but with more diaper changes and fewer questionable fashion choices (well, at least when you’re rocking your Hatch Crop Jeans). 

If this concept is new to you, you’re not alone. Coined by anthropologist Dana Raphael in the ’70s (who also gave us the term “doula”), matrescence is a crucial concept often left out of mainstream motherhood discussions—until now.

We are Victoria Trinko and Julia Sarewitz, matrescence educators and co-founders of Seed Mother. We are here to unpack everything for you.

So, what exactly is matrescence?

What do puberty, pregnancy, and postpartum have in common? More than meets the eye.

We all know adolescence as that whirlwind transition from childhood to adulthood. But what about the transition from womanhood to motherhood? That’s where matrescence comes in. It’s a similar journey, complete with bodily changes, hormonal roller coasters, identity shifts, and new relationship dynamics—just like adolescence. Still, this time, you’re also responsible for raising a tiny human.

While pregnancy and childbirth typically get the spotlight, there is a process to becoming a mother, and it often gets overlooked. Mothers find themselves navigating its confusing maze of emotions and personal changes solo, with little acknowledgment or support for the profound impact it has on their identity, relationships, and well-being.

Thankfully, in 2015, Dr. Aurélie Athan, a reproductive psychologist at Columbia University (who, lucky for us, also happens to be our mentor), picked up where Raphael left off, expanding matrescence to include a “developmental passage where a woman transitions through pre-conception, pregnancy, and birth, surrogacy, or adoption to the postnatal period and beyond” — because becoming a mother isn’t a one-time event; it’s a lifelong process, inclusive of all paths to motherhood.

Another important aspect Dr. Athan brought to light is that this process isn’t just about the biological changes. Matrescence is a holistic transformation that touches every aspect of our lives.

Remember adolescence? We tend to focus on the physical aspects of puberty —the first period, the zits, the sudden hair growth. Similarly, we often fixate on the physical aspects of pregnancy and postpartum—the baby bump, the “mommy” brain, losing your glorious pregnancy mermaid hair. But the lens of matrescence reminds us that becoming a mother is more than skin-deep; it’s a profound psychological, social, ecological, and spiritual journey.

Why does this matter?

Matrescence matters because navigating the challenges of motherhood—amidst societal expectations and cultural norms—can be overwhelming. Matrescence broadens our perspective and frees us to think more flexibly about what new motherhood “should” look or feel like. Matrescence helps us find our way through the multifaceted changes and complex emotions of new motherhood and understand that the stress and anxiety we may feel are entirely normal parts of the journey. 

Matrescence is not a moment but a movement that propels us toward a more empowered and compassionate approach to modern motherhood. The maternal health crisis underscores the critical need for holistic, mother-centered models of care. Unlike conventional programs that prioritize the child’s needs, Seed Mother’s approach centers on the mother’s inner world, valuing and validating her unique, lived experiences of motherhood.

Through our evidence-based maternal education program, we empower expecting and new mothers— through surrogacy, adoption, or childbirth—on their journey to motherhood. With a blend of education, ritual, and community, we offer psychoeducational workshops and personalized coaching grounded in matrescence. Our mission is simple yet profound: every mother deserves to be seen, heard, and supported. Seed Mother’s group classes and private sessions equip mothers with the knowledge, tools, and social support needed to navigate the challenges of new motherhood with confidence and resilience.

While we meticulously prepare for childbirth and the care of our newborns, so many mothers today neglect to prepare or care for their postpartum selves – we ignore our desires and our fundamental need for holistic support through this process of becoming

Sacrificing yourself for the needs of others, especially during the early stages of motherhood, comes at a cost. It leaves us feeling depleted, distressed, and disconnected from ourselves and others. Prioritizing your needs alongside those of your child might seem contrary to the story of selflessness we’ve been conditioned to embrace, and, indeed, it is. It’s time to start a new narrative that centers on the mother – one that tells us, “You matter, too.” Understanding our individual matrescence journey enables us to soften societal and self-imposed standards, tune into our inner voice and values, and cultivate self-compassion for the new person emerging through this process. And ironically, this is what can energize, empower, and enable us to better fulfill our roles as nurturers, partners, siblings, and friends. 

So let us embrace our matrescence as an act of radical and essential maternal care  — and a reminder that motherhood is a journey, not just a destination. And remember, you don’t have to travel this path alone. Seed Mother is here to guide you every step of the way.

Head to Seed Mother, and enter HATCH15 at checkout to get 15% off your first group workshop or 1:1 coaching session. And for more on matrescence, follow us on Instagram @seedmother.