Author: Suzy Volokh
Hi, I’m Suzy, Pregnancy Coach, Mama Rising™ facilitator, Childbirth Educator with Hypnobirthing Australia ™ and founder of Maiden Meets Mother. I have been a women’s empowerment coach for over five years and I am deeply passionate about supporting women through Matrescence and the Maiden to Mother journey.
The birth of a child is also the birth of a mother and there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to the experience that is motherhood.
The initiation into motherhood differs for everyone and encompasses all kinds of mothers, whether, through birthing, adoption, surrogacy, blended families, experienced miscarriage, or even women who choose not to have children. We all have the capacity to mother and the mother archetype lives within us all. Each journey is unique and comes with its own set of gains, losses and a gamut of emotions that requires its own set of care, understanding and support.
My goal is to reconnect women to the wisdom their bodies hold and learn to build self-trust, embrace uncertainty, and let go of guilt as they step into their version of motherhood feeling empowered and aligned with their most authentic self.
What is Matrescence?
First coined by anthropologist Dana Raphae, Matrescence is akin to adolescence and is the physical, psychological, social, emotional and spiritual shift a woman goes through during the immense transformation that is motherhood.
There are conversations about when Matrescence first emerges, some say at the early stages of postpartum, others during pregnancy, or when a woman first thinks about the idea of being a mother. I believe it goes even beyond this and our beliefs around motherhood start to take shape by our own early experiences with our caregivers, culture, community and society. Language creates worlds and the more we can bring Matrescence to the forefront, the more we can support mothers more deeply. As one of my mentors and author of the best-selling book MAMA Rising and founder of the MAMA Rising movement, Amy Taylor-Kabbaz says “Heal the mother, change the world.”
This is why as a pregnancy coach I meet women where they need to be met, at any stage of their Matrescence journey to confidently navigate through:
- Explore and shift beliefs around pregnancy, labour, motherhood, relationships and parenting
- Discover their values
- Choose how they want to experience motherhood
- Heal any of their mother wounds
- Learn ways to deepen their relationship with self and embrace being a mother first and foremost to themselves
- Gain a deeper understanding of how their body is designed for birth
- Feel more prepared for a calm positive birth experience
- Learn the tools they have available to support them during birth and labour
- Know their options and rights as a birthing woman
- How to make informed decisions where birthing women are walking into their birthing day empowered and see themselves as clients, not patients.
- Birth debriefing
- Preparing for the postpartum period emotionally and physically and navigating this time with kindness, grace and exploring her newfound sense of self
There are many tools available to support Mamas through pregnancy and Matrescence. One of my go-to tools during sessions and in childbirth education classes is essential oils. This is because essential oils can support on both a physiological and emotional level and I have firsthand experienced both professionally and personally the profound effects scents can have on emotional and physical well-being. There are a few ways I love to incorporate essential oils during sessions and as a tool mums can go to during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. The first way essential oils can support Mamas is by using them during labour and birth to feel a deeper sense of calm and relaxation. Certain essential oils can help calm our sympathetic nervous system and activate our parasympathetic nervous system to support mothers who are feeling fear around labour and birth.
Why does this matter?
When a woman can move through fear and feel calmer and safer during labour, not only does this support her in having a positive birth experience but also supports her body to birth her baby naturally and safely into the world. When a mother’s sympathetic nervous system or fight, flight, freeze or appease response is activated, her body will respond accordingly to the immediate threat at hand. This means her body will prioritise dealing with the perceived danger by redirecting oxygen to her defence systems, which the uterus is not a part of. Her body will release stressor hormones such as noradrenaline, cortisol and adrenaline. Furthermore, the circular muscles at the neck of the uterus which are linked to the sympathetic nervous system constrict and tighten. Meanwhile, the longitudinal muscles of the uterus continue to work and push the baby against the taut muscle. You can see how this could stall labour and increase the likelihood of medical intervention.
Inhalation of essential oils either through a diffuser or a couple of drops into a cloth gives Mamas a way to calm their nervous system and start to release and let go. Taking deep belly breaths through the nose whilst using an essential oil also activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
Top Essential Oils for Labour
Lavender Pure Essential Oil - Calming & soothing.
Dream Drops Essential Oil Blend - is a beautiful blend of Lavender, Geranium and Ylang Ylang.
Clary Sage Pure Essential Oil - A calming oil, it is said to bring on spontaneous labour and aid in naturally birthing the placenta by boosting oxytocin, increasing prostaglandin levels and stimulating endorphins, which at the right levels can stimulate effective uterine surges. *This is why it is important NOT to Use Clary Sage before 37 weeks as it can support in bringing on spontaneous labour.
Another reason why I love essential oils is that they provide a tangible and instantaneous way for us to drop out of our minds and into our bodies. As more research is being directed toward what trauma is and how we can heal from it, we are starting to learn more that trauma is stuck emotion in the body and as Stephen W. Porges an American psychiatrist and neuroscientist and author of The Polyvagal theory shares, trauma is dysregulation in our nervous systems where we don’t feel safe and secure. The more we can start to feel safer in our bodies the more we can start to live from a space of creativity, joy, and flow and feel safer to explore who we are as women, mothers and how we want to experience motherhood. It’s also important to mention that whilst growing up children don’t yet know how to self-regulate and look to us as their caregivers to mirror and co-regulate. Essential oils are a great way for when we are stuck in a loop of our thoughts to pause, take a moment, take a deep breath and bring ourselves back into the present moment and be with our children.
Lastly, our sense of smell is the sense that is most connected to our memories and emotions. This is why certain scents can instantaneously take us back to our fondest or not so fondest memories. It is so strongly linked to our limbic system that certain scents can also stir emotions within us. As a collective, we already associate certain smells with certain feelings, Chamomile with calm, Orange with invigoration, and Lemon with zesty, to name a few. Then there are the scents that invoke something memorable that is just unique and special to us.
How we can use this to support Mamas during pregnancy, birth and beyond is by conditioning a specific essential oil to act as an anchor so, when inhaled will bring on positive emotions and thoughts. In the Hypnobirthing Australia ™, Positive Birth Program we teach Mamas to condition themselves to release endorphins through light touch massage. The same conditioning can be achieved with your favourite essential oil. The more you create a personal relationship with your chosen oil the stronger the connection will be between the scent and emotion. This can be useful during pregnancy, birth and especially in the postpartum period where creating the space for self-care rituals is vital and where it is your time to receive and fill your cup when most of your day has been spent giving to your little one.
All the essential oils mentioned in this article are safe to use in pregnancy from the second trimester onwards and to avoid use during the first trimester. Other beautiful essential oils to mention are:
- Frankincense Pure Essential Oil
- Mandarin Pure Essential Oil
- Ginger Pure Essential Oil
- Rose 3% Essential Oil - learn more here.
- Neroli 3% Essential Oil
It is truly an honour to be a part of a woman’s sacred journey into motherhood and to witness her stepping into her power by taking on more of an active role in her Matrescence and pregnancy journey. Seeing a Mama reconnect to her wisdom and body, trust her birthing instincts and speak up to ask for ways to support her body, mind and spirit are remarkable to witness. I look forward to continuing to whisper the words of Matrescence for everyone to hear and see more mothers have the motherhood experience they truly deserve.