Matrescence as a Shift in a Mother's Identity with Jessie Harrold


Jessie Harrold, doula and a coach for new mothers, discusses how matrescence, or the developmental period of motherhood, initiates a profound shift in a mother’s identity. Although there are many challenges associated with this period of rapid change, it can also be approaches as a time ripe with the potential of profound and positive self transformation.

Our conversation covers: 

  • Jessie’s background as a couch and doula
  • Her early matrescence journey and who she’s becoming as a mother now
  • Matresence as an identity shift 
  • Why time is important in the transition into a new mothering identity
  • Her passion to explore “how” this shift happens
  • The role of unbecoming in any transition and the normal grief, sadness, and anger common in this shift
  • The power of the liminal, or in-between space, and why the discomfort doesn’t need to be pathologized
  • The fruitfulness of the in-between space and why time is essential 
  • Patterns of challenges and competencies in this mothering life transition
  • 7 skills of competencies Jessie calls “mother powers”
  • Why mothering against motherhood through the mother powers is possible

Jessie is a coach, women’s mentor, and doula who has been supporting women through radical life transformations and other rites of passage for over a decade. She works one-on-one with women and mothers, facilitates mentorship programs, women’s circles and rituals, and hosts retreats and wilderness quests.  She is the author of the book Project Body Love:  my quest to love my body and the surprising truth I found instead, and the upcoming title Mothershift:  Reclaiming Motherhood as a Rite of Passage.  Jessie lives on the East Coast of Canada where she homeschools her two kids and tends to her land.

More Information

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Drafted by AI. Please excuse typos.


Jessie, Allie

Allie  00:01

Welcome back to rewild mothering. This week. I’m talking with Jesse Harold. Jesse is a coach women’s mentor and doula has been supporting women through radical life transformations for over a decade. She works one on one with women and mothers facilitates mentorship programs, women’s circles and rituals and host retreats and wilderness quests. She’s the author of the book, project body love and her upcoming title mothership that we discussed today. Jessie lives on the east coast of Canada where she homeschools her two kids and tends to her land. Our conversation focuses on match essence or that developmental transition into motherhood that completely reshapes our identity as people. We discuss this transition and how it’s liminal quality, that time when you’re not your old self and you’ve not yet settled into your new identity can be incredibly challenging and also promote incredibly positive self transformations. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how the mother powers we discuss show up in your life over on Instagram where you can find me at rewild mothering

Allie  01:09

the future allies on the wellness of mothers. Welcome to rewild mothering a weekly podcast about holistic maternal wellness for natured centered mothers to help us grow into the wild guides we envision for ourselves, our families and our planet. Each week, we alchemize science and the sacred weaving together modern research, ancient wisdom and mind body spirit practices that will help us channel the transformative power of maturity, the developmental period of motherhood. I’m your host, Allie Davis, a maternal mental health eco therapist and a mother walking this path with you. Let’s reclaim mothering as a wild initiation with Mother Nature and Skye.

Allie  01:58

Jessie thank you for being here this morning and sharing your your work around motherhood as a rite of passage.

Jessie  02:05

 Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure, which you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. And I’d also love to hear about your mothering journey and who you are becoming as a mother now. Yeah, I will share that. So my, I guess my work journey probably started 13 years ago when I became a doula. And so I’ve been supporting women as a doula for for over a decade. And then about five or six, six years ago now actually, I trained also as a coach. And so I’ve been supporting women in that way, as well. So that’s kind of a little bit of my background. And as I, you know, worked with women, supporting them to this practical life transformation of motherhood. It got me really interested in radical life transformations in general and rites of passage. And so that’s kind of the work that I do now with both mothers and all women. And my mothering journey started nine years ago now with the birth of my daughter. And so it was a really interesting beginning because I had been a doula for a number of years before becoming a mother, which is sort of a unique perspective. And I think it’s actually what sort of tipped me into this curiosity around Metro essence, or the the identity shift into motherhood. Because in my process of becoming a mother, I kind of, I knew already a lot about birth and sort of the pragmatics of early postpartum, because that had been my work for the last four or five years beforehand. And so most women’s kind of time and attention is wrapped up in in preparing for birth, and they get pregnant and I was really much more concerned about what was going to happen to me and my identity and who I was afterwards. And so that’s when a lot of this work around the identity shift into motherhood, really, sort of those seeds started to get planted for me. And so yes, I have a nine year old daughter and a five year old son is almost six.

Jessie  04:18

And I, it’s interesting, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on who I’m becoming as a mother now.

Jessie  04:25

It’s fascinating. I’m writing this book on the identity shift into motherhood. And so of course, because I’m writing this book, I would, you know, go through yet another sort of shift in my own motherhood experience, right and the experience of parenting that pandemic which I know a lot of people are experiencing really uniquely and differently and intensely right now and it’s been the same for me and we made the decision to homeschool to take our kids out of of attend

Jessie  05:00

Thing school they could have this year where we live, but we chose not to. And that has been a whole other time of transition and becoming, it feels like a whole new postpartum, where I’ve had to reckon with the tension between their needs and my needs and the needs of my work. And, and to slow down immensely, and reorient to what’s most important to me. And most days just really kind of struggle with that and fill out a lot. And it’s been a real journey. And so that’s what I’m becoming as a mother now. 

Allie  05:38

Wow, I wanted to maybe spend some time on that mature essence, or the people talk about it in different ways, the process of becoming a mother, the identity shifts that whole developmental phase, tell us about this face as it relates to your work supporting women through transitions. 

Allie  05:58

Yeah. So I want to say that, you know, I got my first kind of glimpse into what my presence could look like from the woman who became my doula, and who was still my mentor, before I got pregnant. And I had been to a talk that she had given a few months before I got pregnant, I was kind of in that maybe baby and actually still really feeling quite ambivalent about becoming a mother. And she at this talk said, with the transition to motherhood takes two to three years.

Jessie  06:34

And so that, that fact, has, was, at the time deeply reassuring, to me, actually, I think it could have been really scary. And like, Oh, my God, it’s gonna take two to three years.But instead, I took that as a real sense of kind of relief, like, Oh, I can, I can kind of screw this up for two to three years, or not what I’m doing or maybe even regret it for, for two to three years, maybe longer. But hey, at least I have that long to adjust to this role. And that was my entry into, into my true essence. And so I’ve always thought about that transition is taking time, way longer than the six weeks or the six months, or three months, you know, that we talked about, you know, and thank goodness, we’re talking about sort of the fourth trimester and all of those sort of realities of postpartum, that we weren’t talking about 10 years ago when I had my babies.

Jessie  07:34

But there’s more, there’s more, it’s, it’s more than just a change to your behaviors. It’s not just, you know, learning how to make really strong coffee and change diapers, it’s more than a physical and emotional healing process, which is what we’ve been talking about with the fourth trimester. And a lot of the beautiful work that’s being done around that. It’s more than not, it’s an identity shift. It’s a rite of passage. And I think that’s what we are kind of missing in our discourse around the transition to motherhood. And so that’s, that’s kind of where I come in. And my further curiosity around it is that we’ve been having, again, wonderful conversations increasingly. So even in the last two to three years around the the idea of nitrosamines as a thing, it’s a thing, the fact of matter essence, which I think allows so many women to feel more normal, less alone, like that. It’s normal, that that this is a process that this feels like a complete reorientation of who you are. And it’s normal for it to take time. And what I think we’re not quite talking about yet, which is my deep passionate interest is how that process happens.

Allie  09:04

Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the critiques that I have about how we talk about this developmental period, because developmental psychology is basically child psychology. And matches sense is really about shifting that to be mothering, as an experience is worthy of investigation and focus and understanding and this how, you know, in and of itself, but we still really focus on that time when children are highly Well, I think that, you know, this idea might need to be unpacked, but they’re more dependent than later on. And so, we’re only focusing on those years right now in terms of the importance of, of this shift, but even in your situation, you know, with a pandemic and homeschooling, you’re constantly have to become new again, by reorienting yourself to your children, your family, your culture, and this all environment you know, socan you can you unpack for us why this rite of passage idea is so important in some of the things you’re finding out about the how and your research 

Jessie  10:11

yeah the how yeah yeah there’s a why to there’s a whole lot of why right which actually i could speak to because i think you know we’ll put the hell on the you know aside for a second to say that there’s there’s a whole lot of why the transition to motherhood looks like it does now in our modern day society and i could kind of go on and on and on about that but i have this this article that i wrote called pitocin pinterest and patriarchy why becoming a mother is harder than ever and so there’s all these kind of modern day and also systemic influences that make the transition to motherhood or mothering now different than it was for our for mothers and it’s important i think in a lot of the rites of passage literature and also adult development psychology

Jessie  11:08

i found in the process of my research that a lot of it was generated by and for like old white guys and it was really devoid of context and complexity it was linear it was it was it did not reflect the the complexity of the experiences that the women that i was supporting were having so there is that there is a white piece the how piece this this process and what it looks like i think when we when we take a rites of passage lens to the transition to motherhood there’s a few things that happen first of all it takes longer

Jessie  12:00

you know that sort of two to three year process that we talked about like i think we you know when we think of it as a fundamental shift to who we are and our identity we automatically kind of soften into like okay this is gonna take time you know and i think one of the other parts of rites of passage sort of lens is this sort of unbecoming and i talk a lot about grief and loss and release in the context of what we would otherwise see as sort of quote unquote normal happy healthy motherhood that in fact you know any transition requires us to let go of who we were so that we can become who we’re becoming and even though motherhood is usually thought of as being this happy joyful event that there is there is grief and like you have permission to feel sad about what you’ve left behind and you have also permission to feel angry sometimes about you know those impossible tensions between meeting your needs and your babies and so there’s a lot more allowance for the complexity of emotions when we think of sort of unbecoming the woman that we were and becoming the mother that we’re becoming


i think the other part of the rites of passage lens is around liminality liminal space and that sort of you’re not you know not a mother anymore but you’re not yet fully embodied in your motherhood there’s this in between space and i think this is where a lot of mothers say things like i don’t know who i am anymore and we really pathologize that we really say oh my god well first thing first things first you shouldn’t lose yourself in motherhood like that’s the first message that we get so that whole grieving piece is like not allowed because because you should just hurry up and get back to normal or the quote unquote new normal which bypasses all of the potential and possibility to become someone new or to let go of things that weren’t serving you

Jessie  14:33

and then that liminal space we say that it’s not okay to not know who you are but i don’t know when you’ve gone through a change as monumental as becoming a mother i think it’s normal to not know who you are and i think you know the work a lot of the work that i do with with mothers and all the women that i support through life transition is to help hold them in that space of liminality because it’s an incredibly rich place to be.

Jessie  15:03

It’s where we get to experiment with who we are and what feels like it might be next, it’s a place where we actually just get really reconnected with who we are where we can learn how to attend to our needs. Well, like it’s so it’s so incredibly fruitful, and yet we try to bypass it, we either try to kind of scramble our way back to the woman we used to be, or kind of forge our way ahead into what’s next before we’re fully ready. So yeah, those are some of some of the elements of kind of taking that rite of passage lens that I think are really important to consider an offer is something different. For the schema, we have of mature essence, and motherhood. 

Allie  15:49

I love it. You know, I love how you talk about that liminality and the power there. And that’s something that I tried to encapsulate by talking about mature essence, as this time of transformative potential that we can channel our harness almost to become more of ourselves more fully ourselves, do that unlearning, like you’re talking about, and then looking at our values and learning how we want to be. So I think about rewild, mothering, as a specific Earth honoring identity that we can, you know, kind of consciously evolve into.

Allie  16:28

But I’m wondering, like, what this process looks like, in the diverse mothers lives that you’ve worked with, and maybe if there’s patterns and the challenges and like growth, and if it feels like a one time kind of rite of passage, or a lot of mini cycles within this, this big concept? 

Jessie  16:51

Yeah, there’s a couple things there. So like, the patterns and the rite of passage that I see, with the women I’m working with, I feel like that the sort of most enormous transition is that, especially that very first child kind of like that first experience and much reference, but it does happen with each subsequent child. Because each child is a different, different human, brings out different, you know, parts of you and, and often amplifies those tensions between,

Jessie  17:27

you know, your own your own needs and the needs of your children and, you know, all of those things that, that occur as you add more humans to your family. So, yes, there’s that. And, and yes, I do think our, our journeys through motherhood are always evolving and transforming one way that my colleague Britta Bushnell, she wrote a beautiful book called transformed by birth, and she also looks at birth through the lens of a rite of passage. And she, she talks about how that first initial shift from like, not a mother to mother is, is the big identity shift, and that a lot of the other ones afterwards require us to gain new skills maybe, or to, to change behaviors a little bit, but nothing quite rocks or identity, like that initial transition to motherhood. So I’m kind of interested in that perspective and also open to like,

Jessie  18:31

other experiences, I work with women primarily in those first years, and I’m, you know, in the first 10 years of my mother had to sew, perhaps some a woman with kids who are about to fly the nest would have a really different perspective, because I think there’s a whole other identity reckoning that goes on there. And I wanted to actually

Jessie  18:53

just kind of say, yeah, to this idea of the potential that you talked about, and the the tremendous potential of motherhood, that identity shift actually become more of who you are, and to, to reprioritize your life so that you’re living more and aligned with what alignment with what matters most. And there’s another set of patterns that I started noticing in the people that I was supporting, that both kind of support that transition into motherhood, but also often kind of result from the transition to motherhood. And it’s these seven skills and competencies

Jessie  19:44

that I think of as our mother powers, and they are self tending. So like learning how to take really good care of yourself with an attachment based lens like not just kind of quote unquote self care, but good self tending ritual i think is something that can help so tremendously with that transition creativity and i know you and i share that tremendous passion for unlocking so many women’s creativity unlocks in early motherhood had a great conversation with orly athen who’s one of the sort of lead thought leaders around mattresses and she and i joked that that mattress and says where the the mompreneur is born this is a time of tremendous creativity can community we’ve never need needed community more and so we’re that much more invested in creating it

Jessie  20:45

i’m going to lose track of my seven inner knowing so you know again we’ve never we’ve never been so sort of in touch with our intuition in so many ways right and we have the potential to really grow a different way of knowing embodiment is another one again there’s this potential that we have to really come into our bodies in a different way and the experience of pregnancy and birth is so very viscerally embodied and we can we can take that and learn so much from that experience and bring it into the rest of our lives and then of course earth connection which i know both of us are so incredibly passionate about but there’s nothing more primal than the birthing and mothering process there’s nothing i think that brings us more closely in contact with our our mammalian nature and more closely in contact with

Jessie  21:47

i guess that that real sense of being rooted in what what is true for us and and we have the possibility to experience so much healing and so much connection in nature so those are the seven skills that i think like it’s not only mother powers you know it’s actually the skills and capacities that our world needs most right now

Allie  22:15

yeah i was going to ask you about that and in terms of how to support these mother powers which you know the idea of of metro centric feminism where a mother centered kind of empowerment social change theory is that more people need to be brought into this cultural space of valuing mothering and nurturing and care and you know you’re talking about the why why it’s so difficult and why people can get stagnant in this rite of passage and a lot of it was cultural messaging and i wanted to know if you could just share a little bit about like what adds difficulty to this that our foremothers might not have

Allie  23:00

had to struggle with although they struggled with other things and how we can advocate i guess the term is you know mother against motherhood which motherhood is seen as a maybe the institution and mothering is our own practice how we can advocate for ourselves and others and grow this this space of valuing mothering care 

Jessie  23:24

yeah well that might be a whole podcast in itself i think you know i’ll give a few examples of sort of what’s shaping our motherhood right now and you know the it starts with birth we have birth practices that that have pathologized the process of pregnancy and birth and medicalized it

Jessie  23:52

and and sort of undermine women’s trust in their bodies and their capacity to birth and i believe that birth is a microcosm for the macrocosm of motherhood not to mention that there’s studies that are now sort of coming to the fore primarily by a physician dr sarah buckley that shows us that actually a lot of the interventions that women are receiving in birth actually have profound hormonal impacts in the in the weeks postpartum and we’re only just discovering that so there’s not just sort of this cultural thing are this sort of emotional impact and trauma the existence of trauma and those practices also but but literal sort of physiological impact so there’s that you know we have social media and technology in general so birth technology but technology in general which is influencing our

Jessie  24:56

our perceptions of what good mothering quote unquote looks like How we compare ourselves to it and whether or not we feel normal in that context. And I use normal as a really powerful word, you know, we kind of say, Oh, yeah, what’s normal anyway, it’s but normal is really important to us. Like, we don’t want to go to the doctor and not hear, you’re normal. Right? We all want to be normal. And so when we look on social media, and don’t find representations of what our own mother looks like, there, then we feel not normal, which means we feel we don’t belong to all of the other mothers who might actually be experiencing the same thing.

Jessie  25:35

There’s so much more, one more thing I guess I could talk about there is something I call the big slowdown, which happens in the at least the first year postpartum, whether or not a woman returns to work, because I know there’s lots of complexity there in different situations in different countries, but but there’s a big slowdown, a big sort of dismantling of how we may have identified

Jessie  26:05

ourselves as productive humans in the world, and how our worthiness may have been attached to that, and then how motherhood goes and says, actually, all you’re going to do, like, quote unquote,

Jessie  26:20

is breastfeed this baby all day long and all night. And that you need to rest and that you need to heal. And you know, that’s monumental work enough, but it’s not valued work. And so, there’s, there’s a real there’s that identity piece there, like Who am I, if I’m not getting everything done on my to do list, right. And so in all of these ways, and there’s more birth and mothering is extraordinarily counterculture, in is absolutely swimming against the tide, to rest in the postpartum period, to be in a time of not knowing to not be as productive as you were before becoming a mother is completely countercultural. This is like the most anti capitalist, anti patriarchal work we can do. And when I talk about the mother powers, I feel like that’s kind of that’s the, I don’t know, the soil in which we actually need to grow this counterculture movement, right, we need to reclaim our capacity to attend to ourselves well, to build community to value creativity to value inner knowing to being in closer connection with the earth. Like that’s kind of, it’s almost like the How to, I guess, I think, of dismantling some of these cultural influences that are even within us. And yes, there’s bigger work to be done. There’s systemic work to be done. There’s there’s all of the work that needs to be done around inequities in access to health care for black and indigenous and people of color. Like there’s, there is so much big systemic work. And also, there’s these tiny little counter cultural ways that we can begin to chip out that conditioning within ourselves and and then hopefully within our larger culture.


Thank you for listening. reweld mothering is about sharing our stories. I’m excited to hear your thoughts on today’s episode on Instagram. Let’s connect there at rewild mothering and be sure to subscribe wherever you listen to get next week’s episode as soon as it’s live. Until next time, may we remember our place as a part of the natural world. May we reclaim mothering as a revolutionary act, and may we rewild the ways of caring for our human family and our living planet.

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