Awena Naomie Ella is an experienced Occupational Therapist (OT), Wellbeing Coach, and Matrescence Specialist supporting mothers to deeply connect within and embrace their motherhood journey, whatever stage they are at.
Connecting her Occupational Therapy expertise with her passion for providing inner peace, clarity, and calm for mums, having undergone her own transformation following Postnatal Depression (PND), her unique and highly acclaimed approach to supporting a mother’s psychological journey has attracted attention globally. From health professionals and industry bodies alongside mums themselves who have embraced her approach to reclaim themselves within motherhood.
Awena focuses her work on educating around matrescence – the conceptual term for the process of becoming a mother, and empowering women to attain occupational balance in life, and motherhood.
Here, Awena shares her parts of her story and some top tips for other mums who may be suffering self-doubt, conflicted emotions, and feeling alone as they process the rollercoaster of becoming a mum…
Awena said; “When I became a mother I, like most women, had such high expectations of how it would be. How I would feel, how my life would be with a child in it. I thought nothing much would change except I would feel whole, complete. Yet, the reality for me was far from this. Shattered expectations and external pressures (I put this on myself) became too much and I crumbled into a mess of PND (or was it? – I question now if it was lack of education and information about matrescence and how to manage mental health) – but my reality was, I broke down.”
“I know this is not everyone’s experience, and some take to motherhood without any complications or complexities. But, for those who have fallen down the rabbit hole, this is for you. I want you to know you know you are not alone, and there is nothing wrong with you.”
“I could not understand why I felt so detached, so fragmented, so alone in my thoughts.”
“Why did I not instantly fall in love with my baby? Why could I not function properly? Why was I so full of regret, sadness, frustration, and confusion? Why was this not like the perfect image I had in my mind? What was wrong with me? How was I getting it so wrong? The guilt. The shame. The embarrassment.”
“I couldn’t tell anyone as I was too afraid of my baby being taken away to admit my real thoughts. Sleep deprived I had no clue (at that time) of how I was going to return to normal or what this ‘new normal’ even looked like. I lived in this drifting abyss for some time – until, in fact, my breakdown to breakthrough happened, and in that I came across the term matrescence – the unique term given to the phenomenal transition a woman goes through in becoming a mother. Think adolescence but maternal.”
Awena believes that with the right awareness, understanding and support around Matrescence. We can reduce the impact and stigma around PND because much of the time, it may be possible to intercept way before it becomes so dark and all-encompassing.”
Awena continues; “Once we can recognise that in fact, the reactions are the exhibition of a woman transitioning through her matrescence we can start to question if PND really is in play and consider alternative ways of supporting the woman based on this.”
“I started to learn about how a woman’s whole being shifts and morphs as she goes through incredible hormonal, physiological, psychological, and spiritual changes. Like a caterpillar in its cocoon, before it becomes a butterfly, it turns into a strange goo before it grows beautiful wings.”
“I started to see that we, as mothers are new too; a mother is learning every step of the way and our old life as we knew it is changed, dramatically, literally overnight.”
“When I learnt what this all meant it was like thunder bolt hit me – so….”
“Why does no one talk about this?”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me I was experiencing this phenomenal transformation?”
“And moreover, why didn’t anyone advise me that this was a normal transition that we all go through, albeit to varying degrees, but every single mother goes through this transition yet receives very little guidance on preparing for managing such changes effectively. Let alone being introduced to the concept at a very basic level.”
“I thought…if someone had told me, prepared me in some way and given me some methods and activities to try I could have gained a deeper understanding and awareness of what was happening to me. I think this would have brought me closer to self-love, to having a mindset of acceptance, and self-compassion.”
“Perhaps I could have dealt with the ride a whole lot better; I could have put things into perspective and even embraced my journey, heck enjoyed it more even!”
5 Initial Steps To Start to Reclaim Yourself Within Motherhood
- Initially, allow space and time to deeply connect within – Consider using methods such as journaling, meditation, and self-care to embrace your motherhood journey, whatever stage you are at.
- Put your needs at the top – “Once I learnt how to fully surrender and started to put my needs at the top everything changed – I became stronger, I became less stressed, I had a focus, the cloud had lifted, and I could think again. I was better able to manage my emotions and challenges in motherhood and enjoy the moments of connection, clarity, and calm.”
- Reframe your internal language, from self-doubt to self-love – “I began to experiment with finding things I enjoy, showing myself compassion for the fact I had birthed another human and treating myself to self-love for the incredible changes I was going through. I began to find ways to engage in meaningful activity and instil small but impactful self-care techniques into my day.”
- It’s essential to embrace and connect with the emotions that want and need to come out – allowing for grief, acceptance, self-discovery and exploration, allowing for self-compassion and understanding that all of this is part of the transition, in all its stages.
- To enable optimal function a person needs to come from a stable and healthy place, feeling whole. “When we are listened to, held, understood, and heard, we are much better able to manage more effectively some of those bigger emotions and challenges that come our way – sometimes this needs to start with the health professionals, sometimes with our friends and family, and most importantly, ourselves.”
Awena has now developed her own unique therapeutic process enabling mothers to reconnect to themselves, manage mum guilt, anxiety, and attain a positive and happy life balance. To help find meaning and purpose in their every-day and re-identify with who they are now, align with their values, set meaningful goals, and tune into their spirituality and mindset too. Supporting a mother to function at her optimal best, as her best self, living her best life.
Awena concludes; “I am convinced now that my PND could have been avoided, or at least much better managed if I had understood the Matrescence concept. I hope through delivering my therapeutic support and sharing more about this incredible transition, I can help other mums who may be feeling overwhelmed and confused by now encouraging them to explore Matrescence, and themselves with the loving kindness they deserve.
“By creating a ripple effect, I hope I can make waves.”