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  • robertagiovedi

Matrescence - a story on stage

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

On the 9th of July I had the honour to give a talk within Claire Tonti's fantastic music concert on Matrescence.

When Claire first contacted me with her proposition a thousand of ideas flew in my head. Ideas about what it could be said, what the opportunity could bring. As time went by I felt more and more insecure and discouraged by the thought of giving a public speech. I went through the full spectrum of impostor syndrome, to the very lowest point of thinking that after all I had nothing useful to say.

A few days before the event I even lost my voice due to a cold and a cough. But finally I resolved that I would speak as a mother to mothers and made some progress that culminated in more or less something like this:

I have lived in Scotland for more than 10 years and I've learned that the best way to connect to the land is to learn the local folk stories and keep them alive by telling them. Now one story I tell in the Mother Circles is The Monster of Rasaay.

"Once upon a time a baby monster was found in the fields by a mean and lonely crofter that lived on the island of Rasaay, a small island off the Isle of Skye. The crofter took the baby monster home thinking already how to make him work for him. Once home, the crofter put him on the table of his little lonely house and poked him, and poked him until the baby monster woke up and started crying and asking for his mummy, it was no long before the mummy monster stomped down from the moutains to come and get her baby back. But when she roared: "Give me back my baby!!", the crofter locked in is small miserable house asked her to do some work for him if she wanted to see her baby again. So the mommy monster that was an earthy creature had no problem with clearing the crofter's fields from rocks and weeds, she had no problem with building a new big house for the crofter, a house with 2 doors and 10 windows. All she had to do was order the trees and the land and the animals of the land to do it in her honour. But when the crofter asked her to cover the roof of his new big house with the feathers of every bird of the Scottish sky, she knew that, by being an earthy creature, she had no power over the sky and the creatures of the sky. So, She sat and cried, and wailed and roared : "Give me back my baby!". For days she cried, wailed in despair. Until one day, all the birds from the sky of Scotland heard the cry of a mother who had lost her baby, the wailing and despair of a mother who felt powerless, hopeless that couldn't keep her baby safe. And so it was, that every mommy bird who had ever carried an egg, watched an egg hatch, ever fed her babies against the storms and the rain, ever kept their baby birds warm in the nests safe from predators, recognised and felt the pain of that mother monster, the powerlessness in the wailing of a mother, and flew from every islands of Scotland, from the mainland over Rasaay, plucked a feather from her body and placed on the Crofter's new house. Before the end of that day the roof was covered in the most beautiful and colourful feathers that everyone had ever seen.

That night the crofter gave back the baby to the mommy monster, who took her baby back to the mountains, in their caves, where they slept happily and relieved around the fire, rumours says ... they breastfeed all night. "

Every mother knows that cry and that wailing, but what if we have no safe places to express our feelings, what if we have no other mothers around to hear us?

What happens to women when they have a baby?

We are expected to feel blissful, joyful, grateful. Just glad to have had an healthy child if that's the case. But what if not, what if our experience is something very different from what everyone expects us to have.

When I heard for the first time the world MATRESCENCE, I was well into my motherhood journey and for the first time I stopped feeling alone. That time of transition into motherhood, from pregnancy into birth, postpartum and for months or years after, and all that came with it, eventually had a name.

Do you remember a time in your life when you were unsure about who you were, you had all those hormones flowing through your body that made you swing from one mood to the other. You experienced self doubt, confidence loss, changes not just in your body but also in your identity, in your relationships, in the way you perceived the world around you? Do you remember a time of transition when you knew nothing would be the same as before again? Well, when someone asked me this same question my mind went immediately to my post-partum period, and the overwhelm and changes I felt and I didn’t quite know how to articulate and express.

Actually, what they were referring to was ADOLESCENCE.

Yeah, the transition we all go through from childhood to adulthood and all that comes with it.

I am pretty sure I am not the only one who thought about the transition into motherhood instead.

In our society, it’s expected and accepted that our adolescent years may come with lots of challenges and discomfort. The some society does not have the same consideration for mothers. To the point that, very often, mothers experience it in silence, because there are very little places where women can really talk about that raw, uncomfortable reality of becoming a mother, and even more the disillusionment of the experience of staying a mother.

Often, mothers experience Matrescence in isolation and in fear, because of the tendency in society to pathologising all those feelings. The label of postpartum depression is one step away from shedding a tear for embracing one of the most transformative journeys of our lives. In this way we, as society, disempower one mother after the other.

I just want you to know that if you felt those things or you are feeling them right now, there is nothing wrong with you. And if you are afraid of talking you are quite right.

If a new mother communicates that she is feeling challenged, isolated, negative, full of doubts, not herself, she is often assumed to be experiencing postnatal depression and treated as a clinical depressed person, even when the symptoms often don’t fit that definition. I wondered for a long time what are the structures in our society where we can prevent mothers from spiralling down into post-partum depression? how to create those no-judgmental empowering spaces if we don't do it ourselves, us mothers, who is it going to do it for us.

When I had my first daughter, I walked straight into covid lock downs with a new born baby. As a newborn mother myself, I remember thinking if only I could just be a mother right now …. But the volume of other tasks I was supposed to complete and perform as nothing was bothering me, made me wanted to cross the road without looking. No, I didn't want to die, no, I didn’t have any problems bonding or loving my child. But, at the time, that seemed to me, the only way to stop the world demanding from me, when all I needed was to be nurtured so I could nurture my baby.

I soon realised that when lock down started I barely had to make any adjustments to my life, because the isolation and the bubble of being a newborn mother and baby is pretty much already a lock down.

So, holding my baby, alone, behind a window closed to the world, I started to think: What if the community around us does not support us with a safe space to express ourselves openly and share our experience? what if we have no one around. We can't fault the medical system which is overwhelmed with their own demands, we can't fault past generations because it can be very triggering for our own mothers, sisters, aunties, friends to watch us going though the transition into motherhood when they didn't have the opportunity to heal their own birth trauma.

Who kept in silence doesn't not have the tools to speak up for you mother.

We can't fault the fathers who go through their own transition and often feel powerless, lacking choices and need to be empowered themselves.

Men, what if the men cannot support us in this transition, because bless them, they are very little prepared for it, there is so little education for men around pregnancy, conception, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding. In most traditional society, or at least the ones I represent or I can talk of, men are not raised to be fathers. But women are, women are raised to carry the burden of motherhood. And before that, to carry the burden of menstrual cycles.

I decided during those months of isolation that if safe places for mothers do not exist, we must create them. I started to recognise that what often is pathologised in mothers is actually the most powerful time of woman life, when many things within us are at the maximum power: our healing powers, our intuition, our sensitivity and compassion, our multitasking abilities, our forgiveness, our low tolerance for bullshit...all the bullshit we had put up with in other times of our life…yes, those are what I am talking about. Our connection with the divine, because that we like it or not, transitioning into motherhood is a spiritual practice, that we practise between a nappy change and a breast pumping session, but still it is the highest connection with the divine we could reach.

I started MOTHER CIRCLES pretty much straight after lock-down. For the past 18 months I have gathered with other mothers in a woodland near Edinburgh, thanks to a wonderful organisation called The Planetary Healing Centre who have found sponsorship for my project and made this mother's dream possible.

We gather around the fire once a month with the intention of creating a safe and sacred space to shared our stories, and all the shadows and light of being a mother. We sing, we meditate, we self-care and take care of each other, we cry, we laugh, we connect to nature, we do crafts. We cook bread on the open fire, we work with clay, we make nests and dream catcher with what we find in nature, we tend to the fire together, we drink cacao. I hold space, I drum, I tell folk stories and legends. Month after month I can see that something inside each of us unlocks. As we give voice to the mother, the healing starts. When we pluck a feather, like the mum birds in the story of the Monster of Rasaay, to help a mother who feels powerless, we rise the vibration for every mother, we raise the vibration for the world. Our personal story becomes a reflection of all mothers' story, our personal healing becomes collective healing.

Because, if we believe it or not, every woman who goes on a journey of motherhood, in every continent, every tribe, every city, every village on Earth goes through a Matrescence process. The difference is in how society responds to them.

As the journey goes on, I can say that I have heard stories of all kinds. Stories of single motherhood, stories of families falling apart, relationships ending and new relationships blossoming. Stories of mothers who had lots of unwanted support and mothers who had nothing. Very traumatic home births and very healing hospital births. All these stories have something in common: courage. Because there is nothing ordinary in conceiving , choosing to carry and give birth to a new human.

From my corner of mother, an invisible, unheard being that often bothers others in social spaces, on busses and planes, that is always in the way of someone or something. From that corner I keep thinking about all the ways to change the world, all the ways to give voice to mothers. From my corner of 3 months pregnant woman, among the joy, and hope, and bliss, I am overwhelmed by two particular emotions right now, shame and guilt. Shame for choosing to have a child in a world that doesn't welcome mothers in transitions, doesn't want new humans. Guilt for not being a perfect mother already for my 4 years old and for making the same mistakes over and over.

Because, you know, I don't think the world is going to be changed by the politicians, or with the wars. The only way to change the world is in starting to bring new human beings on Earth in a healthier way, far from the feelings of shame and guilt that too often accompany the motherhood experience. We have to start with honouring the mothers, celebrating the mothers, seeing the invisible world of a mother, hearing mother's stories and standing up for them, because when we talk freely about the darkness of motherhood, we take power away from the dark and make space for the light and healing.

So, I ask you today, no matter if you are a parent, if you like children or you are terrified of them. Next time you see a mum struggling with a small child having a tantrum on a bus, or a new mum breastfeeding a screaming baby in public, be kind, be helpful, meet her eyes as to say I see you. I see the unpaid, unrewarding work you are doing for all of us. Smile to her, make her feel less invisible.

After 18 months of Mother Circles I can say that one of the most empowering things on this motherhood journey is to create rituals. Rituals to celebrate every single step of motherhood, to honour both, all we have the power to do and all we cannot change about our experience. Let's celebrate with our tribe, with our mothers, with our men, with our sons so that they can find their healthy place in the world and they can be ready to be fathers with less challenges, celebrate with our daughters, so that they can start their own journeys as women and mothers, if they choose to, from a safer and more conscious place. When we heal ourselves we create hope and safety for the future mothers and we heal all those mothers that came before us, the mothers of the war, past and current wars, the mothers of culture where women have less of a voice than us, who never had a chance for healing, understanding and liberating themselves.

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