Raquel Nowak is a mama to two girls, and the founder of Matrescence — a line of non-toxic, botanical, skincare products for all stages of motherhood. Matrescence, a term coined by anthropologist Dana Raphael, refers to the process of becoming a mother - from pre-conception, during pregnancy, through postpartum days and beyond. The line was founded on the philosophy of "mothering the mother", and born to provide a practical application of self-care that can fit into a busy mom's lifestyle. We asked Raquel to fill us on her inspiration behind starting Matrescense, how her own journey into motherhood has fueled her to build her brand, and how self-care is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, as mamas. Here's what she had to say...
“Mothering the mother” is such an important statement in regards to motherhood. It gets overlooked far too much, so we are thankful to see that your brand features this as part of its story. How did you come up with the idea to incorporate this sentiment into your brand, and how is it infused into the products you offer?
Learning to mother myself is one of the most important lessons I’ve had from my motherhood journey. Shortly after my second daughter was born, my mother passed away suddenly. My mother had always been the one checking in and reminding me to refill my cup, and with her gone, I had been neglecting to do just that. So with two young kids to take care of, it wasn’t long before my own needs weren’t being met, and I was running on empty.
Mothering in the absence of being mothered showed me the essence of motherhood on a very deep level, and I realized then that to get through the postpartum period and through my grief, I would have to step in and mother myself. Matrescence was born shortly after because I wanted to share this lesson with other mothers, and it is the core of our brand - I think of a pure and nurturing act when I think of mothering. I wanted every mother to commit to giving just that to themselves as well. Our products are intended to be a part of a ritual and more than skincare; they become a daily reminder of that decision and commitment to prioritize your needs and see self-care, not as an indulgence but rather a necessity.
Can you tell us a little about the name Matrescence? What does it mean and how did you choose it?
“Matrescence” was coined by anthropologist Dana Raphael to describe the process of becoming a mother. Before that, there wasn’t a word to describe the transition and all the changes that accompany it - physical, emotional, social, and psychological. Discovering matrescence was both liberating and empowering for me to have a word to describe and represent everything we go through on this journey. It was reassuring to know my feelings were valid, and most importantly, I wasn’t alone.
For our brand, the term matrescence was the perfect expression of my desire and commitment to support mothers and honor the motherhood journey while acknowledging that it may look different for each of us and that we arrive here in different ways.
How are your products different than other products with their specificity to motherhood?
In terms of function, our products target pregnancy and postpartum-specific skin issues caused by the hormonal fluctuations we may experience during the journey.
We are also very serious about safety, so we have a long list of no-nos when selecting the ingredients for our products. We went way beyond the minimum standards set by the FDA and prohibited over 2000 questionable ingredients from our formulas. We placed special emphasis on eliminating any potential irritants for sensitive skin and hormone-disruptors and any ingredient that could cause reproductive or developmental harm, many of which are still allowed by other natural and organic brands. This allows our products to be used and trusted before, during, and after pregnancy.
Is every product safe for all stages of motherhood? Or are there specific products for each stage that you offer?
Yes, all our products are safe for use at every stage of motherhood, with safety during pregnancy as our benchmark. I wanted to offer that reassurance and peace of mind throughout the entire journey.
Where do you source your ingredients?
Our partner lab is based in Vancouver. Together, we work with ethical suppliers worldwide to source our botanicals to ensure that they have been grown, harvested, and processed in a sustainable manner.
What was your entry into motherhood like? Are there any words of wisdom that stuck with you and you can share?
I love being prepared, and I thought I was prepared for motherhood. I had the nursery set up, the birth plan, a hospital bag packed with all the essentials, read all the books and Googled everything (yikes!). What I wasn’t prepared for, or hadn’t even crossed my mind, was what the postpartum period would be like. It took me by surprise, and I struggled a lot with the fourth trimester. After those first weeks passed and the visits tapered off, I realized everyone else would be getting back to normal, and I had a new normal to adjust to - a new baby, a new body, a new me. In between the moments of joy, I also felt that loss of self very deeply, and not being able to talk about it or having a point of reference made it even worse. Then, of course, I felt so guilty for having those feelings. It was isolating not knowing that those feelings were normal.
Filling my cup and learning to take care of my own needs as well, without feeling guilty, is one of the lessons that stuck with me from that period, and I always share that with new moms.
Which stage of motherhood have you enjoyed the most so far?
My girls are 5 and 7 now, but I’ve enjoyed every stage, watching each become her own person and learning so much from them and the process. Throughout motherhood, you’re constantly moving toward some objective or stage, whether it is sleep training, weaning, or sending them off to school. My earlier struggles during the postpartum stage have taught me not to rush ahead, wondering what will come next, but instead enjoy the current stage and learn its lessons.
Quick! Name your top three pregnancy or breastfeeding essentials! They can be items of clothing, specific products or anything else you couldn’t live without!
A nourishing (pregnancy/breastfeeding safe!) moisturizer. Both pregnancy and breastfeeding can make your skin really, really dry, so protecting and replenishing is a must and help to avoid some of the other issues.
Anyone or anything that offers support. From doulas to lactation specialists to nursing-friendly bras and swimwear! Mamas need all the support!