If you've never heard the term matrescence, you aren't alone.
Like the vast majority of mothers and healthcare providers, Far North midwife Shelley Tweedie of Te Puna Midwives didn't know what it meant either.
Put simply, matrescence describes the period of transitioning into motherhood and it's experienced differently by each new mother.
Leading global experts on the topic compare it to the developmental push into adolescence.
Biological, psychological, social, political and spiritual changes take place simultaneously and vary in length from one woman, and one pregnancy, to the next.
According to Psychologist Christina Bond, poor understanding of matrescence leaves many women unsupported, and subsequently judgemental of their completely natural feelings of frustration.
"Unlike adolescence, matrescence is not understood as a time when additional support, understanding and patience are needed, especially in western societies," Bond said.
As Northland's population continues to grow, Tweedie said she had seen an increase in new mothers navigating this challenging transition in relative isolation.
At her Kaitaia-based practice, 85 per cent of Māori mothers make up Tweedie's clientele, however, she said she had been privvy to the challenges faced by women from many different cultural backgrounds.
"In Māoridom, you tend to have grown up around bigger families and have that village to raise a child," she said.
"Wāhine Māori (Māori women) tend not to be alone at home with a new baby either, and this is essential in terms of how well they adapt in the early days of new motherhood.
"These women can adjust better because they have support people around – and those are people who have raised children before."
Tweedie said as Northland's population changed, she was serving more women who weren't from the area and who in turn lacked the essential support of family and longtime friends.
She said it was a very Western concept to have a nuclear family, where a mother and father were the primary caregivers, which wasn't necessarily a healthy or realistic way to raise children, in her opinion.
Tweedie also noted that urbanisation posed a challenge for mothers who come from big close-knit families. Moving to the city leaves them with little choice but to raise children in the absence of their support network.
"If you had your close family nearby, it would be a lot easier to ask for that help."
Psychologist Bond said other non-Western cultures valued rest, recovery and nurturing mums during the postpartum period.
Bond added extended families cared for new mothers through food preparation, massage, comfort and company for at least four weeks following childbirth.
She said Western culture instead valued a woman's independent ability to resume being and doing just as she did before baby was born.
"In Western culture, our success as a mother is often measured by how quickly we can 'regain' our old life back and 'bounce back'", Bond said.
Changing this 'unhealthy, unrealistic' cultural expectation is part of the work Bond does at Matrescence NZ, which she founded with her sister Christina, a teacher.
Matrescence NZ aims to change the way society views and values mothers, their roles in our communities, the penalty of motherhood and the psychological and emotional challenges mothers face, often without support.
Bond is adamant that although the postnatal period is one of the greatest challenges in life, a positive experience is achievable.
"Simply creating awareness of what's realistically possible in terms of challenges can help to prepare a woman, and therefore foster resilience in the period following the birth of her baby," Bond said.
"It's felt in all aspects of our life whether we're aware of it or not.
"When we're not aware we're going to experience it, it can be quite overwhelming."
Bond also said knowing how many other parents struggle often made a huge difference.
"More than 90 per cent of parents experience intrusive thoughts about harm coming to themselves or their babies," Bond said.
"We can normalise frustrations and struggles by sharing our experiences and realising how common they are."
The Bonds hope their work to help people understand matrescence allows more women to be able to focus on themselves.
"We want it to become the norm that women are able to focus on preparing for their own emotional journey.
"True support looks like having time and space to do small things that bring you joy, and having someone around to support you daily."
Midwife Tweedie agreed that an understanding of the concept of matrescence could support women and their partners in having more realistic expectations of the challenges ahead, and better prepare to face them.
Doubtless Bay new mum Collings, whose son is now 9 months old, said she now realised just how much it took a village to raise a child.
"My life is very different to how I'd imagined I'd spend my time as a new mum - doing yoga daily, eating well, reading more books, enjoying a rich social life and being my fittest with all my 'free time' at home," she said.
"My expectations were unreaslitic and adjusting to the reality of motherhood is ongoing work.
"I was so grateful for my incredible friends who dropped off food and supplies, especially in the early days and now they support me by playing with baby so I can do something like take a shower and wash my hair."
Matrescence NZ offers a free 40-page postpartum plan focused on forming a support network and preparing for life postpartum.
To learn more about the concept of matrescence, and to access the plan, visit: matrescence.nz.