Misunderstood as mothers: Women's stories of being hospitalized for illness in the postpartum period

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Journal Article
Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2015, 71 (2), pp. 370 - 380
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© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Aim: This paper aims to explore women's experiences with healthcare providers to ascertain ways health care may be improved for women disrupted in their mothering. Background: Women can find it difficult to relinquish care even when they are acutely unwell requiring hospitalization. Despite mothering being a priority for women, many healthcare professionals do not understand the importance of continuing to mother during maternal illness. Design: This research used a qualitative methodology drawing on principles of feminism and storytelling. Methods: Women's stories were collected through face-to-face interviews, email and via the telephone. The twenty-seven women who participated were from either Australia or the USA, had between one and six children and identified themselves as having been disrupted in their mothering by illness. Data were collected in 2011 and were analysed thematically. Findings: The majority of participants had been hospitalized at some point in time for acute illness. A subset of participants reported feeling judged by nurses and that their efforts to continue to mother their newborn children despite their illness were misunderstood and not facilitated. Conclusion: Findings from this study suggest that women are more likely to remember times that health professionals failed to understand the primacy that mothering held for them or facilitate their efforts to continue to mother despite illness. Nurses and midwives should regularly reflect on their personal values in regard to mothering, validate women's attempts to mother to the best of their ability during illness and find ways to support and empower women in their mothering.
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