Re-writing motherhood: Researching women's experiences of learning to mother for the first time

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 2004, 22 (2), pp. 39 - 44
Issue Date:
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Objective: The aim of this paper was to examine one woman's experience and memory of learning to mother during pregnancy and the first postnatal year. Design: Narratives of experience and memory were elicited through three in-depth interviews: during the third trimester of pregnancy; at four to six weeks postpartum; and, when the infant was nine months old. Feminist poststructural approaches informed the interview process. Through discourse analysis the detail of this woman's experiences was read closely in terms of the constructions, tensions, gaps, absences and contradictions as she reflected on what and how she learned to mother. Setting: The woman was interviewed in her home. Participants: The larger research study from which the data in this article are drawn was an extended interview study of 15 women over a 12-month period. Results: The close analysis of the data exemplifies the outcomes of the larger study from which it was drawn, in its demonstration of the complex and often contradictory processes of maternal learning. An understanding of this complexity is argued to be an essential condition for effective and inclusive nursing and midwifery intervention. Conclusions: Norms of 'good' mothering have been traditionally narrow within nursing literature. Although this is changing, these norms still serve to shape and also restrict possible positions women can take up to make sense of their experience. They provide background to the complex, and sometimes contradictory, processes of learning that take place during the perinatal period.
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