An exploration of first time motherhood : narratives of transition
The ways in which women experience and narrate their journeys into first time motherhood is explored through a focus on narrative construction and reconstruction. The unique positioning of childbearing - at the interface between the biological and the social - both shapes expectations and renders experiences which do not conform to idealised notions of motherhood, diflicult to voice. The 17 participants in this study were all white, working women, who were expecting their first child. In depth interviews were carried out on three separate occassions, both antenatally and postnataily, over approximately a year. The longitudinal dimensions of the study enabled narrative trajectories to be collected and strategic construction and presentation of narratives to be explored. The movement in and out of the worlds of work and home was found to provide different reference points from which to make sense of, and narrate, a shifting sense of self. Narrative has not previously been used to explore women's experiences of transition to first time motherhood. Gathering women's narratives over time enabled different subjectivities to be explored and narrative layers to be discerned. The shifts made visible by this approach revealed the ways in which transition to motherhood is socially constructed and experienced within the context of differing professional and personal time frames. Within these competing time frames epistemological and ontological shifts take place. Eventually, epistemological and ontological security led women to challenge assumptions around mothering with which they may have previously collaborated. Feeling able to cope led to the voicing, retrospectively, of past difficult experiences. Narratives were reconstructed and professional constructions of 'normal' transition to motherhood, questioned. The research suggests that needs can remain unvoiced in a context where diverse mothering experiences are unjformly measured. The implications of the research for policy and practise, which is based on normative preoccupations, is considered.