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Title: A body-changing event? : exploring first-time mothers' embodied experiences in the post-natal period : a hermeneutic-phenomenological study (within a small island community)
Author: McCarthy, Elsa Julie
ISNI:       0000 0004 6060 2839
Awarding Body: Middlesex University
Current Institution: Middlesex University
Date of Award: 2016
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This research set out to phenomenologically explore new mothers’ post-natal embodied experiences. The objective of the study was to interview, in a loosely structured way, six first-time mothers, all with babies between the ages of six and twelve months, in order to obtain rich, descriptive material surrounding their experiences of their bodies during pregnancy, childbirth and in the post-natal period. The aim was to provide an interpretive analysis of the data in such a way that would bring new mothers’ embodied experiences to the fore, illuminate the corporeal dimensions of maternity and evoke in the reader a fresh understanding of what it is like to be in a body that has just given birth. Using van Manen’s (1990) hermeneutic approach, the data was rigorously analysed and four main themes came to light: (1) Loss of corporeal autonomy, (2) Becoming an Other, (3) Bodily dis-ease: pain, dissociation and betrayal, and (4) Being-against-time: an unnatural bodily rhythm. What emerged from these findings was the fleshy nature of identity, the interplay between bodies and selves and the capacity for maternity to both make and break (perceived) notions of selfhood. Uncovered were undercurrents of shame and humiliation rooted in maternal experiences of corporeal disintegration, manipulation and violation. Post-natal embodiment emerged as the experience of disruption, displacement and alienation which was not only physical, but emotional and psychological. Inherent in this was a new mother’s sense of ontological security which was threatened by the experience of being (in) a body in flux. The findings therefore highlight the inextricable link between mind and body, thought and emotion, reason and flesh and showcase the importance of incorporating existential understandings of the body into psychotherapeutic practices that aim to support women who have just given birth.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.C.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available