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Arnold-Baker, Claire
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Although there is a vast literature on motherhood, very little has been written from an existential perspective. The purpose of this study therefore was to explore the existential dimensions of the transition to motherhood. A phenomenological hermeneutic methodology was selected and Van Manen’s Lived Experience method was utilised. A sample of 8 first-time mothers, who had babies of between 6-12 months of age, were interviewed on their experience of becoming a mother. The analysis involved detecting themes by clustering together selected sections of the transcripts which referred to similar experiences or phenomenon. The following eight themes emerged from the analysis: 1. being with others, 2. developing a relationship with the baby, 3. living in time, 4. the unknown, 5. life is different, 6. challenging expectations, 7. motherhood identity and 8. difficult times. An existential analysis of these themes was then undertaken. The analysis showed that becoming a mother was a complex transition where mothers experienced challenges in all four dimensions of existence namely the physical, social, personal and spiritual dimensions. These changes affected their social relationships and the way they related to their babies and to others. The mothers also experienced changes in the way they related to their physical being and their temporality. There was also a change to the mothers’ sense of themselves. Becoming a mother also meant that the mothers’ values, beliefs and expectations were challenged. The findings also showed that motherhood was an ontological experience, where mothers became aware of aspects of their existence, such as their freedom, choice and responsibility and also their mortality.
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