Conclusion

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Becoming a mother is, then, potentially disruptive to a sense of self.

Making sense of the event is complicated by the interplay of dominant

biological, social and moral discourses. This is because becoming a

mother involves physical, embodied, emotional experiences that for

most result in the birth of a baby for whom some sense of responsibility

will come to be felt. However, increasingly the ways in which we live in

late modernity mean that women come to motherhood with little, if any,

first-hand experience of babies. Similarly, their expectations often do not

match the everyday experiences of mothering. Although our sense of

confusion and uncertainty may be short-lived, or experienced over a

longer period, because of the moral context in which we mother it is

still hard to voice experiences that we do not think are ‘normal’

(Mauthner, 1995; 2002). Ironically, by silencing ourselves and only

retrospectively voicing accounts of normal difficulties and uncertainties,

we help to perpetuate and reproduce the myth that mothering is instinctive

and natural. Any attempt, then, to tease out the ways in which

childbearing and motherhood are framed, to explore the context in

which women construct particular narratives in particular circumstances

or indeed remain silent, raises questions about the ways in which ‘selves’

are conceptualised and presented, and a sense of self re/defined over

time. It is the moral context in which women give birth and become

mothers in Western societies that has crucial implications for both a

sense of self and presentation of self as a mother. Being a mother is always

more than ‘playing a part’. Women’s experiences of transition to motherhood

reveal the tenuous and precarious, as well as the recognised and

practised, dimensions of embodied selves. In the following chapters the

complex story of how selves are experienced, made sense of and narrated

in late modernity will be unravelled: for ‘somewhere behind all this story

telling there are real active, embodied, impassioned lives’ (Plummer,

1995:170).