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Transformations in Western societies have led to different ways of living

and organising personal lives and intimate relationships. These changes

differentially impact on individuals’ lives, according to the ways in which

lives are embedded in particular power relations. For some, and particularly

those in the West, there is a pattern of greater self-reflexivity, which

emerges as a mechanism for making sense of a life in the increasing

absence of traditional, taken-for-granted, gendered fates. Individuals,

then, increasingly seek understanding of their experiences and lives

through the construction and reworking of biographical narratives.

Becoming a mother changes lives in all sorts of ways, both anticipated

and unexpected. But the contemporary context can make constructing

and voicing biographical narratives difficult. This is because motherhood

is ‘mainly lived out in a private, domestic sphere’, but it is measured

according to societal norms and professional normative practices, which

ignore the diversity of women’s experiences (Phoenix and Woollett,

1991). Because motherhood and family are closely associated with

an individual’s moral being, moral identities may be challenged and

compromised during transition to motherhood. Disclosure of experiences

which do not resonate with expectations, both personally held

and socially constructed, may, then, be perceived as too risky. The

complex and contradictory dimensions of motherhood – the embodied

physical act of birth, essentialist notions of mothering, the social and

cultural contexts in which mothers and their children live their lives –

make understanding and voicing normal difficulties problematic. Yet,

paradoxically, the very act of not voicing difficult experiences maintains

and perpetuates the myths that continue to surround motherhood.

Women becoming mothers for the first time come to terms with their

individual experiences within these shifting and contradictory contexts

and from different positions within the social world. In the following

three chapters the experiences of a group of women can be glimpsed, as

their journeys into first-time motherhood unfold.