4 Anticipating motherhood: the antenatal period

К оглавлению
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 
17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 
34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 

They’ve always done all the checks all the time so I’m quite confident

that everything’s been monitored. (Clare, antenatal interview)

Transition to motherhood involves women embarking on uncertain

personal journeys: anticipating the birth of a baby, becoming and being a

mother, motherhood. The previous three chapters have helped to set the

scene conceptually, theoretically and methodologically. The following

three chapters shift the focus to women’s own lived, embodied, ‘fleshy’

accounts of their experiences of becoming mothers for the first time. The

arguments set up in the previous chapters are now revisited in the light of

the experiences of the women in this group. How far are features of late

modernity – uncertainty and risk, trust in expert bodies of knowledge, and

reflexivity – discernible in the accounts produced? In what ways do these

features shape the ways women talk about their experiences? For

example, how do cultural constructions of risk translate into responsibilities

and actions? What can a detailed focus on this period of transition tell us

about the ways in which selves are experienced, maintained and narrated?

How is reflexivity experienced and played out? As noted in the previous

chapter, notions of normal and good and bad mothering permeate the

contemporary context in which transition to motherhood is experienced

and understood within the Western world. This extends to the antenatal/

prenatal period, in which appropriate ways of preparing to become a

mother are culturally and socially shaped and experienced. Such a context

leads to contradictory accounts, for example, expectations that are

grounded in ideas about the natural capacity of women’s bodies (‘you

want to do it yourself naturally’), desires to do the appropriate thing

(‘I just assume that I’ll go to the hospital and let them do it’) and acceptance

that expert practices may dominate the birth (‘You’re going to be stuck

with the medical way of doing things, but then I’m happy to go along

with that’).

The empirical data are prioritised in this and the following two chapters.

Whilst the theoretical implications are raised across these chapters,

these will be more fully drawn out and explored, in chapter 7. In these

chapters women’s accounts of their experiences move centre stage. We

follow them on their journeys into motherhood. This focus enables us to

note the ways in which they anticipate and prepare for motherhood and

position themselves in particular ways in relation to dominant bodies of

expert knowledge: how they construct and narrate their experiences.

Although these chapters are organised according to the arguments

outlined above, it is also interesting for the reader to trace individual

women’s accounts within and across the three chapters. In this way,

individual stories of anticipation, tentative hopes, fears and experiences

of becoming a mother, can be captured. In presenting the data in this way,

I am also imposing a neat order through a focus on narrative trajectories

whilst acknowledging that lives are lived in messier, less coherent, ways.

The narratives are organised around linear time, chronologically. This

mirrors the stages in transition to motherhood, which rely on medically

defined language, i.e. antenatal (or prenatal) and early and late postnatal

periods. It is also important to note that the longitudinal dimensions of

this study both enabled, and indeed invited, reflexivity and to once again

urge caution in relation to the assumptions and claims we make in

relation to refl exivity (see chapter 7). This is bec ause it assumes a capaci ty

for active and engaged reflexivity, beyond the reflexivity that is an

intrinsic dimension of all human action. Theories of reflexivity may not

take sufficient account of oppressive structural and material conditions

whic h shape lives and possi bilities (see chapt ers 1 and 7). That we shoul d

not presume the reflexive social actor was brought home to me early on in

my research. In one interview, I asked Faye how she would describe being

pregnant and she replied ‘I’m not very good on words and things like

that.’ I was aware that Faye had been surprised that I had not arrived with

a questionnaire but a short interview schedule, and she seemed bemused

that I should be interested in her experiences, even though we had talked

through the format when arranging to meet. In subsequent interviews

Faye seemed much more at ease with the interview format and talking

about her experiences. However, in the end-of-study questionnaire Faye

made the following comment ‘sometimes I would have preferred a little

time to think about the questions. I realise that initial response is important

but I found myself thinking about some of my answers later and

wishing I had added other things’. This shows the ways in which the

interview encounter can prompt reflection both during and after the

interview. Yet, whilst all this is to caution against assuming the actively

reflexive, experienced storyteller, it should not deter us from noting how

changes in late modernity in Western societies increasingly lead individuals

to be reflexive, at some level. In gathering these women’s accounts of

transition to motherhood I was known by the participants to be both a

researcher and a mother. This information will have shaped both the

interview encounter and the ways in which expectations and experiences

were na rrated: wh at was said and what was left unsaid (see chapt er 7).

Antenatal care (as it is referred to in the UK, although prenatal care is

the term used in the USA) is available to all women in the UK, irrespective

of the ability to pay, under the National Health Service (NHS). The

differences that characterise access to, and quality of, prenatal care in the

USA do not exist in the same way in the UK. Even so, there is a wealth of

literature available to show that inequalities continue to be a feature of the

access to, and services provided by, the NHS, that the ‘inverse care law’

cont inues to exist (Tudo r Hart, 1971 ; Lazarus, 1997 ; Shaw et al ., 1999) .

Deference to medical knowledge and engagement with those perceived to

be experts, are features of late modernity. These will be explored in

relation to debates on risk, trust in experts and individual control, and

these themes will also be returned to in subsequent chapters. The layers

within narratives have also provided markers to the ways in which women

negotiate between the lived experience of mothering and the institution of

mot herhood (Rich, 1977 ). Fina lly then, the aim has not been to unc over

‘truths’ about transition to motherhood, but rather to listen to and

explore the ways in which women gradually make sense of and narrate

their experiences of this period of personal transition, the authenticity of

acc ounts being ‘created in the pro cess of storytel ling’ (Fran k, 2002 :1).

This approach involves engaging with the substantive data within the

framework of exploring how and why narratives are constructed and

presented in particular ways, how women make sense of this period of

transition. The complexities of narrating experiences of periods of personal

transition will also be explored. This will be achieved through a focus

on different layers of narrative as both engagement and resistance are

discerned in accounts. Substantive areas which have emerged from the

data will be used to illustrate how narratives anticipating motherhood are

constructed in relation to individuals’ perceptions of ‘expert knowledge’

and changing perceptions of self. The two following chapters will show

how these perceptions can be seen to shift over time, leading eventually to

the reconstruction of previous accounts or the production and voicing of

counter-narratives, linked to a shifting sense of self. The participants’

attempts to make sense of this period of transition are most clearly

demonstrated in the following areas: preparation and engagement with

‘experts’ (preparing appropriately and anticipating the birth), the shifting

sense of ‘selves’ and anticipating motherhood. These areas will provide

the focus of this chapter. Whilst they will be largely explored separately,

they are also interlinked and interwoven, and underpinned by differential

experiences of wishing to retain control.