Conclusion

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Making sense of motherhood is both complicated and at some level

intrinsic, and practised in different ways, in different material and structural

circumstances by different women. A focus on transition to motherhood

requires us to engage with essentialist ideas of a core, biologically

determined self. Yet this focus illuminates the ways in which selves are

gendered and embodied, enduring and tenuous. When instinctive knowledge

about mothering is found to be absent, it is a social self as mother

which women gradually acquire, through practise and meeting the needs

of their child. But difficult experiences may be concealed whilst this is

achieved. The time taken to feel competent in the practices and skills of

mothering vary, and by focusing on maternal practices as a dimension of

making sense of motherhood the intention is not to universalise women’s

experiences, although clearly there are some common threads. In the

West the backdrop against which women make sense of their transition

to motherhood continues to circumscribe the mothering relationship in

particular cultural, social and moral ways. The conventional and gendered

expectation of being there for others continues to be hard to escape.

This can make disclosure of what are felt to be unnatural difficulties as

early mothering experiences unfold, too risky to voice. Yet concealing

experiences helps to perpetuate the old myths of motherhood, and so the

cycle goes on and women continue to come to motherhood with unrealistic

expectations. It is not, then, themothering per se that is the problem,

although it may be initially difficult and confusing. Rather, the problem

emanates from the ways in which mothering and motherhood are configured

in theWest, which in turn shapes what can and cannot be said about

our experiences. It is, then, the narrowly focused and limited repertoire

of possible story lines that exist around mothering that we urgently need

to challenge.