Women’s experience of pregnancy and early motherhood following repeated IVF treatment: a phenomenological study
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This study explored the phenomena of being pregnant and becoming a mother for the first time following repeated in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments (≥3). Readings of Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer provided the hermeneutic phenomenology method, a foundation in order to understand the extraordinary experience of pregnancy and matre-scence for these New Zealand women. The seven study participants were all women who had experienced repeated assisted reproductive technologies including IVF. Of the seven women six had experienced pregnancy loss directly related to previous IVF treatments. The pregnancy losses, such as nine miscarriages for one woman and another a stillbirth at 37 weeks gestation, culminated in a sense of chronic grief and sorrow. During the first interview, between 28-30 weeks gestation, all of the participants spent significant time detailing their infertility experience. This demonstrated that the past had to be understood before the pregnancy experience could be explored. The participants’ interviews, of which there were two for each woman, were digitally recorded and narratives of their experience were crafted from the recordings and validated by the women to have captured the unique experience. It is these stories that have uncovered the everyday reality of how it is to finally be pregnant and become a mother after enduring years of emotional and physical pain, compounded by financial burdening of treatment costs. The need to procreate, to belong in the mother-world and the fear of failing are dominant themes that drive the need for repeated treatment, even when required to self-fund. These women have demonstrated tenacity, losing previous pregnancies yet finding the courage to try again, to face another loss but to still try again and eventually to journey through pregnancy and the transition to motherhood. The findings suggest that these women traverse their pregnancy experiencing a variety of moods. The mood of dread is the overwhelming mood as they endeavour to balance the effect of fear and the flame of hope. The women have become efficient at applying coping mechanisms such as the use of silence, or pretending to be what they perceive to be ‘normal’ pregnant or mothering women. As they transition to motherhood the shroud of fear for some wraps around the mother and newborn, yet for others over time they are able to shed the shroud and embrace motherhood. The time to transition to motherhood is experienced differently for all women, with two of the women unable to find the equilibrium of ‘ease’ of motherhood at 10 weeks postnatal. This study uncovered that for these women who experienced years of infertility, treatments and failures, their pregnancy and matrescence experience is one of not-being-at-home-in-the-world.