Becoming a disabled mother: A qualitative longitudinal study

Hadfield, Lucy (2014). Becoming a disabled mother: A qualitative longitudinal study. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis seeks to make sense of the complexity of the experience of becoming a disabled mother as made and lived in a dynamic process that is social, embodied, emotional, and temporal. There is limited empirical research that has investigated the experience of disabled motherhood and a relative absence of research that has followed disabled women's processes of identity over the course of the first year of motherhood. This thesis seeks to fill that gap. The empirical base for this thesis includes material collected from six longitudinal case studies, with disabled women interviewed three times in the first-year transition to becoming a mother. By focusing on what women do with their bodies, or their pursuit of distinct body projects, I reveal insights into my participants' experience and understanding of disability at this stage in the life-course, during which the embodied experience is subject to change and transformation. Drawing on post-structural concepts of power and agency, I explore the possibilities and limitations within my participants' strategies of sense-making for engineering a liveable life in relation to dominant social norms. These in sights speak to a debate within the disability movement about the nature of disability (as experience) as the basis of individual and collective identity and the kind of support disabled mothers need, which can inform social and healthcare practice. Methodologically, I utilise an innovative psycho-social longitudinal research design and method to enrich and develop my understanding of this process. Researcher subjectivity, difference and temporality are all regarded as important tools for revealing emotional dynamics and processes of intelligibility.

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