Desperately Seeking Susan or Johnny: Transitions to Motherhood for Infertile Women

Elizabeth H. Stephen, Georgetown University

This study focuses on infertile women who desperately seek to become mothers. Four different groups of infertile women are analyzed: biological mothers, adoptive mothers, wannabe mothers, and the child free. Data from focus groups and individual interviews are used in a qualitative analysis of their family building strategies. All of the women in this study sought at least minimal medical intervention to overcome infertility; all were remarkably tenacious; and all spoke of infertility as a life altering experience. The respondents were acutely aware of cultural norms and an innate biological desire to reproduce. This study illuminates the difficulties and joys of reaching motherhood for infertile women who are successful in their attempt to make the transition, describes the ongoing optimism of the wannabe mothers, and details the difficult transformation some women experience in finalizing their decision to be child free.

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Presented in Session 117: Transition to Motherhood