Date of Degree

2-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Urban Education

Advisor

Konstantinos Alexakos

Committee Members

Beth Ferholt

Kenneth Tobin

Subject Categories

Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Bioethics and Medical Ethics | Educational Methods | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Inequality and Stratification | Medicine and Health | Obstetrics and Gynecology | Other Mental and Social Health | Preventive Medicine | Quality Improvement | Race and Ethnicity | Social Justice | Sociology of Culture | Trauma

Keywords

matrescence, maternal wellness, motherhood, obstetric violence, birth trauma, birth education

Abstract

In this dissertation, I engage in a self-study through an examination of my experience of matrescence (i.e., the transition to motherhood). I discuss my praxis in the development of a self-study on maternal wellness as it applies to my well-being as both a researcher and the researched. In Chapter 1, I preface this study by highlighting critical scholars and the bricoleurs who have been foundational in my undertaking of this work on a narrative study on maternal wellness. Using bricolage as part of a research methodological framework that involved key scholarly methodologies of authentic inquiry, emergence and contingence, and narratology, I was not sure of where this research would culminate. Nor could I predict the outcomes of this research using the traditional scientific method approach. I had no hypothesis to prove or disprove as conventional scientists have done for hundreds of years within the field of research and science. I was venturing far from what was familiar to me with no way of understanding where or when I would end or what I would find. This type of research was both intimidating and inviting to me, as I had no idea what would emerge from this experience. The idea of acquiring knowledge from this practice and accepting this involved taking on a new paradigm of research––not knowing yet whether the study would be rewarding or worth writing about, I persisted.

In subsequent chapters of this study I document key experiences that were transformational in my wellness journey. I will proclaim this—while developing this self-study, I was not aware that I was on a wellness journey. It unfurled through my lived experiences, which led me to situate myself within this type of work further. When I began this journey in 2015, I was not yet a mother, nor was I aware that I would be writing about maternal wellness. I was pregnant with my first child and was navigating the world as a pregnant woman who just happened to be a graduate student or a female graduate student who just happened to be pregnant. Though these situations may look and sound the same, they hold dissimilar encumbrances when contextualized within societal constructs. Through time and experience, I learned just how much these societal constructs played a role in my ontologies as a mother | researcher. I use Alexakos (2015) defined role of dialectics and depictions of them with a Sheffer stroke ( | ) to show the interconnectedness of opposites and the codependence of their opposite relationships throughout this work. It was the moments and occurrences that have brought me to an impasse that made me challenge my ontologies. Throughout this journey, I interrogated and even reconstructed my own beliefs, values, and knowledge systems of what it meant to exist as a transitioning mother. Writing this dissertation allowed me to phenomenologically learn, interrogate, and grow from my experiences as the researcher | researched and reflect on the phenomenological experiences of my transition to motherhood. Based on the theoretical framework of matrescence, I do not quite consider this project complete. It has only just begun.

This dissertation on maternal wellness is more than a fulfillment of the requirements for my doctoral program, but the epithet that assents to my experiences as a mother, student, and researcher. It is through these lived experiences of my doctoral career that I write and lean into my changing ideologies within my transition to motherhood and their emergent and contingent nature. The product of these experiences captures meaningful narratives in which I share within this dissertation. The reflective nature of this narrative study has allowed me to develop a supportive framework to expand the reach of current birth education curricula. I coined this supportive framework Holistic Birth Education in Matrescence (HBEM), which I believe can complement the existing birth education frameworks and better serve mothers in the transition to motherhood. It is through this study that I have also learned to practice self-care and self-love as a new mother, thus ending this dissertation (but not this journey) with a better outlook on having meaningful, personal, and sustainable wellness while hoping to create ripple effects.

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