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'It was not an accident' : women’s experiences of renewing motherhood at 40+

  • Verghote, Kato
  • Neeser, Nathalie
  • Pennings, Guido
  • Elger, Bernice
  • Provoost, Veerle
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2024
Ghent University Institutional Archive
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In recent decades, there has been an increase in motherhood at an advanced age that has raised several medical and social concerns. We conducted a qualitative interview study, guided by Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, to focus on the motivations and experiences of Belgian women who 'renewed' their motherhood later in life, meaning they had one or several children and then (at least 10 years later) had another child at the age of 40 or older. We focused on ten women's experiences of motherhood later in life, as well as on the way they managed social norms and expectations regarding family building and the appropriate life course. We identified two main themes. The first theme describes the participants' encounters with social norms that challenged their decision to reproduce and parent later in life, and how they managed and anticipated criticism, surprise, disbelief and incomprehension about their renewed motherhood in various ways. The second theme shows how these women talked about taking responsibility as a (renewed) mother of advanced age. For them, responsible motherhood involved making thoughtful reproductive choices, attending to the range of needs of their children, and making extra efforts to safeguard the social and emotional wellbeing of their youngest children, thereby seeking to reduce potential harm resulting from these reproductive choices. This study provides insight into these women's self-conception and their interactions with prejudiced social views of motherhood and family building.

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