Lesbians have been birthing and raising children for a long time. Yet it is only within the last few decades that two women within an existing lesbian relationship have chosen to become parents where one woman carries and is genetically related to the child; and the other experiences an incomparable mother-child relationship, being present from birth, but having no biological connection to the child. The connection of being one of two mothers, but as the non-biological parent of the child, renders the mother in a position where she potentially faces another type of invisibility within an already marginalized population. Previous research primarily focuses on lesbian parenting and the development of their children in comparison to heterosexual couples and their children. That research helped to shift public perceptions on lesbian parenting to normalize it, change laws regarding lesbian adoption, and lessen discrimination concerning same-sex marriage (Clarke, 2008). The present study aimed to enhance understanding of the non-biological lesbian mother's experience of motherhood, including unique challenges and benefits she may derive from this experience. Ten non-biological lesbian mothers participated in individual, semi-structured interviews to examine and help characterize their distinct experiences as mothers. Interview topics included: the decision making and insemination process used, experience during pregnancy and childbirth, changes in identity and unique sense of motherhood, impact of being not genetically related to one's child/ren, and issues around inclusion, control and affection with respect to immediate family, extended family, society, and professionals. Modified Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) methods were used to analyze interview responses. Analysis revealed common themes such as factors determining birth mother, donor choices and challenges, jealousy issues concerning birthing and feeding of child, and the importance of sensitivity from the birth mother. Additional themes reflected issues around genetic ties, heteronormativity, redefining of family, identity challenges, and impact of legal processes. Practice implications and research recommendations are provided.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2014. Major: Educational Psychology. Advisor: Dr. Patricia McCarthy Veach. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 181 pages, appendices A-D.
Paldron, Morgan F..
The other mother: an exploration of non-biological lesbian mothers' unique parenting experience.
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