Older first-time mothering: Readiness and planned intensity

Date of Completion

January 2003


Health Sciences, Nursing




Over the last 30 years a consistent trend toward delayed childbearing has been documented in the more developed regions of the world including Europe, North America, Australia/New Zealand, and Japan (Sakamato, 1998; Spector, July 10, 1998, United Nations World Population, 1998; Ventura, Martin, Curtin, & Matthews, 1999). To date, research in response to this trend has consisted predominately of quantitative studies conducted in the 1980's and 1990's which compared younger versus older groups of mothers on various outcome measures. A few researchers have used qualitative methodologies to study older mothers, but none have utilized a phenomenological or hermeneutic/phenomenological method to address the experience of new motherhood in the first year. The aim of this study was to construct a phenomenological/hermeneutic interpretation directed at addressing the main research question: In what way does (older) age give a certain quality of meaning to first-time motherhood in women 35 and over? ^ The method used in this research was derived from Van Manen's (1990) human science research approach. This approach involved the creation of a narrative text through the incorporation of thematic analysis of interviews with older, primiparous mothers, multiple sources of experiential data, critical examination of preunderstandings and theoretical knowledge, and evocative and intense use of language. Subsections of the phenomenological text reflective of essential themes revealed were: Doctors set the tone, Being ready, Confronting age, Feeling out-of-step, A bridge apart, Planned intensity, How far we've come, The future will come, and The child as both self and other. ^ In the words of Van Manen (1990) the intent of this type of research is to assist professionals to better “make sense” of a human experience, and respond more “sensitively” to the needs of the people they serve. The long term aim of this study is to enable nurses to more effectively promote the physical and psychological well-being of older, first-time mothers, and improve the quality of life of this growing population of women. ^