Moments Marked: an exploration into the ways in whichwomen are choosing to mark aspects of their rite of passage intomotherhood

by Jill M Thornton

Institution: University of Manchester
Year: 2016
Keywords: rite of passage; motherhood; rituals; antenatal; birth; postnatal; spirituality; sacrament
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2078466
Full text PDF: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/escholar/uk-ac-man-scw:300269


This thesis frames the transition into motherhood as a rite of passage; proposes a new model for the rite of passage into motherhood based on the four seasons; and highlights the importance of contextual and specific ritual actions or sequences to navigate the transition. Qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with ten western women, from a middle class, Christian background, who had all become mothers through childbirth, are examined under three main headings. Firstly, the women’s experiences of their transition are explored using rites of passage theory as a lens. Although significant differences emerge, particularly from a gender perspective, important themes within the women’s experiences are highlighted, including the nature of relationships; the importance of support; journaling; and the telling of birthing stories. The influences of contemporary cultural aspects such as the medicalization of childbirth and myths about motherhood are also taken into account. Secondly, the field of ritual studies is explored in order to provide a framework in which to situate the women’s ritualizing. Existing rituals associated with motherhood are analysed and gaps are identified in existing Christian liturgical resources for this area, specifically for ritual actions or sequences marking motherhood as a rite of passage, and for the expression of birthing stories. A working definition of ritualizing is also established and the research findings are divided according to time frame, exploring the women’s ritualizing before birth, around birth and after birth. Thirdly, spirituality in relation to childbirth and the transition into motherhood is explored and its place within healthcare and theological literature examined. Nicola Slee’s theory on women’s faith development is used to draw out some of the patterns that emerge from the interviewees’ experiences, and the sacramental nature of birthing is considered. The thesis concludes with a critique of implications and associated suggestions for those within a church or healthcare context with responsibility for the pastoral and spiritual care of women during their transition into motherhood. Advisors/Committee Members: MCBEATH, CLARE C, Mcbeath, Clare.