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The Other Mother

The article that is featured now on the ANS web site is titled  “The Other Mother: A Narrative Analysis of the Postpartum Experiences of Nonbirth Lesbian Mothers” by Michele M. McKelvey, PhD, RN.  As LGBTQ rights have emerged as a social movement, research related to the experience of LGBTQ people and families has begun to appear in scholarly literature across all disciplines.  Dr. McKelvey’s study addresses a human experience that is shared by many women world-wide, but in the context of a lesbian family, the experience of motherhood involves unique challenges.  Dr. McKelvey shared this background about her study :

My interest in lesbian mothers grew out of my personal and professional experiences. As an obstetrical nurse for more than 20 years, I noticed an increase in the number of gay and lesbian couples becoming parents. Although these parents have a great deal in common with most new parents, they also have unique needs and experiences. For these women, becoming mothers was an intentional, thoughtful journey. Many became pregnant after years of infertility treatment, miscarriages, and other physical and emotional losses. All mothers certainly love their children but I believe that there is something special

Michelle McKelvey

Michelle McKelvey

about these mothers. My nurse colleagues and I wanted to provide sensitive, culturally appropriate care to lesbian mothers. As I searched the literature, I realized that studies about any aspect of lesbian motherhood were rare. Lesbian mothers were virtually absent in the literature.

I was extremely inspired by the work of Eliason, Dibble and DeJoseph (2010) publicizing nursing’s silence on LGBT Issues in ANS. While physicians and our interdisciplinary colleagues have endorsed LGBT issues, we, as nurse, have remained silent. It is my hope that publications like mine will help to break that silence, embrace LGBT health and end disparities in this community.

I was so fortunate to be a doctoral student of Dr. Cheryl Beck at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Beck, my beloved mentor and major advisor, ignited my passion for qualitative research. As a beginning doctoral student, I conducted my first pilot study, a descriptive phenomenological study of the childbearing experiences of lesbian mothers. I followed up this study with a metasynthesis on the same topic. My doctoral student colleagues and faculty mentors encouraged and celebrated my research.  With their support and nurturing, I was able to find my voice and ultimately recognize nonbirth lesbian mothers. During my doctoral studies, I also became a mother. My wife Jill and I welcomed our precious daughter, Molly, into our family on January 5, 2010. She continues to be our greatest blessing.

My ANS article is based upon my doctoral dissertation: The Other Mother: A Narrative Analysis of the Postpartum

Molly's family

Molly’s family

Experiences of Nonbirth Lesbian Mothers. As I listened to the stories of nonbirth lesbian mothers’ first year of motherhood, I realized that marriage equality is a significant health issue. Marriage equality provided these mothers with validation as legal parents as well as the legal protection that their children could not be taken away from them. Without this legal parentage, these mothers were essentially legal strangers to their own children. The results of my study validated my steadfast belief that indeed, the personal is political (Hanisch, 1969).

I have always believed that “timing is everything”. Although I probably could have completed my PhD years ago I “trust the process” that it was completed at exactly the right time. Marriage equality for same sex couples continues to evolve throughout our country. Social acceptance of LGBT people has grown exponentially.  The Institute of Medicine (2011) and The Joint Commission (2011) published significant documents calling for health care professionals to provide family-centered, respectful care to LGBT individuals and their families. These monumental documents validated the crucial need for my research.

I look forward to continuing my program of research on lesbian mothers. The results of my study suggest several possible research opportunities. It is my honor to share my research with the readers of ANS. I am sincerely grateful to the editors and reviewers. ANS has always been a leader in nursing scholarship and innovation. I am grateful for the journal’s willingness to embrace cultural diversity and particularly issues related to LGBT health.

While this article is featured on the web site, it available for free download – so visit the web site today!  Then share your comments with us here – we are eager to hear from you!


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