Transformative Motherhood: On Giving and Getting in a Consumer Culture

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Our consumer culture sets exacting standards and norms for what constitutes an ideal child. The tough realities of life often create children and child-bearing and rearing circumstances that are outside the ideal. How do women whose experiences don't match the norm cope and adapt? How do they make sense of it to themselves and to the world? In a rich series of ethnographic case studies, Transformative Motherhood intimately conveys the experiences of women in the United States who, in each case, have reproductive encounters that do not match up to these cultural standards. From women who choose to become surrogate, foster, or adoptive mothers, to others who give birth to children with disabilities or who have had a pregnancy loss, all creatively meet the challenges posed by their particular mothering experiences. It is often the language of giving and getting, so prominent in a consumer culture, that these women use to make sense of their situation. In the process, Transformative Motherhood redefines conventional understandings of motherhood, the mother/child relationship, and the role of biology and the law in determining what constitutes a family. Contributors: Rayna Rapp, Helena Ragone, Judith A. Modell, Danielle Wozniak, Gail Landsman, and Linda L. Layne.