A social constructivist grounded theory exploration into the impacts of infant sleeplessness on ‘normal’ experiences within the transition to motherhood
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AbstractBackground: The aims of this qualitative research were to explore a range of challenges encountered by mothers coping with infant sleep difficulties, and subsequent impacts on the transition to becoming a parent. The intention was twofold – to raise awareness amongst practitioner psychologists that “many new mothers experience some level of emotional distress and all deserve systematic and compassionate support” (Boots Family Trust, p.1), with particular reference to early relationship formation, and to encourage opportunities for translation from multidisciplinary research into practice. Method: Five semi-structured interviews were conducted. Four with mothers who were either experiencing, or had in the past experienced sleep difficulties with their babies. The fifth was with a professional ante-natal educator, herself a mother. The interviews were transcribed and analysed according to a constructivist version of grounded theory methodology guided by Charmaz (2006). Analysis: A central narrative of ‘the wearing mask of transition’ was developed from four analytic categories: being me’, ‘being pushed to the limit’, ‘relationships’ and ‘coping, learning and trusting’. The interconnectedness of the categories was conveyed via the visual translation of the proposed pluralistic model – ‘the coping mask of transition’. Conclusion: After having been neglected within mainstream mental health services, perinatal mental wellbeing is currently being prioritised, representing a unique opportunity for multidisciplinary consultation and sharing of expertise and training. The ‘normal’ experiences of the women interviewed were revealed as emotionally complex. They worked through their sleep deprivation and distress feeling largely unsupported, and often unwilling to disclose even to partners the extent of their difficulties. It is hoped that this small-scale study, with its focus on a non-clinical population, and the significance of maternal mental and emotional wellbeing and outcomes for children, will encourage professionals to consider the distressing impacts of ‘normal’ sleep disturbance and deprivation within the broader context of this major life transition.
DescriptionA thesis resubmitted to the University of Wolverhampton for the Practitioner Doctorate: Counselling Psychology Award: D Couns Psych