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Constructing the (M)other

Narratives of Disability, Motherhood, and the Politics of «Normal»

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Edited By Priya Lalvani

Constructing the (M)other is a collection of personal narratives about motherhood in the context of a society in which disability holds a stigmatized position. From multiple vantage points, these autoethnographies reveal how ableist beliefs about disability are institutionally upheld and reified. Collectively they seek to call attention to a patriarchal surveillance of mothering, challenge the trope of the good mother, and dismantle the constructed hierarchy of acceptable children. The stories contained in this volume are counter-narratives of resistance—they are the devices through which mothers push back. Rejecting notions of the otherness of their children, in these essays, mothers negotiate their identities and claim access to the category of normative motherhood. Readers are likely to experience dissonance, have their assumptions about disability challenged, and find their parameters of normalcy transformed.

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Chapter Seven: Unbecoming Mother: Selected Notes on Miscarriage and Infertility (Elaine Gerber)

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chapter 7

Unbecoming Mother

Selected Notes on Miscarriage and Infertility

Elaine Gerber

When I first saw the call for chapters for this book, I ignored it. I thought it didn’t apply to me. It sought essays about “the lived experiences of mothers of children who are labelled or culturally defined as disabled.” My “children” were so disabled they didn’t survive. All seven of them.

Infertility in general and miscarriage(s) in particular are usually not considered as part of the reproductive story and are definitely not included in mainstream narratives about mothering. At least in standard American culture, these experiences are seen outside the realm of motherhood—which is understood as being, exclusively, about positive outcomes of pregnancy. The myth of biomedical progress (with its promise to “fix” infertility and give babies to all childless couples who desire them) in a capitalist culture (with its emphasis on production) leads one to believe that the only successful pregnancies are those in which there is a “product” or a healthy outcome—a baby (Martin, 1987). Further, ableism plays a role in shaping notions of reproduction/motherhood; in dominant culture, miscarriages and infertility are removed from the realm of the “natural,” despite the evidence of their widespread occurrence.

What follows is a reproductive story that does not result in birth. In it, I offer my first-hand experiences of miscarriages and infertility, situating them within broader cultural narratives about reproduction, disability, and ableism....

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