PhD Graduates – McKelvey

Michele McKelvey, PhD
Fall 2012

“A Narrative Analysis of the Postpartum Experiences of Non birth Lesbian Mothers”

The United States Census (2011) reported that 49 percent of lesbian couples are raising children. Homosexuality has become more accepted in mainstream society. Lesbians and gay men currently have more social and legal rights and protections than at any other time in history. These rights are largely dependent upon the geographical location in which one resides. Although the incidence of lesbian motherhood has increased, the partners of biological mothers are not automatically recognized as parents. Same-sex couples can jointly petition to adopt their partner’s biological children in only 16 American states (including the District of Columbia). Throughout most of the United States, nonbirth lesbian mothers have no legal rights to their children.

The purpose of this study was to develop a metastory of nonbiological lesbian mothers’ postpartum experiences. This author employed narrative analysis utilizing Riessman’s (1993; 2008) structural approach to thematic analysis to understand the postpartum experiences of nonbirth lesbian mothers. Ten nonbirth lesbian mothers were interviewed. Each mother shared a unique story of her first year of motherhood. Themes were individually analyzed within each story. The meta-story of the postpartum experiences of non-birth lesbian mothers revealed six overarching themes including: At the mercy of health care providers, Nursing is the major difference between us, Defined by who I am not, Trying to protect my family: The world can take them away, What’s in a name?, and Epilogue: The new normal. Stories remained intact within the portrayal of the metastory illustrating the postpartum experiences of nonbirth lesbian mothers.

This study adds valuable insight to clinical practice. The perspective of the nonbirth lesbian mother is virtually absent in the literature. Nonbirth lesbian mothers have significant health disparities. Health care providers can be instrumental in providing more sensitive care to lesbian mothers and their families. Recommendations are made for clinical practice, education, leadership and research. Nursing has been silent on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) health issues. This study compels nurses to take a stand on public issues related to the LGBT community.

Pictured above (from left to right):
Dr. Michelle Judge, Jeanne Driscoll, Michele McKelvey PhD, Dr. Cheryl Beck, Dr. Regina Cusson