restricted access "Longing for a Child": Perceptions of Motherhood among Israeli-Jewish Women Undergoing In Vitro Fertilization Treatments

During the last two decades, the use of reproductive technologies in Israel has been on the increase. While feminist studies on mothering inherently focus on the experiences of women who have actually achieved motherhood, perceptions of motherhood among women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments have received little attention. On the assumption that motherhood perceptions are intrinsic to would-be mothers' experiences, I studied "biological motherhood" accounts of infertile women in the context of reproductive technologies.

The study involved 25 infertile, Israeli-Jewish, heterosexually married women undergoing IVF treatments for a first pregnancy. A semi-structured interview was conducted to allow the women to openly discuss issues concerning their perceptions of motherhood. Research findings show that motherhood perceptions dictated two distinct categories of discourse. The first category, the "obeying-the-treatment-routine" discourse, surfaced from the accounts of 14 of the interviewees. Women belonging to this category adopted the dominant motherhood discourses of the pronatalist ideology prevalent in Israeli society. They were willing to cooperate with constraints imposed on them by technological practice and voluntarily assimilated various discourses of discipline "for the sake of successful treatment." Underlying this approach is the message that motherhood is a superior value and that the non-impregnated female body has no rights of its own and constitutes a threat to the social order. A second discourse of motherhood emerged from the accounts of 11 interviewees, classified as the "negotiating" type. The negotiating approach was associated with female motivation to maintain an active dialogue with the hegemonic-technocratic order that demands to define motherhood. These women submitted social-cultural motherhood discourses to screening and reflexive judgment.

The research findings suggest that even though women share the same socio-cultural environment (Israeli pronatalism) and physical circumstances (the inability to conceive), their interpretations of motherhood are varied and wide-ranging. Understanding these women's perceptions should nurture the theoretical debate over motherhood and contribute to developing better means of assisting women undergoing IVF treatments.