A discourse analysis of South African women's experiences of infertility
For many women motherhood is central to their identity and this notion is highlighted in the predominate discourse of womanhood equals motherhood. In South Africa, motherhood is highly revered and respected. For childless women living in this sociocultural context, life can be very disheartening and unfulfilling. South Africa is a nation characteized with [cultural and ethnic] diversity and therefore many discursive variations about what motherhood should entail is socially enforced. Infertile women are regarded as social deviants and are often terribly stigmatised and ridiculed. Because different cultures embrace different discourses of womanhood (and motherhood) infertility have different meanings for different women. This study primarily explored how six South African middle class infertile women constructed meaning of their infertility. Using a qualitative design, six in-depth individual interviews were conducted and the data collected were analysed using discourse analysis. Discourse analysis allowed for dominant discourses of infertility employed by the participants to firstly, be identified and then described and contextualise these discourses in terms of the broader discursive context. The analysis of the narratives indicated four predominate discourses namely; womanhood equals motherhood, infertility is disempowering, children constitute a family and infertility is punishment. The discourse of inequality has been directly linked to each of the discursive variations located within the four broad discourses. The discourse of inequality, which is characterised as a trademark of our South African context, reveals not only gender differences but also gender inequality. Infertile women in this study were constantly preoccupied with the aspiration of conceiving because they employed the discourse of imperative motherhood. When these participants first discovered their infertility, they described feeling shocked, angry and guilty. The inability to conceive affected almost all aspects of their life. Childless women in this study also shared their experiences of social pressure to become mothers. Furthermore, the participants shared that childless unions are not characteized as families but that infertile couples remain a couple because children are essentially the element the constitute a family. Many of the participants expressed mixed emotions about their infertility. Sometimes they (participants) felt that they were being punished for something they had done wrong whilst other times they were able to accept that being childless was God's will and His plan for them.