Motherhood outside of the binary

March 6, 2018


How do we define motherhood in individuals who identify outside of the normal binary of parenthood? 


The creation of an online, digital archive of maternal writings and pregnancy narratives seems to be fairly straightforward; you would find blogs, obtain the creator's permission to showcase it, categorize it on a website and be done with it. However, the reality of creating such a site requires meticulous and respectful planning, meaningful discussion and a genuine interest in encouraging a greater understanding of these unique experiences.  In our digital archive, we wanted to showcase some of the first experiences that women have as mothers, including pregnancy, birth, post-partum and all that happens in between. This opportunity to present birth stories and other maternal narratives is initially what drew me to the project and has inspired me throughout my research. Our primary discussions concerning the research project were of the more standard variety: parameters of the archive, mediums we would choose to explore, timetable for the project and the like. As we progressed further into the project however, our discussion expanded to include the finer details of the experiences within the writings themselves that particularly interested us. One particular topic of discussion that caught my attention was how we would include LBGT+ parents within our blog and it presented us with its own challenges but also presented me with an opportunity to delve deeper into what makes someone a mother. 

Motherhood, according to, is defined as "the state of being a mother". In the literal sense, this means a woman who has either given birth to children of her own, or has adopted children and in doing so agrees to raise them as her own. In reality, that term has multiple connotations and meanings that extend beyond the simple biological designation. For individuals in the LGBT+ community, "mother" may be seen as a restrictive term to those who identify along the gender non-binary or gender nonconforming spectrum. So what does this mean for the stories of individuals who don't necessarily identify with the typical parenthood binary; for them it is their chosen way of life, to us it presents us with an opportunity to explore motherhood in a more non-traditional sense. 

When I first started to search for stories for our archive, I focused more on finding potential submissions for our archive but I have since expanded that research to include reading articles and watching videos about the concepts of femininity and masculinity, queer theory and motherhood to supplement my research.

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