“I am a Mom!”: Exploring Identity Formation and Pregnancy Loss

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Johns Hopkins University
This paper examines the phenomena of cultural silence surrounding pregnancy loss and how this silence impacts those experiencing pregnancy loss, their social support networks, and the larger medical community. Drawing upon anthropologists Robbie Davis-Floyd and Linda Layne’s work on the liminal nature of pregnancy and interrupted cultural scripts, I explore how this ambiguity translates to cultural silence, isolation, and lack of support for many experiencing pregnancy loss. This paper also explores how cultural silence can also contribute to the devaluation of the parental identity many who have experienced pregnancy loss express and how individuals assert their parental identity through technology, material items, and social media. This thesis attempts to expand on the limited body of work addressing pregnancy loss, particularly on the role of social media in asserting and validating parental identity. I have cast a wide research net, drawing from many academic fields—communications, marketing, phenomenology, medical education, current news stories, and personal narratives, to name a few—in an effort to get a comprehensive, if brief, look at the current conceptualization of pregnancy loss in the United States. By writing a description of the ethically important and complex phenomena of pregnancy loss, I aim to offer a better understanding of one set of possible emotions following a pregnancy loss, which could be used to shape clinical practices, shift social norms, and ideally, improve the experience of those going through a pregnancy loss.
pregnancy loss, identity