The first child’s birth is for most mothers a profound experience carrying the potential to change life orientations and values. However, little is known of how becoming a mother influences the existential dimensions of life within the parental relationship for example how motherhood may change how we view our partner and what we find important. The aim of this study was to explore how becoming a mother might change the parental relationship seen from the mother’s perspective with a specific focus on dimensions related to existential meaning-making.
In 2011, 499 Danish first time mothers answered a questionnaire, from which five core items related to changes in the partner relationship from the perspective of the mother, informed this study. The cohort consisted of mothers who gave birth before the 32nd week of gestation (n = 127) and mothers who gave birth at full term (n = 372). Item 1 focused on thoughts and conversations with her partner about the life change. Item 2 referred to the potential feeling of stronger ties to the partner. Item 3 related to the feeling of being connected to ‘something bigger than one self’ together with the partner. Item 4 focused on potential conflicts due to having a child, and item 5 referred to the experience of dreams. Possible answers ranged from ‘To a high degree’ to ‘Not at all’.
Most respondents found birth of the first child to have forged stronger ties to their partner and have led to both thoughts and conversations about how life together as a couple changed. At the same time, some experienced more conflicts with their partner than before giving birth, however, the majority did actually not. More than half felt their relationship linked to ‘something bigger than themselves’ or had had dreams on being a family.
Findings suggest motherhood transition to be a significant transformer of partnership relation influencing also existential meaning-making. Having the potential to be of importance for the health and vitality of the mother, partner and child, it seems essential to scientifically and clinically address concerns related to existential meaning-making in partner relationship.