Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Maternity Experience of New Zealand Samoan First-time Mothers

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posted on 2021-12-06, 23:15 authored by Marianna ChurchwardMarianna Churchward

Motherhood is a life-changing event. It is a significant milestone for a woman. This thesis explores the concept of motherhood from the perspectives of Samoan first-time mothers living in New Zealand. The thesis traces their experiences from conception, pregnancy and childbirth through to early motherhood. Their narratives are the focus of the research and are complemented by the viewpoints from some of their own mothers, and maternity health professionals.  The overarching question, ‘What are the experiences of a group of first-time New Zealand-born Samoan mothers before and after birth?’ was framed from a strengths-based approach and draws on work which defines a strength-based approach to resilience as research that changed traditional deficit perspectives. Rather than focusing on how individuals or families have failed or struggled, emphasis is directed to how they can succeed or how they can manage (Walsh, 2006).  Interviews were conducted in Wellington and Auckland with 11 first-time Samoan mothers prior to childbirth and follow-up interviews with nine of these women within 12 months of the birth of their child. Five Samoan grandmothers, i.e. mothers of these first-time mothers, five midwives and five Plunket nurses were also interviewed.  Four sites of analysis were examined – the embodied experience of conception and pregnancy; the process of labour and childbirth; the new norm of early motherhood, and interpersonal relationships and encounters. Analysis was conducted through the overarching lens of the Samoan concept of the vā (Wendt, 1999), the theoretical frameworks of ‘negotiated spaces’ (Mila-Schaaf and Hudson, 2009) and sophisticated mediation (Churchward, 2011).  It was found that the first-time New Zealand-born Samoan mothers engaged in a complex and, at times, contradictory process of seeking support during their transition to motherhood. They demonstrated resilience and their skill as sophisticated mediators. The women depended on relationships, some biological and some not, that were reliable and sustainable and the interaction and care that the relationship offered. Intergenerational relationships were important to these first-time New Zealand-born Samoan mothers, particularly ones they had with their own mother, or someone close to them, as it was pivotal in the way in which they constructed their maternity experience.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Pacific Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Va’aomanū Pasifika


Suaali'i-Sauni, Tamasailau