Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 147–173 | Cite as

“The clock has been ticking, the calendar pages turning, and we are still waiting”: Infertile couples' encounter with time in the adoption waiting period

  • Margarete Sandelowski
  • Betty G. Harris
  • Diane Holditch-Davis


In this paper, the authors draw from sociological explorations of time and narrative theory to interpret the problem that time posed for 37 infertile couples waiting for a child to adopt. We also address their emotional and behavioral responses to their problematic encounter with time. The adoption waiting period can be usefully conceived of as a: a) temporal irregularity in social life; b) temporally unmarked transitional stage in the passage to parenthood; and as a c) special kind of social construction and product of the imagination. Confronting empty time, waiting couples humanized time spent in waiting and maintained hope by creating a temporal framework for the waiting period. They established a timeline, plotted the end of the wait, and created a rhythm for the duration of the wait. Short-waiting couples were able to maintain a sense of making progress toward their goal of a child. Long-waiting couples increasingly felt as if they were standing still or moving away from their goal. The findings contribute to the understanding of temporality in infertile couples and affirm the uncertainty and discomfort that the lack of temporal order can engender.


Social Psychology Behavioral Response Social Life Social Issue Special Kind 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Albert, S. (1984). The sense of closure. In K. J. Gergen & M. M. Gergen (Eds.),Historical Social Psychology (pp. 159–172). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  2. Calkins, K. (1970). Time: Perspectives, marking and styles of usage.Social Problems, 17 487–501.Google Scholar
  3. Campbell, J. (1968).The hero with a thousand faces. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Dossey, L. (1982).Space, time and medicine. Boston: New Science Library.Google Scholar
  5. Gergen, M. M., & Gergen, K. J. (1984). The social construction of narrative accounts. In K. J. Gergen & M. M. Gergen (Eds.),Historical Social Psychology (pp. 173–189). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  6. Gilman, R. (1987). The waiting since. In H. Bloom (Ed.),Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (pp. 67–78). New York: Chelsea House.Google Scholar
  7. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1971).Status passage. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  8. Goffman, E. (1963).Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  9. Kermode, F. (1967).The sense of an ending: Studies in the theory of fiction. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Kirk, H. D. (1984).Shared fate: A theory and method of adoptive relationships Second ed., rev. Port Angeles, Washington: Ben-Simon.Google Scholar
  11. Polkinghorne, D. E. (1988).Narrative knowing and the human sciences. Albany: State University of New York.Google Scholar
  12. Sandelowski, M. (1988). Without child: The world of infertile women.Health Care for Women International, 9 147–161.Google Scholar
  13. Sandelowski, M., Harris, B. G., Holditch-Davis, D. (1989). Mazing: Infertile couples and the quest for a child.Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 21 220–226.Google Scholar
  14. Sandelowski, M., & Pollock, C. (1986). Women's experiences of infertility.Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 18 140–144.Google Scholar
  15. Sarbin, T. R. (1986).Narrative psychology: The storied nature of human conduct. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  16. Schechner, R. (1967). There's lots of time in Godot. In R. Cohn (Ed.),Casebook on Waiting for Godot (pp. 175–187). New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
  17. Van Gennep, A. (1909/1960).The rites of passage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  18. Zerubavel, E. (1981).Hidden rhythms: Schedules and calendars in social life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margarete Sandelowski
    • 1
  • Betty G. Harris
  • Diane Holditch-Davis
  1. 1.Department of Women's and Children's Health, School of NursingUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel Hill

Personalised recommendations