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Each year, 5% to 8% of Iranian newborns require care in a neonatal unit (NU). Reasons for admission include prematurity, infection, and congenital anomalies. Little research has been conducted on the culture of Iranian NUs and the impact this has on mothers' emotional caregiving experiences.To explore the emotional caregiving experiences of mothers in an Iranian NU.Focused ethnography was used for this study. Mothers (n = 19) of term and preterm infants participated. Data were collected using observations and interviews. Roper and Shapira's 5-step framework was used to analyze the data.Four major themes emerged: (a) fear, (b) loneliness, (c) competence, and (d) pleasure. Fear occurred when mothers felt unprepared to care for their infants. They were afraid of harming their infant or repeating previous mistakes. Loneliness consisted of bearing the burden of care while feeling alone. Competence occurred when the mothers experienced an increasing ability to provide care for their infants and a growing self-confidence. Finally, the mothers described pleasure as they began to feel worthiness as mothers and intense love for their infants.The sense of fear and loneliness shared by these mothers has significant implications for practice. While it may be a challenge for nurses to provide adequate support for mothers due to the heavy workload of Iranian NUs, close relatives and other support persons may play a key role.Future research should be conducted on the impact of maternal support on mothers' NU experiences in Iran.