Birth in the twilight of certainty

Kay, Lesley (2015) Birth in the twilight of certainty. In: Making Parents? Human Reproduction and Family Life in Contemporary Society; 11 Dec 2015, Roehampton, U.K.. (Unpublished)


“Safety and consumer ideology interpenetrate with the veneration of technology, the institution, and patriarchy in such a way that they become located in the hospital and embodied in the doctor, whose tools and technological expertise become the safe fetal space to be purchased by expectant mothers. Her eyes extended by ultrasound, her hands by the scalpel and laparoscope, her brain linked to databases of the latest clinical research, the cyborg obstetrician seems to guarantee the perfectly predictable product - baby. How can a conscientious pregnant consumer justify buying anything less?” (Wendland, 2007, p. 225) In this paper I discuss one of three overriding themes which emerged from my PhD study. In the study I considered how women from two different generations came to understand birth both in the context of their own experience but also in the milieu of other women’s stories. The theme ‘Birth in the Twilight of Certainty’ explored women’s experience of being in ‘the system’ of birth and on the ‘conveyor belt of care’. In this space birth was understood as a ‘technological feat’, a process seemingly stripped of live content and imbued with possibly disastrous consequences for women and birth. In the paper I consider the onus on women to be seen as both ‘good patients’ and ‘good parents’, and discuss the responsibility and pressure this puts on women. I end by suggesting that despite being overrun with information, women birthing in the twenty first century may in fact be lacking in birthing ‘know how’; having little understanding of physiological birth and lacking the belief in their bodies to birth. Wendland, C. 2007, "The Vanishing Mother", Medical Anthropology Quarterly, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 218-223.

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