Engaging with the modern birth story in pregnancy: everydayness, absorption and the idle talk of birth

Kay, Lesley (2016) Engaging with the modern birth story in pregnancy: everydayness, absorption and the idle talk of birth. In: Giving Voice to Our Experience: On Heidegger, Phenomenology and the Challenges of Language; 08-11 Aug 2016, Denver, U.S.. (Unpublished)


Background: This study considered how women came to understand birth in the milieu of other women’s stories; it grew from a sense that the way we talk about and portray birth must be significant. Objective: To consider how engaging with stories of birth influenced expectations and experiences of childbirth for two generations. Birth stories encompassed personal oral stories as well as media and other representations of childbirth. Method: A hermeneutic phenomenological approach was taken. In phase one 10 primiparous women were interviewed raising questions about whether information gleaned from media/virtual birth story mediums creates meaningful knowledge. In phase two interviews with 10 women pregnant in the 1970s – 1980s were conducted to determine whether women from a different era were more able to translate knowledge into meaning based on the belief that stories were mediated by personal contact and not though virtual technologies. Key Findings: 1. Stories had a role to play in women's understandings; 'norms' perpetuated the ' drama of birth'. 2. The 'modern birth story' created and perpetuated fear of childbirth. 3. Women were overloaded with information amassed in an attempt to manage anxiety and demonstrate competency as mothers. 4. The cultural and spiritual significance of birth was missing. 5. Many felt secure in the 'system' of birth as constructed and sustained in stories. Discussion: The birth story was constructed through ‘idle talk’ (the taken for granted assumptions of how things are which come into being through language) and took place across a variety of media, as well as through personal stories (Heidegger, 2012). The lifeworld of birth being sustained was one of product and process. This thesis revealed that information gleaned from birth stories did not create meaningful knowledge and understanding about birth. References: Heidegger, M. (2012). Being and time (J. McQuarrie, E. Robinson Trans.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

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