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

Kay, Lesley (2017) Engaging with the 'modern birth story' in pregnancy : everydayness, absorption and the 'idle talk' of birth. In: Hermeneutic Phenomenology Symposium; 06 Apr 2017, Preston, U.K.. (Unpublished)


This study explored how women came to understand birth in the milieu of other’s stories. The prior assumption was that birth stories must surely have a positive or negative influence on listeners, steering them towards either medical or midwifery-led models of care. A Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenological approach was used. Twenty UK participants were purposively selected and interviewed. Findings from the initial sample of ten women who were pregnant in 2013 indicated that virtual media was a primary source of birth stories. This led to recruitment of a second sample of ten women who gave birth in the 1970s – 1980s, to determine whether they were more able to translate information into knowledge via stories told through personal contact and not through virtual technologies. Phenomenological conversations took place in the iterative circle of reading, writing and thinking to reveal the experience of ‘being-in-the-world’ of birth and of stories in that world. From a Heideggerian perspective, the birth story was constructed through ‘idle talk’ (the taken for granted assumptions of things, which come into being through language). Both oral stories and those told through technology were described as the ‘modern birth story’. Three main themes emerged: ‘Stories are difficult like that’ examines the birth story as problematic and considers how stories shape meaning. ‘It’s a generational thing’ considers how women from two generations came to understand what their experience might be. ‘Birth in the twilight of certainty’ examines women’s experience of Being in the system. The women birthing in 2013 framed their expectations in the language of choice, whilst the women who birthed in the 1970s-80s framed their experience in the language of safety. For both, however, the world of birth was the same; saturated with, and only legitimised by the birth of a healthy baby. Rather than creating meaningful understanding, the ‘idle talk’ of birth made women fearful of leaving the relative comfort of the ‘system’, and of claiming an alternative (and, for them, more authentic) birth.

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