Vulnerability and identity negotiation in childbirth: a narrative approach

MacLellan, Jennifer (2019) Vulnerability and identity negotiation in childbirth: a narrative approach. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Despite knowledge and policy support of the positive contributors to a woman’s birth experience and awareness of the lasting impact of her interpretation of the event, there is a distinct lack of acknowledgement in the childbirth literature of the woman’s exposure to a vulnerability characteristic of birth. I feel that this transient experience of vulnerability exposes a woman’s identity to subliminal messages about her body, her competence and her social positioning, while the physicality of birth is foregrounded. I believe women use the telling of their birth stories to make meaning out of their experience.

To analyse the identity work of the story, I selected 20 birth stories from a popular ‘mums’ internet forum. Using a multi component narrative analysis technique, comprising structural, thematic and discourse analyses, I have been able to explore the influence of competing discourses upon woman’s experience of birth in the UK. In complement I have woven my story of transition to motherhood into the project to chart my subjective position as it evolved with the development of this project.

This project has contributed evidence to the discussion of women’s experiences of subjectivity in the discursive landscape of birth, while uncovering previously unacknowledged sites of resistance. The linguistic restrictions, sustained by the neoliberal control mechanisms on society and the self, act to shape the reality, feelings and expressions of birthing women. Naming these silencing strategies, as I have done through the findings of this project, and celebrating women’s discourse on birth as the explosion of birth stories across the internet are doing, offer bold moves to challenge the muting status quo of women in birth. Reclaiming women’s language for birth and working to create a new vocabulary encapsulating the experiences of birthing women, will also present opportunities for the issue of birth and women’s experiences of it to occupy greater political space with a confident and decisive voice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Health and Education
B. > Theses
Item ID: 28745
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2020 19:47
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2020 05:59

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