Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why does birth matter?

This is one response to my earlier post Thinking, No Conclusions Yet, from Jenny Parratt's PhD research about how birth affects a woman's embodied self. 


I found this post and all the comments very interesting. I'm a mother and a midwife and I feel passionate that the actual birth experience does matter. I have spent the past 9 years researching women's experiences for my PhD with Professor Kathleen Fahy (at Newcastle Uni in Australia). My focus has been on how women's embodied self changes during childbearing. The 14 stories I collected for the research give a very detailed picture of women's experience before during and after birth. I've recently published them (called Feelings of change: Stories of having a baby). I don't give any commentary with the stories because they are pretty long the way they are, but I plan another book that shows my findings.

Briefly, here are some of the findings from my PhD (cited below). My findings indicate that any woman can experience an improved sense of embodied self as a result of childbearing generally and childbirth more specifically. Embodied self change that is most empowering occurs when a woman uses her own power during labour and birth. This process of change is facilitated by a sense of self-trust and by being inwardly centred. A woman’s improved embodied self is then manifested by an increased awareness of and capacity to use her inner strength. This has the consequence that a woman who experiences a sense of improved embodied self feels more confident in dealing with other challenging life circumstances. I therefore conclude that when a woman uses her own power during labour and birth she is most likely to feel an improved sense of embodied self during childbearing.

Parratt, J. (2009) Feeling like a genius: enhancing women’s changing embodied self during first childbearing. PhD Thesis. School of Nursing and Midwifery. The University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Parratt, J. (2009). Feelings of Change: Stories of having a baby. Raleigh: Lulu.com.


  1. I would definately have to agree. After childbirth, you get a feeling like you can accomplish anything. It changes your perception of yourself and your capabilities. Even for my last birth which included an epidural for the last couple hours so I could get some much needed sleep, I still felt so empowered by what my body could do.

  2. This is great. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great post, Rixa, as always!

    I was not able to access the link. Were other people able to? I tried several times.

  4. yes. me too. my HBAC restored my sense of myself and knowing that I was capable. I think homebirth, especially, helped me reconnect with my body -- my midwives were gone 2 hours after the birth. my body was mine, not something to be poked and checked every couple hours by some stranger. and my baby too. she was herself, and our daughter, and a sister, and not a patient.

    it empowered our whole family.

  5. I love Abby's comment, particularly the bit about it empowering her whole family.

    I fell this definitely applies to not only my nuclear family but also the group of women involved in the births of my last two children. My son was born in there home and I can say there was definitely a feeling of...wholeness, confidence and community there. After his birth was over and I'd had some time to snuggle and bathe and all that, several more of our friends showed up and threw a party! It was like...somehow this one birth served to strengthen and enable our community to have an even closer bond. Birth is NOT just a woman's issue. Birthing affects everyone from the littlest members of society (of course) to the oldest members. It is absolutely central to our existence.


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