“It’s not my fault”: Interventionist births and ‘natural’ ideals

“It’s not my fault”: Interventionist births and ‘natural’ ideals

Dr Kate MooreZoom

‘Natural’ birth discourse positions births free from medical intervention and pain relief as the gold standard to which women should aspire. A large proportion of women in the UK will, however, experience medical intervention during birth, which can lead to feelings of guilt, shame and sadness. In this paper I take a sociocultural linguistic approach to explore how a first-time mother discursively negotiates the reality of an interventionist birth, in light of ‘natural’ birth ideals. Drawing on ethnographic insights and principles from interactional sociolinguistics, I analyse a key extract from the speaker’s birth narrative, to make visible the significant discursive work she undertakes in order to maintain a ‘socially acceptable’ mother identity position, despite her birth diverging from the ‘natural’ ideal. I argue that the speaker’s decision to highlight the necessity of the intervention she received, and her repeated attempts to establish herself as having worked hard during labour, demonstrate her desire to present herself as a mother strongly committed to ‘natural’ birth and who accepted medical intervention only when physically necessary. My analysis provides further evidence of the potentially damaging effect that ‘natural’ birth discourse can have on women’s understanding of their birth experiences and of themselves as mothers.

Edge Hill University, UK
Fri 12:00 - 13:30
Maternity and Childbirth, Shame and Stigma
Standard paper