Maternity Tales: Exploring the History of Maternity Spaces by Emma Cheatle

Maternity Tales is a three-year research project led by Dr Emma Cheatle at Newcastle University. It looks at the buildings and interior spaces used for childbirth in England from the seventeenth century onwards and evaluates their impact on the development of maternity practices. Until the 1750s all births took place at home – except of course where birth occurred unexpectedly! A labour and the recovery afterwards were known as ‘lying-in’. The lying-in period was typically a month, during which the new mother at first recuperated bed-bound, then remained in the house, gradually returning to her household duties. Lying-in ended with the public cleansing and thanksgiving ritual of ‘churching’ performed in the local Church of England.

Two midwives assisting a woman in labour on a birth chair, Eucharius Rößlin, Rosengarte, 1513. Courtesy Wellcome Images, London.

Two midwives assisting a woman in labour on a birth chair, Eucharius Rößlin, Rosengarte, 1513. Courtesy Wellcome Images, London.

Lying-in did not take place just anywhere in the home but involved carefully remaking the master Read more...

Brexit and the Maternal Body – Stretching the Skin Until it Breaks — By Rosalind Howell

Encountering a friend recently in her last few weeks of pregnancy I found myself saying, “My goodness, surely you can’t get any bigger, you’ll burst!”. As someone who considers herself pretty comfortable with pregnancy and birth, I was rather surprised and embarrassed by the strength of my (mostly unconscious) response to encountering her maternal body.

In the aftermath of the EU referendum vote, the metaphor of the body – the maternal body specifically, is a potent and fruitful symbol in helping make sense of the distress and chaos felt by many people. As Psychotherapist Jay Watts has pointed out, since Brexit some of our most deep-seated fantasies of the body have risen menacingly and overwhelmingly to the surface  (Guardian, 2016). The vote exposed divisions in the country that gaped open and leaked rivers of grief, anxiety, rage, and hatred out of the ruptured body of ‘civilised’ British society.

A nation Read more...

Conceiving Histories – a project exploring the history of pre-pregnancy.

If you begin typing ‘Am I …’ into a google search box, ‘Am I pregnant?’ is the first offered suggestion, just ahead of ‘Am I registered to vote?’ – a vestige from the Brexit referendum, ‘Am I depressed?’ and ‘Am I insured?’. The internet is externalising and collectivising something that for our mothers’ generation had been private, internal: the ambiguity of early pregnancy. Whether hoping for or fearing pregnancy, the wait to find out can be hard: a time of fantasy and projection, of bitter anxiety or ardent longing. These days the time before a pregnancy test will give a sure result is referred to as the ‘two week wait’. In practice, because false negatives are likely in the early stages of pregnancy, it often takes a little longer than that for a not-pregnant woman to accept a negative result: more like two and a half to three weeks. What Read more...

A maternal haunting – By Anna Johnson

I began writing, for no clear purpose but from a need of some sort. And also, I think, from some notion that I could perhaps ‘make something’ of the unexpected, powerful strangeness of this experience of motherhood in which I am suddenly immersed – that something could be formed by placing these experiences a little way outside of myself (or attempting to at least). The writing kept returning, as if of its own will (though of course not – just at the behest of parts of me I am less than fully conscious of), to an idea of haunting, or multiple senses in which I experience my altered life and self as haunted. Hallucinations and ‘visions’ of imaginary objects, during and after his birth, perhaps draw unsurprising parallels with ideas of haunting, but the more mundane events of depressive episodes, repetitive activity and the altered consciousness of endless caring also Read more...

Meet the Mother House: a creative space for mothers artists

13312776_1603401659951498_3762428790709229095_nMother House is a pilot initiative from Procreate Project in partnership with Desperate Artwives. It is a dedicated creative space for London-based artists who are mothers with a co-produced and flexible childcare model.
An experimental month into the intersection between the roles of mother and artist, observing the importance of their impact on private lives and within society: the Mother House will provide a familiar context to share and reveal both the challenges and privileges of being a mother. The space will provide the freedom to work independently or alongside your children, and it will provide opportunities to work in collaboration with other artists to create a supportive and inspiring network. The Mother House idea is born in response to the urge of “making” within the life-changing experience of motherhood, offering a collaborative yet intimate space to curate your practice while ensuring your journey into motherhood is fed in a Read more...

On the Equality and Childbirth – by Ozan Kamiloglu

I just had a child. What a weird use this is of the verb “have”. There hasn’t been any physical connection between me and the child until now. My partner changed with the child, carried her, fed her, changed her life style, daily routine, diet, and she has passed through a difficult labour. I didn’t do any of these things. When they gave me the baby in the operating theater, I thought “whose baby is this one now?”. Her experience of having a baby and mine are shockingly different. Apart from the commitment to undertake certain responsibilities in relation to the child, there is nothing that makes the “child” mine. When I was in the ward with my partner, observing her experience during labour demonstrated this to me in a very striking way. And even more curious, is how we continue as if the labour, and pain, and commitment, and Read more...

Affordable Mothering and Respectability- by Agata Lisiak

The low total fertility rate in Poland (1.3) has repeatedly been juxtaposed, in Polish and British media alike (often in an alarmed tone), with the apparently much higher (2.13) total fertility rate of Polish women living in Britain (ONS 2014). As analysts from Polityka Insight have cautioned, these numbers tend to be taken out of context: if we consider the overrepresentation of young women (20-39) among Polish migrants, Polish women in the UK give birth to only 15% children more children than their counterparts in the same age group in Poland. And yet, it remains a fact that the birth rate in Poland sank considerably from 2.0 in 1990 (GUS 2014), and the new government is set on reversing this trend.

The campaign program of Poland’s conservative party Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość), who won last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, included a proposal to introduce Read more...