Thinking Maternity Through Milky Breasts

I gave birth to my daughter Molly when I was thirty-nine years old. Five miscarriages over an eighteen-year period had preceded her. As such, her existence in-utero was always precarious for me and to defend myself I could only tentatively relish in the exuberance of pregnancy. But she arrived, all 9 lb 8 oz of her, curled up in a chunky ball, her full head of hair diffusing the anger of birth in her little red face. The anxiety of whether she would or would not survive the apparent inhospitality of my womb may have been somewhat assuaged on her arrival in the outside world, but for me the precariousness of her existence continued.

Her highly medicalised emergency C-section delivery was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. Alive and yet lying on the slab, numb to all physicality except for the waves of nausea, emotions existing only Read more...

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...

Maternal Readings of Motherhood on Television: A Birthlight Summary- by Rebecca Feasey

I recently published a Blog giving an overview summary of a research project that asked mothers in the television viewing audience to comment on their readings of motherhood on the small screen (Feasey 2016a). After presenting this work at a recent ‘Womb to World’ conference I have been asked by Birthlight to consider the ways in which their members might be seen to adhere to or negotiate my original research findings. Birthlight members listened to my research and informed me of their individual maternal readings, before asking if Birthlight members could complete the questionnaire that informed the original project.

Birthlight is a ‘charity and teacher-training organisation focusing on the holistic approach to pregnancy, birth and babyhood’ (Birthlight 2016). During a time when pregnancy and childbirth are becoming increasingly medicalised, Birthlight members are committed to the ‘spiritual’ dimension of birth and view labour as a ‘light and fulfilling experience’ (ibid). The Read more...

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About this Blog

The MaMSIE (Mapping Maternal Subjectivities, Identities and Ethics) blog endeavours to create a space for critical debates surrounding the maternal, and explore the unique site it occupies at the potent intersection between scientific possibilities, psychosocial practices and cultural representations. The blog serves as an interdisciplinary platform for research students, early career researchers as well as more advanced researchers looking to try out new ideas. We welcome all discussions surrounding the maternal, whether in current affairs, policy, clinical practice, the arts or academia.

Blog posts are usually published on a monthly basis. The blog is edited and run on a day to day basis by a team of postgraduate students working in different disciplines from across the universities of London. If you are interested in contributing to the blog please see our submission guidelines.

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