Remembering birth: a narrative inquiry into older women's experiences of birth and their lifelong significance

EdD Thesis

Muscat, H. 2021. Remembering birth: a narrative inquiry into older women's experiences of birth and their lifelong significance. EdD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work
AuthorsMuscat, H.
TypeEdD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Education

While there is an abundance of literature about the women’s experiences of birth collected soon after birth, research about recollections of birth across the lifespan is scarce. This narrative inquiry takes a feminist interpretivist perspective to explore older women's birth experiences giving voice to women whose experiences occurred many years ago. As such, it presents a unique opportunity to understand more about the significance of the birth experience over time. Six women in their seventh decade were selected to participate and interviewed. The women gave birth to their children during the 1960-70s and recalled their experiences during two interviews: one unstructured interview and one semi-structured interview. The narratives were analysed using a voice-centred relational method - the Listening Guide (Mauthner and Doucet, 2011).

From the analysis three central and interrelated interpretive findings emerged. The first highlights the importance of context; the stories were shared in a way that exposed the context of living in those times and how this impacted on their experiences. The second highlights the significance of the personal and professional relationships the women experienced during the birth continuum. These involved the midwives who had cared for them and the relationships they had with their mothers and those acting in that role. The third finding has been drawn out of I-Poems and illustrates the enduring emotionality of the birth experience. The poems reflect the sense of fear, un-enlightenment, humour and sadness associated with the women’s birth experiences. They also offer empowering advice to younger women who are preparing to birth in the contemporary context.

The research demonstrates the value of older women’s perspectives of their birth experiences. Not only does it actively foreground the voices of this group of women, but it also theorises the narratives in a way that reveals the longevity of the complex multi-sensory emotional experience of giving birth. It demonstrates the women’s resilience when seeking out female support. It concludes with recommendations to health care professionals, community leaders and policymakers to embrace the wisdom and knowledge of older women and consider how common birthing practices may impact the lifespan of women.

KeywordsBirth; Older women; Experience
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Deposited08 Nov 2022
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Contexts of midwifery practice
Muscat, H., Passmore, H. and Chenery-Morris, S. Nabb, J. (ed.) 2015. Contexts of midwifery practice. SAGE.