Splitting bodies/selves: Women's concepts of embodiment at the moment of birth

Deborah Lupton, Virginia Schmied

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    Abstract

    Little sociological research has focused specifically on the moment of birth. In this article we draw upon interview data with women who had very recently given birth for the first time to explore the ways in which they described both their own embodiment and that of their infants at this time. We use the term 'the body-being-born' to describe the liminality and fragmentation of the foetal/infant body as women experience it when giving birth. The study found that mode of birth was integral to the process of coming to terms with this body during and following birth. The women who gave birth vaginally without anaesthesia experienced an intense physicality as they felt their bodies painfully opening as the 'body-being-born' forced its way out. In contrast the women who had had a Caesarean section tended to experience both their own bodies and those of their infants as absent and alienated. Most of the women took some time to come to terms with the infant once it was born, conceptualising it as strange and unknown, but those who delivered by Caesarean section had to work even harder in coming to terms with the experience.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)828-841
    Number of pages14
    JournalSociology of Health Illness
    Volume35
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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