The Disembodied Mother

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. In this week’s post Rachel Botha considers the visual representations of mothers in debates surrounding abortion.

The Disembodied Mother: the representation of motherhood in the visual
culture surrounding the abortion debate.

According to the Eighth Amendment in the Constitution of Ireland the right to life of the unborn is equal to the right to life of the mother. This legislation is ultimately transferred to the visual culture that surrounds the brewing debate of abortion in Ireland. In this piece I shall be honing in on the impact of visualising the foetus, and how it essentially disembodies the pregnant woman to exaggerate ‘life’- the life of the foetus as a separate entity to the mother.

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What about fathers?

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post from Leanne Calvert explores men’s roles in childbirth in the nineteenth century.

What about fathers? Men and childbirth: some evidence from nineteenth-century Ulster.

Every week, millions of us tune into Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute –the fly-on-the-wall documentary series that follows midwives and expectant mothers in maternity wards across Britain and Ireland. The unlikely star of the show, however, can be found standing next to the hospital bed –the expectant father. In any given episode, fathers can be seen nervously fidgeting and pacing, holding their partners’ hands, and encouraging them as they puff through each contraction. Many fathers are present at the time of delivery and some even cut the umbilical cord. Such scenes have become commonplace in contemporary society. Today, fathers are a visible presence in the delivery room and, with the increasing availability of paternity leave, are much more involved in early childcare than previous generations of men. But, just how modern is this conception of fatherhood? What role did fathers in past centuries play in childbirth?

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Book Competition Winner!

competition-oneCongratulations to Mark Benson on winning the Perceptions of Pregnancy book giveaway. Mark’s choice of blog post was Laura Neff’s post on Missing Mothers. Maternal deaths in the United States.

Mark is a final year PhD researcher at Queen’s University, Belfast examining a history of ‘the provision of abortion in Northern Ireland, 1900-1968’. Supervised by historian Professor Mary O’Dowd and sociologist Dr Lisa Smyth, the project uses medical archives and court records to explore the changing landscape of legal, illegal and ‘discreetly’ legal procedures sought out by women and their partners.

In addition to the above,  he works acompetition-twos a tutor with QUB’s social inclusion department, the widening participation unit. The WPU focuses on A level students from low income backgrounds who are categorised as ‘those most able but least likely’ to attend university. His other projects include co-developing a new interdisciplinary module highlighting the histories of groups and topics traditionally marginalised by Irish society and often overlooked by academia.

He will be letting us know what he thinks of the collection after he submits his thesis.

Congratulations again from the Perceptions of Pregnancy team

Risky hormones, birth defects and the business of pregnancy testing pt I

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post from Jesse Olszynko-Gryn explores the relationship between pregnancy testing and birth defects in the 20th century.

 

Atkins v. Squibb

In August 1981, People magazine reported that Wyoming attorney Gerry Spence, undefeated since 1969, had won a confidential settlement from the pharmaceutical company Squibb for parents who claimed on behalf of their young, limbless son, ‘that Gestest, the company’s now banned drug to test pregnancies, had caused grotesque birth defects.’[1]

 

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Gothic Pregnancy

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post from Louise Benson James explores the representation of pregnancy in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Opposite House.

Helen Oyeyemi’s The Opposite House (2007) is narrated by Maja, a young Afro-Cuban woman living in London, and pregnant for the first time.  Pregnancy in The Opposite House is presented as a Gothic experience. Maja’s anxiety about the process of giving birth is tracked from monstrous images imagined in childhood – ‘I had vague ideas about one day having to do something large and bloody, put my eye out, or split my forehead open’ – to the adult fear that she will not survive it: ‘I am beginning to understand that at the end of this time there is going to be a need for strength, that as the skin over my stomach pulls tauter my centre descends, and one day I am going to have to push. I don’t know how anyone survives it, the thought or the happening. I will not’. [1] Maja expresses the alienating and disordering effect of her changing pregnant body: ‘my breasts are rotten lumps hooked into my ribcage, and I can’t touch my body at all, I can’t’ (p.17). Clare Kahane states:

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Conception – Past and Present

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post from Isabel Davis introduces us to a new project that examines conception in the past and the present.

Those undergoing IVF treatment look modernity in the face. Watching a cell fertilise and an embryo develop in a petri-dish necessarily inspires awe in modern science. Read, for example, this moving account of embryo transfer by New Zealand blogger Little Red Hen.[1]  At the same time as marvelling at reproductive technology, she spares a thought for the people of the past, who lived without these assistive technologies; in spite of her own struggles it makes her ‘feel lucky’.

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