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. This first post of the new academic year is contributed by Naomi Redina who has reviewed the 2015 film documentary The Mama Sherpas.
After being pressured into an unwanted c-section with her first child, director Brigid Maher sought to understand if it is “even possible for women to have a natural childbirth in a hospital.” The Mama Sherpas (2015) — executive produced by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein — investigates collaborative care between midwives and physicians. Throughout the film, “natural” birth is mentioned as ideal. Aren’t all births that results in a baby exiting the womb via the vagina, “natural?” An inattention to language resulted in the film discussing “natural” birth but really meaning “birth with as minimal intervention as mom wants.” At the end, Maher mentions there are various models of midwifery, including that which supports “natural” birth or the use of an epidural. Epidurals were never discussed in the filmed office visits, and only one c-section was shown. The c-section was sanctioned by the midwives because of health risks to the mother. Continue reading
The This World documentary Ireland’s Lost Babies aired on BBC2 on 17 September. Martin Sixsmith explores the stories of those involved in the transatlantic adoption trade between Ireland and America in the 1950s and ’60s. Ireland’s Lost Babies will be shown on RTÉ 1 at 10.15pm on 18 September. The documentary can be watched on the BBC player here, while details about the making of the programme can be also found on the BBC website.
Review by Dr Niamh Cullen.
The BBC documentary Ireland’s Lost Babies followed Martin Sixsmith as he explored the forced adoption of so-called illegitimate Irish children to the US. It casts yet more light on the question of how independent Ireland treated some of its most vulnerable members: single women and their children. The documentary was structured around a series of interviews with Lily Boyce, whose son had been forcibly adopted, and with adopted children in the US who were now trying to trace their birth families in Ireland. The personal stories were weaved in well with the broader narrative of how these adoptions were carried out, and of the society that enabled the system to continue. The 2013 film Philomena dramatized the work that Sixsmith has already done in helping Philomena Lee — who recently spoke about her experience of forced adoption — trace her son; here he uncovers the roots of the system in Irish society and Irish institutions, both religious and political.
In our latest review, Leah Phillips has been looking at media coverage of the announcement that Britain’s Prince William and Kate are expecting their second child, and asks, what does this reveal about society’s attitude towards the pregnant body?
“Breaking News: Woman is Expecting a Baby”
This was how the Huffington Post UK reported the news that the Duchess of Cambridge, better known as Kate, is expecting her second child. Over the course of the next several months, Kate, will be reduced to our fascination with her clothes, changes in hairstyle and – most importantly – that growing bump. She will become (is becoming) Kate Middleton: walking-womb. Thus, while I truly appreciate HuffPost UK’s gentle mockery of itself (and media outlets the world over), the mockery only serves to indicate just how much this pregnancy is not (or will not be) normal, even by the (abnormal) standards of pregnancy. Kate’s pregnancy – and our growing concern with her growing bump – serves to mark a peculiar preoccupation with the pregnant form.
Adoption: Past, Present and the Philomena Project
In the first review for the Perceptions of Pregnancy website, Sylvia Tighe Murphy reports back from the Redefining Adoption in a New Era conference and reviews Philomena Lee’s address.
Last week I had the privilege of hearing Philomena Lee address an Adoption Conference at University College Cork. Redefining Adoption in a New Era: Opportunities & Challenges for Law & Practice sought to bring people together such as those who were adopted, natural/birth mothers, academics, and legal and social work practitioners. The general public may know of Philomena Lee’s life following the dramatization of her life story in the blockbuster movie Philomena. But the stark reality of what happened to Philomena nearly sixty years ago has no fairy tale ending. Philomena’s key note address was a reminder to us all of a time in Ireland that many might wish to forget where women who became pregnant outside of marriage were treated harshly, ostracised and put away.