Motherhood as rite of passage

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 week, in the second of a two-part series, Margaret O’Connor explores women’s decision making processes. (part one available here)

Motherhood as rite of passage – What about the rest of us?

As discussed in a separate post, motherhood is a powerful concept which affects women throughout their lives, both by its presence and absence. It can now be a conscious choice, theoretically at least. There is increasing accessibility to reproductive technologies for people with fertility issues. Meanwhile, there is a growing proportion of women who actively choose not to become mothers. This choice is relatively new.

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The Motherhood Decision

The Motherhood Decision: How do Women Decide and what Influences them?

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 week, in the first of a two-part series, Margaret O’Connor explores women’s decision making processes.

Motherhood is a powerful concept which affects women throughout their lives, both by its presence and absence. Motherhood can now be a conscious choice, theoretically at least, to be actively pursued or avoided with medical technology. There is increasing accessibility to reproductive technologies for people with fertility issues. Meanwhile, there is a growing proportion of women who actively choose not to become mothers. This choice is a relatively new experience. Continue reading

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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Missing Mothers: Maternal Deaths in the United States

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 Laura Neff asks why there is not more debate about maternal deaths in the United States.

Introduction:

Ten years ago, I watched pro-choice and pro-life activists marching towards the US Capitol Building. It was a hot afternoon, and the muggy air felt like an oppressive sea to swim through in Washington, DC. Their signs were like oars in the ocean and the two opposing sides were like two great naval flotillas, gearing up for battle. At the time, I was an intern for the Office of the House Historian and I was fascinated with the social understandings of life and death in the womb. Yet, neither group debated life and death for the mother during pregnancy, childbirth or post-partum. Why is maternal death and its prevention not a larger issue in the US 2016 presidential election? And more broadly, have the risks associated with maternal death been overshadowed by the binary pro-choice/pro-life debate?

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Stage Mothers: Women Work and the Theater, 1660-1830

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 Chelsea Phillips reviews a new edited collection on women in the theatre.

Stage Mothers: Women Work and the Theater, 1660-1830. Edited by Laura Engel and Elaine M. McGirr. Bucknell University Press (Rowman and Littlefield), 2014.

This collection offers a broad range of approaches to the intersections of maternity and theatre that will appeal to scholars of the eighteenth century and beyond. For our members, the detailed unpicking of familiar narratives (literary or in the form of conduct and advice manuals), from the realities of working mothers, will be of greatest interest.

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Institutions and Ireland: Medicine, Health and Welfare

Institutions and Ireland: Medicine, Health and Welfare

A one-day conference exploring Ireland’s continuously evolving relationships with institution.

Neill/Hoey Lecture Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub, Dublin

Friday 5 February 2016

Papers of potential interest to members include:

  • Lloyd Houston (Brasenose College, Oxford), ‘The Wages of Sin is a Month in the Locke’: Irish Modernism and the Politics of Venereal Disease
  • Professor Linda Connolly (UCC), The Construction of Gender and Motherhood through the Lens of Church–State Power in Ireland
  • Sylvia Murphy Tighe (TCD), Contemporary Media Representations of Concealed Pregnancy: Shaming, Blaming, and Vilifying Women
  • Keynote Address: Dr Rhona Mahony (Master, National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street), The Birth of a Republic: Giving Birth in Ireland, 1916–2016

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Breast or Bottle? A Victorian Debate

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 is contributed by Jessica Cox and examines Victorian debates about breast feeding.

Breast or Bottle? A Victorian Debate

In twenty-first century Britain, women are more likely to breast feed if they are educated beyond the age of eighteen, work in professional occupations, and live in less deprived areas. This marks a distinct shift from the early to mid-nineteenth century, when women from higher socio-economic groups often eschewed the practice of nursing their own children – though the relatively common practice of employing wet nurses meant many of these children were still breastfed. Queen Victoria is a case in point: she refused to nurse her nine children herself, and was disgusted when her two eldest daughters elected to breastfeed. In a letter to her second daughter, Princess Alice, she wrote:

[A] child can never be as well nursed by a lady of rank and nervous and refined temperament – for the less feeling and more like an animal the wet nurse is, the better for the child

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The Phantoms of 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 is contributed by Owen Davies who writes on the associations between pregnancy and ghosts.

From the ancient world to the present, societies across the globe have been concerned that problems in childbirth were a potential source of malevolent ghosts. People who died prematurely or tragically were thought to leave restless spirits that could harass, torment or spread illnesses amongst the living. It is no surprise, then, that women who died during pregnancy or childbirth formed one such vengeful group. Known in ancient Mesopotamia as the lilitu, they preyed on pregnant women.[1] The cause of such childbirth complications was itself considered an act of divine supernatural vengeance. It was recorded of the hag-goddess Lamashtu that:

She touches the bellies of women in labour,

She yanks out the pregnant woman’s baby.[2]

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