Passivity, being-with and being-there: care during birth

Staehler, Tanja (2016) Passivity, being-with and being-there: care during birth. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 19 (3). pp. 371-379. ISSN 1386-7423

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This paper examines how to best be with women during birth, based on a phenomenological description of the birth experience. The first part of the paper establishes birth as an uncanny experience, that is, an experience that is not only entirely unfamiliar, but even unimaginable. The way in which birth happens under unknowable circumstances (in terms of when, how, with whom…) creates a set of anxieties on top of the fundamental anxiety that emerges from the existential paradox by which it does not seem possible for a body to give birth to another body. Would homebirth provide a remedy to the uncanniness? The result yielded by medical studies is confirmed by the phenomenological perspective taken here: homebirth might be reassuring for some, but not for everybody; choice of birth place is important. Once the birth process starts happening, another layer of strangeness is added: it turns out to be an experience of radical passivity and waiting, normally. The question thus becomes how to best care for somebody who is exposed to uncanniness, passivity, and waiting. Martin Heidegger’s concepts of care and discourse prove useful in examining how to facilitate rather than interrupt this process. It becomes necessary to think beyond verbal communication towards a wider concept of communication that involves silence and intercorporeality. Birth requires a special kind of being-with as being-there.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: childbirth care passivity homebirth Heidegger phenomenology discourse
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > Philosophy
Depositing User: Tanja Staehler
Date Deposited: 29 Feb 2016 09:21
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2021 10:45

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