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‘But Isn’t It the Baby That Decides When It Will Be Born?’

Temporality and Women’s Embodied Experiences of Giving Birth

Joanna White

Keywords: embodiment; maternal health services; phenomenology; reproduction; time; temporality

This article explores the intermeshing of different forms of time in contemporary childbirth, including the ways in which pregnant women are embedded within, informed by and resist institutional categorizations of reproductive time. While each parturient who participated in my ethnographic study described their own, unique relationships with birthing and time, all women employed clock time to anchor critical phases of their labour. This article puts forward ‘phenomenological time’ as a means of capturing the embodied outcome of the complex relationships amongst the social and institutional times which each woman inhabits, her own individual physiology and her ongoing response throughout the birthing experience. My analysis suggests that further phenomenological studies of birth could lead to a more sophisticated understanding of the relationships between human beings and time, including alternative temporal forms such as multitemporality and ‘reverse progression’ during labour.

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