Blessed Events: Religion and Home Birth in Americaby Pamela E. Klassen
Pub. Date: 09/17/2001
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Blessed Events explores how women who give birth at home use religion to make sense of their births and in turn draw on their birthing experiences to bring meaning to their lives and families. Pamela Klassen introduces a surprisingly diverse group of women, in their own words, while also setting their birth stories within wider social, political, and/i>
Blessed Events explores how women who give birth at home use religion to make sense of their births and in turn draw on their birthing experiences to bring meaning to their lives and families. Pamela Klassen introduces a surprisingly diverse group of women, in their own words, while also setting their birth stories within wider social, political, and economic contexts. In doing so, she emerges with a study that disrupts conventional views of both childbirth and religion by blurring assumed divisions between conservative and feminist women and by taking childbirth seriously as a religious act.
Most American women who have a choice give birth in a hospital and request pain medication. Yet enough women choose and advocate unmedicated home birthand do so for carefully articulated reasons, social resistance among themto constitute a movement. Klassen investigates why women whose religious affiliations range from Old Order Amish to Reform Judaism to goddess-centered spirituality defy majority opinion, the medical establishment, and sometimes the law to have their babies at home. In considering their interpretationsincluding their critiques of the dominant medical model of childbirth and their views on labor painshe examines the kinds of agency afforded to or denied women as they derive religious meanings from childbirth. Throughout, she identifies tensions and affinities between feminist and traditionalist appraisals of the symbolic meaning of birth and the power of women.
What does home birtha woman-centered movement working to return birth to women's controlmean in practice for women's gender and religious identities? Is this supreme valuing of procreation and motherhood constraining, or does it open up new realms of cultural and social power for women? By asking these questions while remaining cognizant of religion's significance, Blessed Events challenges both feminist and traditionalist accounts of childbearing while broadening our understanding of how religion is ''lived'' in contemporary America.
Table of Contents
Preface: Motherhood Issues xi
1. Procreation Stories: An Introduction 1
2. Cultural Contexts of Home Birth 16
3. Risk, Fear, and the Ethics of Home Birth 38
4. Procreating Religion: Spirituality, Religion, and the Transformations of Birth 63
5. A Sense of Place: Meanings of Home 97
6. Natural Women: Bodies and the Work of Birth 135
7. Sliding between Pain and Pleasure: Home Birth and Visionary Pain 176
Epilogue: The Miracle of Birth 213
Appendix A: Interview Guide 221
Appendix B: The Women in the Study 224
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