Choosing care: negotiating and reconciling interference in narratives of home births

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University of Cape Town

While the literature on home birth emphasises women's capacity to relate to birth in deeply meaningful terms, less attention has been paid to 'interferences' in this process. The extent to which women's birthing needs are met relates to their capacity to make meaningful birth choices. By drawing on four case studies of South African home birthers, this paper examines the kinds of care which generate a sense of containment and continual relationship for birthing women, despite interference. Where home births validate and affirm the psycho-social nature of relational birthing subjects; being supported, being seen and being heard, translates into a social environment of care. Subjective interpretations of what matters most, narrated by home birthers in relationship with partners and caregivers, describe social environments which uphold safety, intimacy, connection, and agency. Homes are not controlled environments, so the inconsistency between narrated birth and actual birth experiences offers an interesting vantage point on the social contexts that generate empowered birthing selves. The care afforded home birthers allows them to create and maintain safe birth spaces, even as homes - bridges of public/private divides - intrude on relational selves. This research adds to an understanding of the consequences of women's birth choices. By foregrounding interference, this paper highlights that choices (contested as they are) remain fundamental to women's experiences of birth.