Freebirthing in the UK: The Good Mother concept and the presentation of results via narrative and arts-based research
This project is based on the outputs from The Freebirth Study and the experiences of the interviewees who shared their stories. Women revealed that their lawful pregnancy and birthing decisions often resulted in social disapproval, threats of children’s services referrals and even police involvement. This aspect of the project traces the history and extent of these social standards, and how these expectations can negatively impact women’s lives.
Interviewees also reported experiences of obstetric violence. Existing literature on the subject typically focusses on this abuse within hospitals and other medical institutions. Uniquely, the second aspect of the project reports on historical and contemporary examples of obstetric violence during homebirths.
A third aspect of the study explores the use of the ‘Heroine’s Journey’ as a way of presenting social science data. This form of narrative features heavily in Western storytelling and is linked to the presentation of women and girls in myths and fairy tales.
Finally, the project will culminate in an online conference and a crocheted public engagement installation. Members of the public will be invited to contribute a granny square to create an exhibition piece that promotes human rights in childbirth.
The aims of the project are to:
- Explore the social standards imposed on pregnant women and the consequences and punishment they may be subjected to when they do not conform;
- Highlight and challenge obstetric violence during homebirths;
- Provide an innovative way of presenting social science results using the ‘Heroine’s Journey’;
- Convene an online conference on human rights in childbirth;
- Create a public engagement installation promoting human rights in childbirth using crochet as a medium.
Funding Body: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Period: November 2023 - November 2025