Spirituality and Childbirth

Existential Meanings and Contemporary Practice Realities

Authors

  • Susan Crowther Robert Gordon University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.37288

Keywords:

Childbirth, spirituality, existential, experience, care, ecology

Abstract

Spirituality at the end of life is often explored in the literature and in research yet despite the shared experience of childbirth within society there has been little spirituality focus on the start of life. However, interest in this area is slowly gathering momentum. This article shows how childbirth is overflowing with spiritual and existential meaningfulness for all. The impact of this major event in human life and our shared natality warrants closer examination. Using the framework “ecology of birth” the significance of “how” we do things is shown to matter as much as what we do, or not do, in and round childbirth. Drawing on research and practice this article asks us to collectively think about childbirth in ways that honour childbirth’s spiritual and existential meaningfulness and significance. Further multidisciplinary research to inform an art of practice in and around childbirth is suggested. By moving from the prevalent calculative mode of thinking in contemporary maternity care systems to a more contemplative mode of thinking we can be enabled to think afresh about the ways we “do things” and how we “are there” around childbirth without adopting polemic positions.

Author Biography

Susan Crowther, Robert Gordon University

Susan Crowther is Professor of Midwifery at AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand and visiting professor at RGU university, Aberdeen, UK.

References

Abu-Ras, W., and L. Laird (2011) “How Muslim and non-Muslim Chaplains Serve Muslim Patients? Does the Interfaith Chaplaincy Model have Room for Muslims’ Experiences?” Journal of Religion Health & Place 50: 46–61. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-010-9357-4

Arendt, H. (1958) The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Balboni, M. J., A. Sullivan, A. Amobi, A. C. Phelps, D. P. Gorman, A. Zollfrank, J. R. Peteet, H. G. Prigerson, T. J. Vanderweele and T. A. Balboni (2013) “Why is Spiritual Care Infrequent at the End of Life? Spiritual Care Perceptions Among Patients, Nurses, and Physicians and the Role of Training”. Journal of Clinical Oncology 31: 461. https://doi.org/10.1200/jco.2012.44.6443

Barrett, A. (2017) “Spiritual Obstetrics”. In Spirituality Childbirth: Meaning and Care at the Start of Life, ed. S. Crowther and J. Hall. London: Routledge.

Bartlett, W. D. (2001) “Building Sacred Traditions in Birth”. Midwifery Today with International Midwife 58: 24.

Behr, N. N. (1990) “Celebrating and Suffering: Chaplaincy in Obstetrics”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 3: 29–39. https://doi.org/10.1300/j080v03n01_04

Callister, L. C., and I. Khalaf (2010) “Spirituality in Childbearing Women”. The Journal of Perinatal Education 19: 16–24. https://doi.org/10.1624/105812410x495514

Carver, N., and B. Ward (2007) “Spirituality in Pregnancy: A Diversity of Experiences and Needs”. British Journal of Midwifery 15: 294–96. https://doi.org/10.12968/bjom.2007.15.5.23410

Crouch, M., and L. Manderson (1993) “Parturition as Social Metaphor”. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology 29: 55–72. https://doi.org/10.1177/144078339302900104

Crowther, S. (2013) “Sacred Space at the Moment of Birth”. The Practising Midwife (December): 21–23.

—(2014) “Sacred Joy at Birth: A Hermeneutic Phenomenology Study”. PhD dissertation, Auckland University of Technology, Australia.

—(2017) “Birth as Sacred Celebration”. In Spirituality and Childbirth: Meaning and Care at the Start of Life, ed. S. Crowther and J. Hall. New York: Taylor & Francis. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315389646-2

—(2018) “Birth and Spirituality”. In The Routledge International Handbook of Spirituality and Society, ed. Laszlo Zsolnai and Bernadette Flanagan. London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315445489

Crowther, S., and J. Hall (2015) “Spirituality and Spiritual Care in and Around Childbirth”. Women and Birth 28: 173–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2015.01.001

—(2017) Spirituality and Childbirth: Meaning and Care at the Start of Life. London: Taylor & Francis.

Crowther, S., and E. Smythe (2016) “Open, Trusting Relationships Underpin Safety in Rural Maternity a Hermeneutic Phenomenology Study”. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 16: 370. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-016-1164-9

Crowther, S., E. Smythe and D. Spence (2014a) “The Joy at Birth: An Interpretive Hermeneutic Literature Review”. Midwifery 30: e157–e165. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2014.01.004

—(2014b) “Mood and Birth Experience”. Women and Birth: Journal of the Australian College of Midwives 27: 21–25.

—(2015) “Kairos Time at the Moment of Birth”. Midwifery 31: 451–57.

Deery, R., and B. Hunter (2010) “Emotion Work and Relationships”, in Kirkham, M. (ed.) The Midwife-Mother Relationship. London: Palgrave Mcmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-04133-3_3

Delaporte, M., and M. Martin (2018) Sacred Inception: Reclaiming the Spirituality of Birth in the Modern World. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Dilthey, W. (2002) Formation of the Historical World in the Human Sciences. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Doka, K. J., and J. D. Morgan (2016) Death and Spirituality. London: Routledge.

Downe, S., K. Finlayson, Ӧ. Tuncalp and A. Metin Gülmezoglu (2016) “What Matters to Women: A Systematic Scoping Review to Identify the Processes and Outcomes of Antenatal Care Provision that are Important to Healthy Pregnant Women”. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 123: 529–39. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.13819

Edwards, A., N. Pang, V. Shiu and C. Chan (2010) “The Understanding of Spirituality and the Potential Role of Spiritual Care in End-of-life and Palliative Care: A Meta-study of Qualitative Research”. Palliative Medicine 24: 753–70. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269216310375860

Friedman, T. C., and A. M. Bloom (2012) “When Death Precedes Birth: Experience of a Palliative Care Team on a Labor and Delivery Unit”. Journal of Palliative Medicine 15: 274–76. https://doi.org/10.1089/jpm.2011.0269

Gaskin, I. M. (2011) Birth Matters – A Midwife’s Manifesta. New York: Seven Stories Press.

Guignon, C. (2012) “Becoming a Person: Hermeneutic Phenomenology’s Contribution”. New Ideas in Psychology 30(1): 97–106. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.newideapsych.2009.11.005

Hall, J. (2007) “Creativity, Spirituality and Birth”. In The Art and Soul of Midwifery, ed. L. Davies. London: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

—(2017) “Pregnancy and the Unborn Child”. Spirituality and Childbirth. New York: Routledge.

Hamilton, D. (2013) “When Birth and Death Come Together: The Right Rite?” Journal of Health Social Care Chaplaincy 2: 15–18. https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.v2i2.15

Healy, S., E. Humphreys and C. Kennedy (2016) “Midwives’ and Obstetricians’ Perceptions of Risk and its Impact on Clinical Practice and Decision-making in Labour: An Integrative Review”. Women and Birth 29: 107–116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2015.08.010

Heidari, T., S. Ziaei, F. Ahmadi, E. Mohammadi and J. Hall (2015) “Maternal Experiences of their Unborn Child’s Spiritual Care: Patterns of Abstinence in Iran”. Journal of Holistic Nursing 33: 146–58. https://doi.org/10.1177/0898010114551416

Heidegger, M. (1962 [1927]) Being and Time. New York: Harper.

—(1993 [1954]) “The Question Concerning Technology”. In Basic Writings, ed. D. F. Krell. New York: Harper Collins.

Hennessey, A. (2017) “Ritual and Art in a Philosophy of Birth”. Spirituality and Childbirth. New York: Routledge.

Hildingsson, I., L. Cederlöf and S. Widén (2011) “Fathers’ Birth Experience in Relation to Midwifery Care”. Women and Birth 24: 129–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2010.12.003

Howarth, A. M., N. R. Swain and G. J. Treharne (2011) “First-time Mothers’ Perspectives on Relationships with and between Midwives and Doctors: Insights from a Qualitative Study of Giving Birth in New Zealand”. Midwifery 28: 489–94. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2011.07.004

Hunter, B., M. Berg, I. Lundgren, Ó. Á. Ólafsdóttir and M. Kirkham (2008) “Relationships: The Hidden Threads in the Tapestry of Maternity Care”. Midwifery 24: 132–37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2008.02.003

Hunter, L. P. (2002) “Being with Woman: A Guiding Concept for the Care of Laboring Women”. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing 31: 650. https://doi.org/10.1177/0884217502239213

—(2003) “An Interpretive Exploration of the Meaning of Being with Women during Birth for Midwives”. PhD dissertation, University of San Diego, California, USA.

—(2009) “A Descriptive Study of ‘Being with Woman’ during Labor and Birth”. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health 54: 111–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmwh.2008.10.006

Jesse, E., C. Schoneboom and A. Blanchard (2007) “The Effect of Faith or Spirituality in Pregnancy”. Journal of Holistic Nursing 25: 151–58. https://doi.org/10.1177/0898010106293593

Kalish, N. (2012) “Evidence-based Spiritual Care: A Literature Review”. Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care 6: 242–46. https://doi.org/10.1097/spc.0b013e328353811c

Kirkham, M. (2010) The Midwife-Mother Relationship. London, Palgrave Macmillan.

Kornelsen, J. (2005) “Essences and Imperatives: An Investigation of Technology in Childbirth”. Social Science & Medicine 61: 1495–1504. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.03.007

Lahood, G. (2006) “Birth, Fathers, Ritual and ‘Reproductive Consciousness’ in Transpersonal Anthropological Perspective”. PhD dissertation, Massey University, New Zealand.

—(2007) “Rumour of Angels and Heavenly Midwives: Anthropology of Transpersonal Events and Childbirth”. Women and Birth 20: 3–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2006.10.002

Lazer, D., R. Kennedy, G. King and A. Vespignani (2014) “The Parable of Google Flu: Traps in Big Data Analysis”. Science 343: 1203–205. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1248506

Lemay, C., and C. J. Hastie (2017) “Holding Sacred Space in Labour and Birth”. In Spirituality Childbirth: Meaning Care at the Start of Life, ed. S. Crowther and J. Hall, Chapter 7, pp. 99–116. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315389646-7

Lindgren, H. E., I. J. Rådestad, K. Christensson, K. Wally-Bystrom and I. M. Hildingsson (2010) “Perceptions of Risk and Risk Management among 735 Women who Opted for a Home Birth”. Midwifery 26: 163–72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2008.04.010

Lokugamage, A. (2011) The Heart in the Womb. London: Docamali Limited.

Lymer, Jane M. (2016) The Phenomenology of Gravidity: Reframing Pregnancy and the Maternal through Merleau-Ponty, Levinas and Derrida. London: Rowman and Littlefield International Ltd.

McCourt, C., and T. Stevens (2009) “Relationship and Reciprocity in Caseload Midwifery”. In Emotions in Midwifery and Reproduction, ed. B. Hunter and R. Deery. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-08641-9_2

Miller, S., E. Abalos, M. Chamillard, A. Ciapponi, D. Colaci, D. Comandé, V. Diaz, S. Geller, C. Hanson and A. Langer (2016) “Beyond Too Little, Too Late and Too Much, Too Soon: A Pathway towards Evidence-based, Respectful Maternity Care Worldwide”. The Lancet 388: 2176–92. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(16)31472-6

Nuzum, D., S. Meaney, K. O’Donoghue and M. J. P. T. Jackson (2017) “Stillbirth and Suffering in Ireland: A Theological Reflection from Healthcare Chaplaincy”. Practical Theology 10: 187–200. https://doi.org/10.1080/1756073x.2017.1296062

Nuzum, D., S. Meaney, K. O’Donoghue and H. Morris (2015) “The Spiritual and Theological Issues Raised by Stillbirth for Healthcare Chaplains”. Journal of Pastoral Care Counsel 69(3): 163–70. https://doi.org/10.1177/1542305015602714

O’Brien, B., B. Chalmers, D. Fell, M. Heaman, E. K. Darling and P. Herbert (2011) “The Experience of Pregnancy and Birth with Midwives: Results from the Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey”. Birth 38: 207–215. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-536x.2011.00482.x

Parratt, J., and K. M. Fahy (2008) “Including the Nonrational is Sensible Midwifery”. Women and Birth 21: 37–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2007.12.002

Paul, L. A. (2014) Transformative Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Plebuch, D. (2010) “Heidegger’s Fourfold”. PhD dissertation, University of Illinois, Chicago, USA.

Price, S., M. Lake, G. Breen, G. Carson, C. Quinn and T. O’Connor (2007) “The Spiritual Experience of High-risk Pregnancy”. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing 36: 63–70. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1552-6909.2006.00110.x

Schneider, D. A. (2012) “The Miracle Bearers: Narratives of Birthing Women and Implications for Spiritually Informed Social Work Practice”. Journal of Social Service Research 38: 212–30. https://doi.org/10.1080/01488376.2011.647983

Smythe, E. (2010) “Safety is an Interpretive Act: A Hermeneutic Analysis of Care in Childbirth”. International Journal of Nursing Studies 47: 1474–82. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2010.05.003

Smythe, Elizabeth A., D. Payne, S. Wilson, and S. Wynyard (2013) “The Dwelling Space of Postnatal Care”. Women and Birth 26(2): 110–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2012.05.001

Taubman-Ben-Ari, O., S. B. Shlomo, and L. Findler (2012) “Personal Growth and Meaning in Life Among First-Time Mothers and Grandmothers”. Journal of Happiness Studies 13(5): 801–820. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-011-9291-5

Walsh, D. (2006a) “Subverting Assembly-line Birth: Childbirth in a Free-standing Birth Centre”. Social Science and Medicine 62: 1330–40. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.08.013

—(2007a) Improving Maternity Service. Small is Beautiful: Lessons for Maternity Services from a Birth Centre. Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1201/9781315383156-11

World Health Organization (2018) WHO Recommendations: Intrapartum Care for a Positive Childbirth Experience. Geneva: World Health Organization. https://doi.org/10.30934/kusbed.546900

Winter-Pfändler, U., and K. J. Flannelly (2013) “Patients’ Expectations of Healthcare Chaplaincy: A Cross-sectional Study in the German Part of Switzerland”. Journal of Religion Health & Place 52: 159–68. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-010-9451-7

Published

2020-02-06

How to Cite

Crowther, S. (2020). Spirituality and Childbirth: Existential Meanings and Contemporary Practice Realities. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 7(2), 115-130. https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.37288

Issue

Section

Articles