Tuesday, April 6, 2010

the role of religion

So far I think I've focused on two distinct strands of thought regarding religion and childbirth. On the one hand, I've looked at the ways that women ascribe religious meaning to their birth experiences. On the other, I've explored birth as a feminist issue. But I haven't explicitly stated the connection between these two strands. Here it is, in the Epilogue of Blessed Events (page 216):

"...in home birth, while women draw from their religious traditions to make decisions about pregnancy and birth, they are usually creating their own local and contextual religious interpretations of childbirth. They give religious meaning to the home as a site of birth, to their bodies as the generative source of new life, and to their pain as a spark of both physical and spiritual power. The religious idioms they turn to in this meaning-making provide a persuasive moral language supporting a woman in her resistance to conventional biomedical approaches to birth. Religious discourse, then, can be used as an oppositional language challenging biomedical perspectives..."

The home birth movement is feminist in that it asserts women's power and insists that birth is a life-shaping experience for the mother and the baby. It rejects the notion that a woman is merely the "environment of the fetus." Klassen found that these home-birthing women use religious discourse to resist the biomedical model of birth. Her thesis is powerful. So often, patriarchy shapes religion and childbirth. For me, these words conjure up images of subservient, domestic baby-making machines. Who would have thought that religion and childbirth could be so radical? We cannot overlook their liberatory potential.


  1. great quote. i'd like to re-post this on my blog, a blog about muslims and childbirth. thanks for the post!

  2. You're welcome, glad you liked the quote. Are you from mybestbirth?