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Pregnancy in Practice

Pregnancy in Practice: Expectation and Experience in the Contemporary US

Sallie Han
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 206
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  • Book Info
    Pregnancy in Practice
    Book Description:

    Babies are not simply born-they are made through cultural and social practices. Based on rich empirical work, this book examines the everyday experiences that mark pregnancy in the US today, such as reading pregnancy advice books, showing ultrasound "baby pictures" to friends and co-workers, and decorating the nursery in anticipation of the new arrival. These ordinary practices of pregnancy, the author argues, are significant and revealing creative activities that produce babies. They are the activities through which babies are made important and meaningful in the lives of the women and men awaiting the child's birth. This book brings into focus a topic that has been overlooked in the scholarship on reproduction and will be of interest to professionals and expectant parents alike.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-988-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology, Public Health

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vi-ix)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction. Ordinary Pregnancy
    (pp. 1-28)

    The joke goes that you cannot be a little bit pregnant—either you are or you are not. Yet, among the women whom I came to know during my fieldwork in the United States, there seemed to be various degrees of acceptance of and attachment to a pregnancy—or at least their willingness to discuss it initially with friends, co-workers, and neighbors or an anthropologist. The women whom I call Bridget and Amanda phoned me not long after they had positive results on their home pregnancy tests.¹ Bridget was six weeks along, she told me, and waiting excitedly for her...

  6. Chapter 1 Pregnancy as a Literacy Event
    (pp. 29-58)

    “I have a huge stack of books. I’m probably through a dozen or fifteen books,” Rebecca told me. “We’ve really got a gazillion books that we don’t need. They’re only relevant to a six-month window in our lives.” She had browsed books not only on pregnancy, but also on birth, baby names, breastfeeding, infant care, toddlers, and child rearing. Other women whom I interviewed also bought books, borrowed them from the public library, and received them from friends. “We didn’t find the books; the books found us,” Kerri explained. When she shared the news of her pregnancy with family members...

  7. Chapter 2 Protoconversations of the Heart: Belly Talk
    (pp. 59-75)

    At nineteen weeks pregnant, Dana had received the results from her amniocentesis, which were “negative” or normal. She also learned that she was expecting a girl. Friends and neighbors already were offering their congratulations as well as their help and hand-me-downs for the baby. Dana was especially grateful for the offers of help, like making meals or babysitting, because she would have this child on her own. She was thirty-six years old, established in her career as an obstetrician, single, and ready to have a child. She became pregnant after six cycles using donor insemination. She had chosen the donor...

  8. Chapter 3 Seeing Like a Family, Looking Like a Baby: Fetal Ultrasound Imaging
    (pp. 76-98)

    Josie told me excitedly that she had some “cute baby pictures” to show me. “I wouldn’t be a good mommy if I didn’t,” she exclaimed as she pulled them out from her wallet. When she handed me the thin, curling slips of paper, what I saw were grainy, white-on-black blurs that bore no resemblance to a baby. Josie, then four months pregnant, explained that they had been taken a few weeks earlier at a ten-week ultrasound scan, which her obstetrician had performed as a “quick look” for the heartbeat to confirm that she was pregnant. She then eagerly interpreted the...

  9. Chapter 4 “This Body Is No Longer My Own”
    (pp. 99-122)

    “This body is no longer my own.” The first time I heard these words from Heather was when she recalled her initial ambivalence about being pregnant. Heather had felt initially that bad timing had defined her pregnancy. It had not been planned or intended. After taking time off from her studies, she recently had returned to college in order to finish her degree, with plans to travel and to pursue a career as a writer. Then a chance meeting with a former boyfriend brought them back into a relationship. Heather felt happy with her life. At first, because her cycles...

  10. Chapter 5 Making Rooms for Babies: Houses, Nurseries, and Baby Things
    (pp. 123-143)

    Like other couples eager to make their new house a home, Audra and her husband, George, chose paint colors, arranged their furniture, and displayed pictures from their wedding on shelves. Audra moved her desk and computer into the extra bedroom, to use as her home office, but otherwise left it unchanged. A crayon-shaped light fixture brightened the room, which had belonged to a child. Audra told me she had kept it with the hope of having a child herself. Now, she showed me the room with a shine in her eye. There were boxes of files still to be stored...

  11. Chapter 6 Consumption and Communitas: Baby Showers
    (pp. 144-170)

    Fewer than twenty people, women and men, attended the shower given for Rebecca and Tim. It was held on a hot, sunny afternoon in mid-July in the green, leafy back garden of a friend’s house. The guests sat on the grass or on mismatched lawn chairs, eating pasta salad and catching up on the goings-on of the summer. When they discovered that one of the guests was a cultural anthropologist, a few women described classes they had taken or books they had read in anthropology. They inquired about my study, and half-jokingly advised that my “data” would be “skewed” because...

  12. Conclusion. Postpartum
    (pp. 171-173)

    Ordinary pregnancy “ends” in childbirth. Nicole and Betsy birthed their babies at home, as they had hoped. Betsy and Kevin, her husband, called their daughter Corazon (Spanish for “heart”) a reminder of her birth on Valentine’s Day. They added that the placenta also had been shaped like a heart, a detail that even the midwives themselves mentioned to me. Rebecca and Elizabeth told me that they had given birth during unexpected summer storms. Elizabeth’s husband, Ethan, claimed that when their daughter arrived, the storm suddenly cleared and left a rainbow in its wake, which several friends and neighbors in the...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 174-184)
  14. Index
    (pp. 185-195)