He Kanohi Kitea Ka Hoki Ngā Mahara: Ngāti Porou kuia tell the stories encompassing their childbirth experiences
The purpose of this study was to give voice to the unique experiences of Māori during their childbirth journey. The context of childbirth within Aotearoa has largely been constructed through the ethnocentric worldview of non-Maori. This environment has presented a sense of urgency to document distinctively Māori knowledge that will empower whānau.
In line with this perspective processes of decolonisation were observed to liberate marginalized philosophies and values. Kaupapa Māori theory prioritized a Māori worldview whilst a hermeneutical approach allowed further space for the meanings to unfold. These methodological theories aligned giving the research a strong platform to develop.
Five Ngāti Porou kuia shared the stories of their life and birthing. Their laughter, tears, humor, wisdom and memories exposed awareness to the complexities of Māori thought and the interconnected nature of this knowing. These kuia were all born between 1931 and 1941 therefore their perspective spanned from childhood through to grandmother-hood. They told rich vibrant stories revealing their experiences within the broader context of society. Almost immediately themes appeared within their narratives that innately provided an intimate insight to their perceptions of birthing.
Practices and understandings that were characteristically Māori were explored to determine how Māori sustain and hence transmit this knowledge to future generations. This involved examining the background and broader societal impacts that have influenced outcomes within Māori health and specifically maternity. Overall this study aimed to influence the revitalization of Māori knowing specific to birthing.
The findings reveal that childbirth is influenced by a multitude of complex elements. Since the turn of the century the maternity sector in Aotearoa has been strongly directed by Western notions, specifically medicalisation. Fortunately, inherent understanding of birth has contributed to preserving integral concepts pertinent to a Māori perspective. Collective relationships are vital, in particular whānau have a crucial role in supporting wāhine through this process. The special bond Māori share with the wider environment is often expressed in the narratives of whakapapa; these notions explicitly embrace childbirth. Whakapapa itself consistently emerges as a significant component, intertwining salient themes and reflecting an intrinsic synergy between female and male energies. These ideas reveal the sacredness of childbirth.