Sacred joy at birth: a hermeneutic phenomenology study

Crowther, Susan
Smythe, Liz
Spence, Deb
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

There is an increasing secularisation of birth and reliance on technology in the western maternity context. Growing from a concern that something of significance at birth was being hidden or lost, this study explores the experience of joy at birth. This hermeneutic phenomenological study underpinned by the philosophies of Heidegger and Gadamer uncovers lived-experience of joy when a baby is born. The Heideggerian notion of attunement is central to interpretive findings. How those present at birth attune determines how the birth is interpreted and understood as meaningful. 14 Participants were purposefully selected and recruited for their interest in the topic and willingness to participate. Stories of birth were collected from mothers, birth partners, obstetricians and midwives. The study revealed that joy was experienced across professional groups and in different types of births and locations with or without technological interventions. Each has unique experience made intelligible through how they attune. Joy was revealed as a shared embodied, spatial and essentially gathering experience. The coalescence of these emergent themes reveals deepening insights of a holy timeless moment involving numinous encounters and connections across generations. This study reveals how those moments are sacred. The overwhelming nature of joy irrupting suddenly when a baby is born, even when such joy is seemingly hidden, shows itself in care and concern. Joy at birth conceals profound meaning pointing to understandings that provokes further thinking about how modern maternity care is collectively attuned. Joy is revealed as a reminder of our shared natality. The implications of this study call into question our actions and ways of being when a baby is born wherever and however birth unfolds. Birth is more than bio-medical and this thesis calls us to attend to the wholeness of birth. Approaches to how education for mothers, communities, midwives and doctors is addressed. The study contributes new insights and awareness about the preciousness and sacred quality of that shared moment and how that ineffable moment in time needs sheltering and safeguarding. This has implications both for those present and for society as a whole.

Joy , Birth , Sacred , Attunement , Heideggerian , Natality , Spirituality , Kairos time
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