MA Counselling Psychology thesis defence: "Going Through a 24-hour box: How Women’s Experiences of Childbirth Shape Their Embodied Sense of Self”

Academic Events
Trinity Western University
Alumni Hall, Reimer Student Centre
7600 Glover Road
Langley, BC V2Y 1Y1

By: Neeta Sai

Supervisor: Dr. Janelle Kwee

Second Reader: Dr. Mihaela Launeanu

External Examiner: Dr. Keren Epstein-Gilboa, Childbirth Education, Lactation Consulting, Toronto, Ontario

Exam Chair: Dr. Marvin McDonald


Women’s subjective experiences of childbirth are presently understood in terms of role change and physical/cognitive impacts.  Acknowledgement of the embodied experience of childbirth and how it affects women’s sense of self is absent in research on this topic. This study explored how women’s childbirth experiences shape their embodied sense of self. Six women’s childbirth experiences were analysed using the Listening Guide (LG) method, adapted with the Existential Analysis framework of Four Fundamental Motivations (4FMs). Voices identified were those of fulfillment (FM1: empowerment, trust, mistrust, acceptance, endurance; FM2: connection, accompaniment, taking time; FM3: being seen, appreciation, uniqueness; FM4: meaning, belonging, choosing) and suffering (FM1: disempowerment, mistrust, struggle; FM2: disconnection, abandonment, time pressure; FM3: disregard, judgment, conformity; FM4: meaninglessness, not belonging, not choosing). Participants spoke mostly in voices of FM1, emphasizing that birth is experienced in an immediate, demanding, and physical way. Participants described their embodied sense of self as: not in control, less attractive, less important, less confident, disconnected, connected, confident, mother, and strong. Positive birth experience (embodiment) led to positive sense of self and negative birth experience (disrupted embodiment/disembodiment) led to negative sense of self. In addition, all participants experienced a positive sense of self as: a mother and strong, suggesting that childbirth and motherhood push women to grow and be strong in spite of trauma or negative birth experience. These findings are discussed in terms of reforming conceptualization of women’s subjective experiences of childbirth to emphasize the role of their lived experience in shaping their embodied sense of self and highlighting the place of public mourning for environmental loss.