the pregnancy project
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About the Interviews

As of September/October 2003, I have recorded repeated, in-depth interviews of 1-2 hours each to document the monthly progress of the pregnancies of 14 pregnant women who are or were expecting a first child, and 1 pregnant woman who was expecting a third child. I also recorded before and after delivery interviews with 1 additional first-time mother. (Prior to the commencement of this research, I had engaged in preliminary fieldwork in the Ann Arbor and Detroit suburbs for a total of approximately 6 months.)

The process of documenting a womans pregnancy typically started at the beginning of the 2nd trimester between weeks 14 and 22, although in 2 cases, the process began between weeks 6 and 10. I also am recording post-pregnancy interviews with the women in order to document the stories of their births. Typically, I have recorded interviews during the first 12 weeks post-partum. To date, I have interviewed 11 women with their partners (all of them male spouses) at least once; 2 women were interviewed regularly with their partners. The other 2 women are not partnered currently: One lives with and receives assistance from her own parents because she receives almost no assistance from the childs father (who is her former partner). The other chose to become pregnant using artificial insemination and raise her child as a single mother. I also have interviewed 2 womens mothers-in-law who planned to be involved actively in the expected childs care.

About Participant-Observation

In addition, I have conducted participant-observation and informal interviews with pregnant women/couples attending 4 different childbirth preparation courses, prenatal yoga and pregnancy massage classes, a hospital-sponsored birth fair, and other community events and settings, such as shopping at BabiesRUs and small, independent childrens stores and waiting in line at a local ice cream shop. I also observed at more than 100 appointments with women receiving prenatal care from obstetricians, certified nurse-midwives, and direct-entry midwives who attend home births, more than 50 ultrasound appointments, and at genetic counseling sessions at a major university research hospital. I also participated in a training workshop for doulas, or labor assistants.

I completed fieldwork for this project in February 2004 - in time for the birth of my first child. Currently, I am writing my dissertation, which I hope to complete and defend in 2006.

I began ethnographic research for my dissertation in September/October 2002. Tentatively titled, "The Baby in the Body: Pregnancy Practices as Kin- and Person-Making in the Contemporary United States," my dissertation will examine the relationship between practices and ideas of biological and social reproduction (i.e., childbearing and child rearing) and metaphors of production (e.g., workplace values). I followed 15 women/couples through their pregnancies, conducting interviews and observations of their family and work lives. In addition, I have participated and observed at baby showers, childbirth classes, fetal ultrasound and genetic counseling appointments, and prenatal care appointments with obstetricians, certified nurse-midwives, and direct-entry midwives.

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About the Participants

All of the pregnant women participating in my research are native-born Americans, including both newcomers to and long-time residents of either Michigan or the Midwest. They also might be described as middle-class, though they ranged from lower to upper-middle income. Only the youngest woman (at 19) had not had at least some college education and only 1 other woman had not received a college degree. Almost all of the other women had received Masters degrees (and in some cases, more than 1) in fields such as education, information and library science, public health, and social work. Also, 1 woman had an MD and was working on a PhD. Three of the women were full-time graduate students during all or part of their pregnancies. One woman worked part-time for the county public health department during her pregnancy before she lost her job (while on maternity leave) due to cuts in state funding. Another woman, who previously had worked as a researcher at a biotechnology company, had moved to the area only recently and chose to delay finding a similar position because of her pregnancy. The rest were employed as professionals, most in the fields in which they had received advanced degrees. They ranged in age from 19 to 39 years old at the time of their pregnancies. With one exception, an African-American woman, all of the women participating in my research also are white.