Birthing Work

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* Book: Katharine McKinnon. Birthing Work: The Collective Labour of Childbirth.



"Katharine McKinnon’s recently published book Birthing Work: The Collective Labour of Childbirth explores the highly contested terrain of child birth, and how what happens during a birth is the result of a collective process involving what people do and what things do.

These people and things include the mother and the birthing team, and the technologies and institutions, the furniture in the birth space, and the biophysical processes and chemicals such as the hormones that regulate labour and the blood that transports oxygen and chemical signals to the baby.

McKinnon elaborates how diverse experiences of child birth are shaped by the interactions between these multiple actors and how these interactions help to constitute the world into which a baby emerges.

McKinnon says that the book was provoked by her own experiences of “muddling my way through pregnancy and birth in three different places, with three different sets of doctors and midwives” and the deep sense of dissatisfaction that resulted.

McKinnon set out to “find language for the experience of childbearing, an experience that is both deeply profound and profoundly hard work,” and this has entailed writing a book “in a different kind of voice—one that begins to practise open-heartedness and emotional connection as a value within academic texts.” (