Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Expectant fears and racialized reproduction: African American women's lived experiences of pregnancy and motherhood
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This study explores the lived experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood among African American women living in central North Carolina. Although there are many anthropological studies of reproduction, there is very little in the way of explorations of the lived experiences of pregnancy. This work was conducted between April 2002 and July 2003 with a group of 62 African American women who received prenatal care at a local OB-GYN office founded by two African American physicians and located in central North Carolina. An in-depth analysis of life history interviews with six of these women grounds the final analysis. I have used an overarching theoretical framework that examines pregnancy as a life process and a unique physiological event in order to understand the full range of life experiences that can come to bear on a woman's pregnancy. I have combined phenomenological understandings of perception and embodiment to explore the intersections of social, cultural and existential life in the contexts of pregnancy and motherhood. The women in this study have pointed to experiences of pregnancy that include experiencing pregnancy as fear of bearing a son and have developed a new way of understanding class experience in the context of a lived pregnancy. This study has pointed to experiences in African American women's lives that are positively, negatively, or neutrally felt that inform how they live their pregnancies. Those negatively felt experiences and perceptions that are related to being a pregnant African American woman emerged out of lived experiences in a racist U.S. culture whose histories, practices and ideologies of exclusion are still based on skin color. This work is informed by a Black Feminist perspective in which the researcher is compelled to engage in a "critical radical praxis" to effect change in African American women's lives. The goal of my research has been to provide information about those lived experiences of pregnancy in the lives of African American women that may help to address persistent and glaring inequalities in health.