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|Title:||At Home in Maine: A Documentary Film Series and Web Resource about Maine's Homebirth and Midwifery Community|
|Committee Chair:||Laura Lindenfeld, Associate Professor of Communication & Journalism and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center|
|Committee Members:||Mazie Hough, Associate Director of Women's Studies ; Bill Kuykendall, Associate Professor of New Media ; Kristin Langellier, Professor of Communication and Journalism|
|Date of Defense:||2011|
Childbirth is a contested site of public, professional and academic debate and
discourse. This begins with a woman's body and her right to choose to give birth.
Once a woman has chosen to give birth, the focus of the debate shifts to her baby, the
practitioner attending the birth, that is, the doctor or midwife—or the choice to have
an unassisted birth-and the actual location of the birth.
"At Home in Maine [AHIM]" is a documentary film series and web resource
that addresses an underrepresented area of discourse about Maine: contemporary
homebirth and midwifery culture. Homebirth and midwifery care are often
historicized in scholarly discourses, as seen in "A Midwife's Tale (Ulrich, 1991),"
concerning the life and career of 18th century midwife Martha Moore Ballard.
Homebirth has also been marginalized in the mainstream, though that may be
changing with the recent release of a CDC report stating that in the United States,
homebirth is on the rise (McDorman, Declercq and Matthews, 2011).
Homebirth and midwifery care is also an underrepresented area in feminist
discourse. AHIM frames this subject as part of the domain of choices in childbirth,
and therefore, should be a significant area of feminist inquiry. Through the visual
record and the genre of documentary film, AHIM shows that homebirth—and
normal, natural, childbirth—happens. With the online distribution format, the
project provides an accessible informational and educational resource for women
and their partners regarding choices in childbirth.
Central research questions of this project are: What does homebirth in Maine
look like? Who are the people, and what are the practices, philosophies and politics
that constitute Maine's homebirth culture? How is this domain significant for
women--and an important area of inquiry for feminist discourse?
Over the course of four years, using community-based feminist models, this
investigator documented eight homebirths, representing seven different families, five
different midwifery practices, six towns and five regions in Maine, as well as
recorded other pertinent events in the homebirth community.
Timing makes this project especially distinctive with the investigator's
documentation of a group of Maine midwives' pursuit of title licensure in 2008. The
bill for licensure did not pass; however, an unprecedented new law, "Chapter 669"
was enacted, which decriminalized Certified Professional Midwives' [CPMs] use of a
short list of medications at birth.
The results of the AHIM project are a film series of ten authentic portraits of
homebirth in Maine and a website, which provides an online distribution platform
for the films:
Littrell, Nicolle, University of Maine, LIB2011-006