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Hanna Strack: Giving Birth - a holy event?

Abstract Christian Theology of the West has dealt mainly with the issue of "dying and death" but has neglected to consider - with the exception of the birth of Christ - what it means that we are all bornones. In church orders of the reformed churches of the 1 th century pastors are as!ed to teach midwifes about emergency baptism. Theologicaly birth was "iewed as captured with original sin which can be cleaned by baptism. In prayer literature of that time men - who had not witnessed births - wrote and imposed theological texts on pregnant women and on those gi"ing birth. These women loo!ed at themsel"es as being sinful and wea!# but than!ful for their fertility# e"en if it ruined their health. $od punishes through pains# $od pro"ides power and the approriate midwife. %ence# the &cripture sources which were used to pro"e this !ind of theology need to be reflected critically. 'arallel to the mo"e of the midwifing profession from being autonomous to being subordinant to western medicine# this Christian "iew of women was placed on midwifes as well. (idwifes were supposed to be obidient to pastors# and they were supposed to pass the andro cenctric theology on to those gi"ing birth. In doing so superstituous practices# which women used to show their care for mother and child# were re)ected. %owe"er# examples of an autonomous women*s culture ha"e been found stemming from the same age which describe "ritual help# emergency# and celebration communities" of married women of "illages. The examples show that this subculture was discriminated and forbidden by main line theology and male oriented medicine. In its first part this dissertation discribes this de"elopmenta and deconstructs it as a threefold suppression of women+ A woman is a sinner and deser"es punishment# if she rebels she is punished again# she is controlled and disciplined by man. The second part of the thesis as!s if birth and gi"ing birth can be interpreted as a holy ,sacrale"ent. This calls for the search of sources of a female religious self and a self articulation of women based on their own experience - both of which were not supposed to ta!e place in church history. To perform that search# narrati"e inter"iews were conducted. Candidates for inter"iews were freelance midwifes with experience in home birth# who were not subordinant to male physicians in a maternity room. In addition# midwifes ha"e more experience in birth then indi"idual mothers and fathers. The inter"iews were based on the ideas of symbolic inter-actionism. This as!s about the !ind picture that midwifes ha"e of their profession and its changes. In order to allow midwifes to articulate their experiences as freely as possible# the main .uestion was perpously formulated broadly+ "In many births that you support the birth is something special for each woman and I assume for you as well. %ow can you describe this special-ness/" The midwifes* answers showed that the expressions they used in order to describe the special-ness were similar - and sometimes e"en e.ual - to the categories of the %oly# that is the emotion with and encounter of the "numinosum tremens et fascinans" ,the capturing and fascinating un!nown# 0udolph 1tto-. Thus# the inter"iews can be defined as holy texts# and birth can be understood as a hermenutical principle of the %oly. 2irth is a holy ,sacral- e"ent. This pro"ides the base for the theology of birth. The final part of the dissertation as!s what words or gestures midwifes# parents and relati"es can express the encounter with the %oly+ &ilence# blessing# song# or dance/ $en 34#156 7x 16 's 88#19 are new interrpeted. There are also blessings# prayers and a blessing-liturgy for a midwife# written by

%anna &trac!# :uc!uc!sallee ;# 1;9 4 'innow<&chwerin# Tel ,=;-3> 9<4>9934 ?ax <> >4 hanna.strac!@t-online.de# www.hanna-strac!-"erlag.de