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Plot and Irony in Childbirth Narratives of Middle-Class Brazilian Women

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Abstract

Brazil's rate of cesarean deliveries is among the highest in the world and constitutes the majority of childbirths in private hospitals. This study examines ways middle-class Brazilian women are exercising agency in this context. It draws from sociolinguistics to examine narrative structure and dramatic properties of 120 childbirth narratives of 68 low- to high-income women. Surgical delivery constituted 62% of the total. I focus on 20 young middle-class women, of whom 17 had C-sections. Doctors determined mode of childbirth pre-emptively or appeared to accommodate women's wishes, while framing the scenario as necessitating surgical delivery. The women strove to imbue C-section deliveries with value and meaning through staging, filming, familial presence, attempting induced labor, or humanized childbirth. Their stories indicate that class privilege does not lead to choice over childbirth mode. The women nonetheless struggle over the significance of their agency in childbirth.

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