Intuition as Authoritative Knowledge in Midwifery and Homebirth


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As defined by Jordan (1992, 1993[1978]), authoritative knowledge motivates decision and action. Based on interviews with 22 white middle-class midwives in the United States conducted between 1992 and 1993, this article explores the inner knowing that constitutes a primary source of authoritative knowledge for homebirthers but is granted no authority in the realm of technomedicine. The purpose of this article is to call attention to these midwives' utilization of and reliance on intuition as a guide to action and decision making during homebirths. The midwife-interviewees are highly literate and competent in technological skills and biomedical diagnosis, and are keenly aware of the cultural and legal risks they run when they cannot justify their actions during a birth in logical, rational terms. Nevertheless, the deep value they place on connection, in the context of their holistic model of birth and health care, leads them to listen to and follow their “inner voice” during birth, rather than operating only according to protocols and standard parameters for “normal birth.” The nature of intuition and the reasons for and consequences of the general devaluation of intuitive thinking by the wider society are also considered.