Relational Masculinities and the Gendered values of men in homebirths
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More is known about men’s experience of childbirth, than homebirth, although questions still remain. Most significantly, theoretical perspectives are lacking that can conceptualise the role between masculinities and fatherhoods and how these crystallise during the birthing period. Drawing on short-term longitudinal data with five South African men who planned and experienced homebirth, this paper presents findings from twenty individual and conjoint interviews before and after homebirth. Men’s narrative constructions of homebirths in conjunction with their partners’ showcase simultaneous operations of gender as mutually determining. The gendered aspects of men’s participation, which have largely been ignored, raise important questions regarding the relationship between masculinity and fathering and how this affects men’s experience of homebirth. Utilising a relational gender framework, men’s experience of homebirth was impacted on and shaped by relationships to others which constructed idealised ways of being for homebirthing men. Constructing their ideal birthing selves as ‘selfless’, men’s relational involvement in homebirth was threaded through ideas of themselves as men, lovers and fathers. Considering what it meant to be physically, emotionally, psychologically “present” men’s narratives rendered rich and thoughtful insights as they struggled towards new gender roles while negotiating the old.