Communicatively Making Sense of Doulas within the U.S. Master Birth Narrative: Doulas as Liminal Characters
Doulas—or designated women experienced in childbirth who provide support to a birthing mother—have been shown to improve mothers’ medical outcomes, but they are relatively underused in U.S. births. We assert that doulas are rarely used, in part, because it is difficult to situate them within the contemporary U.S. master birth narrative that places family and medical staff as expected characters in the birth story. This qualitative study uses narrative theorizing to describe the communicatively situated position of doulas in light of the dominant U.S. master birth narrative. Through an analysis of interviews and focus groups with mothers, expectant parents, doulas, and medical staff (n = 52) at a community hospital, we explain how individuals communicatively located the doula as a character who occupied a liminal space that is (a) between borders, (b) crossing borders, and (c) outside borders. Although doulas’ liminal location enables individuals to creatively explain and promote doulas to important publics, doulas’ conceptual ambiguity in the birth narrative can also be constraining. We conclude with theoretical and practical implications.
DOI of Published Version
Kranstuber Horstman, Harley; Anderson, Jennifer; and Kuehl, Rebecca A., "Communicatively Making Sense of Doulas within the U.S. Master Birth Narrative: Doulas as Liminal Characters" (2017). Communication Studies Publications. 41.