Leaving Your Dignity at the Door: Maternity in Wellington 1950 - 1970
This thesis describes the maternity system in Wellington between 1950 and 1970 particularly from the perspectives of consumers and midwives. Four women consumers who experienced maternity in Wellington and two midwives who worked in Wellington’s maternity hospitals during this period provided their oral testimonies as the main primary sources for this study. The author’s recollections of being a student nurse and a consumer in Wellington and other primary and secondary sources are used to substantiate, explore and explain the topic. The study traces the sociopolitical changes in New Zealand maternity from 1900 to 1970 creating a backdrop against which Wellington’s maternity system, including the women, the hospitals, the workforce, maternity practices and the childbearing process are illuminated using the insights of women and midwives who experienced them. “That’s what this lady who had had her baby, said to me, she said, You lose your dignity when you have your baby”, was a comment from one of the interviewed women. This took me back to student days when a common saying was ‘You leave your dignity at the door when you go in to have a baby’. These comments suggested the title for this thesis. The oral testimonies of the six participants described positive and negative aspects of their maternity experiences, but the three strong themes that arose from their accounts included ‘being alone’, ‘lack of autonomy’ and ‘uncaring attitudes’.