HARROWING THE SEEDBEDS: GIVING A LAYERED ACCOUNT

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Constructing stories of infertility

This thesis is embedded in the postfoundational social constructionist narrative research approach. It resides within the discipline and movement of practical theology. The practical theological epistemology and related methodology will be explained and clarified in greater detail in Chapter 3. This chapter sets out the basic themes for the rest of the research narrative. It introduces the reader to the themes of infertility and childlessness, the position of the researcher and coresearchers, the underlying interpretive framework and the relevance of the research narrative. It also presents an outline of the design of the thesis.
The stories of four very different couples were used to construct this thesis narrative. These story tellers/co-researchers shared with the researcher their ‘worlds’ of feelings, emotions, beliefs and interpretations in the context of infertility and childlessness. Together they all contributed to an integrated research thesis, their stories ultimately converging into a comprehensive narrative. A fifth story of infertility has been woven and written into the conversations of the other four narratives: the story of the researcher. All these people were shocked and saddened by the thought that they might never be able to have children of their own. Their stories converse and interconnect with each other, finding expression in the way infertility and childlessness are perceived, felt and lived. The author’s story has been recounted because she was unable to detach herself from the text and succeed in becoming ‘a neutral, authoritative and scientific voice’ (Ellis & Bochner 1996:19). Her personal narrative is present, expressive and even influential in the research process, because it was not her intention merely to collect data, but also to hear and tell stories. The researcher and the different coresearchers in this thesis narrative became involved in each other’s worlds to a greater or lesser degree as they crossed boundaries and entered into each other’s experiences and feelings.
The four couples are not the objects of this study. Within the social constructionist view, the ‘self’ is constituted in relationship with other persons (Freedman & Combs 1996:268). As subjects they live within a specific interactive context, wherein a variety of codes and meanings exits (Denzin 1991:61). Their identities were multiple: they were informants, interpreters, researchers and constructionists.
Their willingness to become co-researchers with the author during the research conversations, by sharing and shaping their experiences and by courageously reliving and remembering their heartbreaks, dreams and realities, is laudable. Remembering did not just mean searching their memories (Fowler 1984:488). It also involved, to a certain extent, ‘re-membering’ their life scripts, when, in the telling and re-telling of their stories, certain changes took place in terms of fresh understanding of their experiences and new, open-ended conclusions about them. This took place, despite the fact that it was not the researcher’s intention to shape or influence the co-researchers narratives in any way.

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION TO THE RESEARCH: TILLING THE SOIL
1.1 CONSTRUCTING STORIES OF INFERTILITY
1.2 CONSTRUCTING THE THESIS NARRATIVE
1.3 RELEVANCE AND CONTEXT
1.4 LITERATURE REVIEW
1.5 EPISTEMOLOGY AND METHODOLOGY
1.6 OUTLINE OF THE THESIS RESEARCH DESIGN
CHAPTER 2 HARROWING THE SEEDBEDS: GIVING A LAYERED ACCOUNT
2.1 MY STORY
CHAPTER 3 POSITIONING OF THE RESEARCH: PLANTING AND FERTILISING THE
FIELD
3.1 EPISTEMOLOGY: POINTS OF DEPARTURE
3.1.1 PRACTICAL THEOLOGY
3.1.2 FEMINIST PRACTICAL THEOLOGY
3.1.3 POSTFOUNDATIONAL PRACTICAL THEOLOGY
3.1.4 PASTORAL NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
3.2 EPISTEMOLOGY: METHODOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES
3.2.1 SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM.
3.2.2 NARRATIVE RESEARCH
3.2.3 NARRATIVE OR STORY
3.3 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS WITHIN THE NARRATIVE APPROACH
CHAPTER 4 HARVEST SONG OF STAN AND SENA: SURROGATE MOTHERHOOD
4.1 BIOLOGY AND THEOLOGY
4.2 SURROGATE MOTHERHOOD
4.3 HISTORICAL SURROGACY: SARAH AND HAGAR
4.4 STAN AND SENA: (STORY) MAKERS OF A FAMILY
4.5 VOICES OF NUANCE: SCIENCE’S LADY WISDOM, MOTHER GOD AND ALICE,
AN IVF CHILD
CHAPTER 5 HARVEST SONG OF HESTER AND FLORENCE: LOSING INFANTS, INHERITING A CHILD
5.1 TELLING A POEM, RECITING INFERTILITY
5.2 HESTER’S HELPLESSNESS
5.3 RESEARCH NARRATIVE
5.4 THE STORY BEHIND THE POEM
5.5 HESTER’S POEM: ‘THE THING THAT DOESN’T WANT TO COME OUT’
5.6 SECONDARY INFERTILITY
5.7 INFERTILITY IN THE AFRICAN CONTEXT
5.8 AFRICAN FEMINIST THEOLOGY
5.9 HESTER IMAGINING HANNAH IN THE TEMP
CHAPTER 6 HARVEST SONG OF SAMUEL AND TIENIE: THE MAKING OF A GAY FAMILY
CHAPTER 7 HARVEST SONG OF HELGA AND JAMES: FROM MISCARRIAGE TO VOLUNTARY CHILDLESSNESS
CHAPTER 8 WATERING THE LAND: DISCOURSES OF GROWTH AND UPGROWTH
CHAPTER 9 PASTURING, REFLECTING AND GIVING REST TO THE LAND

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