Pregnant with meaning

I’m currently writing a keynote paper for the Perceptions of Pregnancy Conference, organised by Jennifer Evans and Ciara Meehan. I’m delighted they asked me to give a paper because I’m finding the topic I’ve decided to talk about very inspiring. In the first place this invitation allows me to think properly about some cases that I coded in Nvivo under the node ‘pregnancy’ when I was analysing the ego-documents that I collected for my book on parenting. These cases didn’t make it to the final cut because, at the time, they did not fit with the book’s themes. I’m relishing revisiting these sources and I am fascinated by what I’m finding.

In the second place I thought it might be interesting to use social media to show the process of my working on this keynote. And, to be honest, this is quite self-centred – as doing this helps force me to write by making it a public process!

I began to think properly about my ideas a couple of weeks ago when I had a look through my data on NVivo (such a marvelous way to store and revisit sources). This resulted in finding a letter referring to a miscarriage, which I wrote a blog post about – here.

I’ve also been tweeting a little over the last few days – shaming myself into reading the secondary literature and then compiling my coded sources into a Word document. So – that stage is done. Having read over the secondary and primary sources, they seem to be directing me down a pathway that might well arrive at an argument soon. It is forming in my head, but I need to write about it more intensively so it formulates itself properly for next week when I deliver my paper.

In thinking through the issues, I thought I’d put the text I’ve collected from memoirs and correspondence into a word cloud. This is the result:

Screenshot 2014-07-09 17.00.25

The results are not what I expected, but they do confirm the general direction that I was already heading in. What jumps out here are words related to family: ‘Mrs’, ‘Mr’, ‘family’, and personal names. I also see words relating to size, such as ‘increase’ and ‘little’, and several relating to illness – all of which I’ll be talking about in terms of their meaning in the long eighteenth century.

However, what was more surprising was the prevalence of words relating to the passage of time: ‘time’, ‘longer’, ‘next’, ‘sooner’, ‘past’ and ‘begin’. This seems to me to be meaningful when I look at other words that have a high frequency, like ‘think’, ‘hope’ , ‘may’, ‘expectation’ and ‘know’ . You see, one of the aspects I want to analyse is the role of uncertainty – and these words all convey concern and anticipation. To me they show that pregnancy was an uncertain journey with uncertain outcomes.

My next task is to explore these data as case-studies and follow-up these themes in more depth. Four working days to go …

 


					
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