Witnessing Birth, Giving Birth, Researching Birth, Bettering Birth

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© 2020, © 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. While the physiology of biological events such as conception, birth, and breastfeeding are largely identical across time, geography, and culture, the practices that shape women’s experiences of conception, birth, and breastfeeding differ across time and place according to the ever-changing emphases of medical and popular culture. In the United States, as in most other wealthy countries, birth and infant feeding practices have changed continually and significantly in the last two centuries. In this essay, I reflect on how those changes have affected my life, first as a witness to friends’ births, and eventually as a mother and a grandmother. Foremost, however, I explain how my personal experience with changing birth and breastfeeding practices shaped my interests as a historian of medicine, and how my professional interests and knowledge eventually shaped my daughter’s experience of conception and birth.