The aim of the study is to explore the context in wich fertility - to give life - is perceived. Human beings are by necessity constructing meaning in order to survive, it is a part of their biological preconditions. Meaning is created and constructed in a society and a culture at a given historic time. Apart from the symbolic systems of culture and language, it is man's ability to describe and express experience in narrative form which is central for the creation and construction of meaning. In myth man's eternal search for truth and meaning is expressed, and myth can therefore be viewed as keys to the spiritual development of man. Rites and rituals are forms of symbolic acting, often used for major life transitions.
This thesis consists of three interrelated parts, two different historical perspectives and one empirical study. The first historical perspective tries to show that the mystery and importance of lifegiving has been central to man since the beginning of time, the second historical perspective describes how the present Swedish system of maternal health care came into being and also give as well as its aims and guidelines of today. The empirical study is an interview study with women who are first- time- mothers- to- be and their partners. The female informants are either between twenty and twentyfive years of age, or thirtyfive years and older. A total of twentythree informants have been interviewed three times each, seven female and and seven male informants in the younger age group and six female and three male informants in the older age group. Two interviews were made with each informant during late pregnancy, and a third interview when the baby was between two and a half and three months old.
The findings include that having children is a conscious decision today, since it goes without saying that contraception and abortion are within easy reach in Sweden. The decision is based on 1. the experience of living in a safe and solid love relationship which is perceived in a life long perspective and 2. having the practical living conditions - work, economy, housing etc. - that make it resonable to believe that the-child-to-come will be well provided for. One important finding when analysing the interviews is the informants search and need for confirmation all through the process of - conception - pregnancy - giving birth - welcoming a new life to this earth. Two modern rites and one modern ritual were found in the material. The screening ultrasound within the maternal health program is one, since it makes it possible to 'see' that there is life in the female womb. By making the unseen seen it transforms the foetus into a social reality. The second modern rite is the use of baptism as a tradition rather than a religious rite, the name giving is a confirmation of a new life, a special individual who takes up its place in the human community. The visits to the maternal health clinic can be seen as a modern ritual, and is the only societal and cultural guidance and recognition offered today.
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2000. , 212 p.