Postpartum Maternal Tethering: A Bioethics of Early Motherhood
- IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 14, Number 1, Spring 2021
- pp. 49-72
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We must reconceive the ethical relationship between mothers and their newborn babies. The intertwinement of mother and baby does not disappear with birth but rather persists in the form of postpartum maternal tethering. Drawing upon three years of ethnographic fieldwork and training in the United States and China, I argue that dependencies associated with postpartum maternal tethering make it extremely difficult for postpartum mothers to act autonomously, even in the relational sense. Breaching this tether opens up new possibilities for thinking about the bioethics of vulnerability, dependency, and care by denaturalizing and desanctifying the mother-baby relationship and diversifying newborn care.