A narrative inquiry into the experiences of indigenous women in Canada who have experienced perinatal loss

A narrative inquiry into the experiences of indigenous women in Canada who have experienced perinatal loss

Roxanne Tootoosis (1), Vera Caine (2)

(1) McEwan University and St. Stephen’s College; (2) University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

This study is a narrative inquiry into the experiences of Indigenous women in western Canada who have experienced the death of their child during the perinatal period. It is difficult to accurately reflect the infant mortality rate for Indigenous women due to a lack of data collected; however, it is estimated that the rate is at least twice that of the national average and in some communities as high as three to four times the national or regional average. The objective of this research is to understand Indigenous women’s experience, as well as to address how health care practices and bereavement programs can be improved. This research comes at a critical time when Indigenous communities are reclaiming, reviving and reintegrating culturally meaningful ways of attending to women.

In this narrative inquiry study, I engaged in conversations with four women over a period of two years (2015 to 2017). Narrative methods consisted of tape-recorded conversations, field texts and observations. Through a collaborative process of interpretation and analysis, interim and final research texts reflect the women’s experiences, as well as my relationship with them.

Spending time together allowed the women to articulate their stories of loss. Making spaces for Indigenous women means creating spaces in which they can explore and represent life experiences, a risky and sometimes difficult process. Allowing women to tell their stories, humanized the process of loss and validated their emotions and feelings. The research in this way also became a journey marked by healing and recognition of the strength of Indigenous women and families.

Narrative inquiry is attentive to experience over time and in diverse places, beginning from, and unfolding through, relationships. It is important care providers position themselves as people alongside Indigenous women to actively listen, learn from, and inquiry into lived experiences of Indigenous women.

Ethics statement:
Ethical approval was obtained from the Research Ethics Board at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (Approval #: Pro00054203). Individual written consent was obtained by all participants; access to a counselling referral was offered to each participant.

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