My name is Emma Porter and I am a rising Junior (Class of ‘21) majoring in Gender Studies and minoring in Sociology and Intergroup Relations. This summer I was able to work with two scholars studying childbirth, Robbie Davis-Floyd and Elaine Drew. I have been interested in studying the social and cultural importance of birth for the past year or so, and works by Dr. Davis Floyd were originally what drew me to the topic. When I was told of a live-in research internship with Dr. Davis Floyd by a professor I decided that this would be an incredible opportunity for me to work with one of my academic role models, expand my network of birth scholars, and learn more about what it means to research birth in a holistic and respectful manner.
My internship experience was a bit unorthodox, as I split my time between working with Dr. Davis Floyd at her home in Austin, learning from and collaborating with Dr. Elaine Drew, and doing research for the organization Giving Austin Labor Support (GALS). I spent three weeks working in Austin and three weeks working remotely from Boston.
During my time in Austin, I was constantly learning from Dr. Davis Floyd and Dr. Drew. We were all living together which allowed for formal learning moments in the form of presentations or doing thematic analysis and coding along with informal conversations and stories that were equally beneficial. My responsibilities included serving as an administrative assistant to Dr. Davis Floyd at first, and as time went on I began working on reading through interviews Dr. Davis-Floyd or Dr. Drew had conducted that are being used in their new research projects. Reading through and coding the interviews allowed me to understand Dr. Davis Floyds published work in a new light and I felt honored to take part in the process.
After my time with Dr. Davis Floyd I continued to work with Dr. Drew remotely to improve my interview skills and continue learning first hand what it means to research birth. Dr. Drew oversaw the research I did for GALS where I looked at the relationship between trauma and birth. GALS provides birthing people with free labor support and operates a labor support hotline birthing people in labor and medical providers can call. I was tasked with looking at different studies to begin determining how GALS could measure whether their services were reducing birth trauma for those that utilized them. I compiled the data and was able to practice the skills I developed with Dr. Drew.
This fall I will be beginning an independent study focusing on humanistic birth at Skidmore, and my experiences with these scholars has provided me with an important foundation and understanding of how I can most productively research. This would not be possible without the SGA Responsible Citizenship award which allowed me to travel to Austin and be immersed in this subject. I am so grateful for the opportunity and experience I had, and am lucky to call Dr. Davis Floyd and Dr. Drew mentors and friends.