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Charles Perrow described the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear reactor meltdown as a Normal Accident. Normal accidents are a class of events produced when subsystems in risky, complex and tightly coupled systems fail. Tight linkages between subsystems propagate failure, and local breakdowns cascade into systemic collapse. Diane Vaughn applied the normal accident metaphor to the 1986 Challenger Disaster.
Over the past few months, I have conducted interviews with people experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, and life with newborns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve spoken with single first-time mothers and working mothers of six, those who have had home births and those who have been induced in the hospital, those giving birth with emergency or scheduled cesarean sections. As is typical in any sample of pregnant women, some welcomed and celebrated the transition to motherhood while others resented their pregnancy and feared the birthing process.