Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects

Agents of Agency: Extracting Rhetorical Themes from Infertility Narratives

Julianna Lowe, Western Kentucky University

Document Type Thesis


According to the National Health Service, one in eight pregnant women will suffer a miscarriage in their lifetimes, though the rate of lost pregnancies may be higher for women that are not yet aware of their pregnancy. Miscarriage and infertility are taboo topics in modern society, yet their impact on individual women is catastrophic. Women use infertility narratives to portray the multi-elemental effects of miscarriage and create a discourse surrounding their physical and emotional reactions (Born, et al). Infertility, and miscarriages specifically, are considered taboo, which is why there is such a need for these narratives that tell infertile women’s stories to the oblivious world. This paper analyzes published infertility narratives to devise a collection of the most prominent themes that are established across the narratives. I also develop theories to explain the purpose of each theme; why do all these women write this theme into their narrative? What does the theme achieve? I find that personification, metaphor, blame, and what I have termed the “Mommy Club” are the evident themes across my collection of narratives. These themes assist the women in coping, in rebuilding relationships with themselves, in making themselves more relatable to outsiders, and in cultivating an open discourse on miscarriage.