BACKGROUND: Society and some healthcare professionals often marginalise pregnant women who take illicit substances. Likewise the midwives who care for these women are often viewed as working on the edge of society. The aim of this research was to examine the lived world of these midwives to gain insight into the world of their work.
DESIGN: A phenomenological study informed by Heidegger, Gadamer and Merleau-Ponty was chosen to frame these lived experiences of the midwives. Using face-to-face phenomenological interviews data were collected from 12 midwives whose work is only caring for women who take illicit drugs.
RESULTS: The 3 fundamental themes that emerged from the study were: making a difference, establishing partnerships: and letting go and refining practice. Conclusions and impetus for this paper: Lived experiences are unique and can be difficult for researchers to grasp. The stories told by participants are sometimes intangible and often couched in metaphor. This paper aims to discuss lived experience and suggests that like an onion, several layers have to be peeled away before meaning can be exposed; and like peeling onions, each cover reveals another layer beneath that is different from before and different from the next. Exemplars from this midwifery study are used to explain lived experiences.
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