Monday, June 4, 2012

The Legacy of Ina May

I'd like to tell you about a woman that has done amazing things for you, whether you know it or not. If you are a mother, a woman, a husband or a member of the human race, you should thank this woman for her lifetime labor of love to uncover the path to the truth of childbirth. This truth, sadly, has long been covered and muddled by years of modern medicine and maternity care that, in an effort to save lives and rescue women and children from suffering, has instead disconnected generations of women from their birth experience and stripped them of this empowering rite of passage we call birth.

Ina May Gaskin is a pioneer in the birth community highly revered by many and even has a medical procedure named after her. Medical communities worldwide marvel at the incredibly low incidences of maternal/infant mortality, surgical deliveries, and other pregnancy related illnesses and disorders her midwifery practice boasts.

I am privileged to say my parents once lived in a special community called The Farm in rural Tennessee, where they moved in order to give birth to my brother. This community is home to a group of midwives headed by Ms. Gaskin. My mother has always described her birth with Pamela (one of the midwives there) as incredibly meaningful. Though I was born four years later in a hospital setting, I like to think that my mother's experience was the beginning of my own journey of falling in love with the magical process of pregnancy and birth.

Recently, a friend sent me a link to this New York Times article about Ina May Gaskin. She and her midwives are one of the very few institutions in our country who will still deliver breech babies vaginally and boast a cesarean rate of less than two percent. This article, Mommy Wars: The Prequel, talks about Gaskin and her battle to preserve home births in our Country.

I've recently begun reading Birth Matters: a midwife's manifesta, and can't wait to write a book report about it. I'm only a few pages into it and I'm already captivated! What I love about her message is that she is in no way saying that hospitals and modern medicine are bad, rather, that childbirth is an important part of the human experience. I think that most often, when a woman's desire is to connect with her birth experience and truly embrace the entrance of her child into our world on a personal and spiritual level, she will likely lean toward more natural choices than those involving medications and other interventions (barring medical emergencies and complications). That said, my personal passion is that women have choices at all, regardless of whether or not they choose medical pain relief or other obstetric options available in most modern hospitals. Choice is empowering and captivating, and that is the part of childbirth we have lost in our effort to sanitize and manage birth.

I encourage you to read more about Ina May Gaskin and her work and pick up one of her books. Her message is not for women and mothers alone, and I wholeheartedly believe that if more men, women, sisters, friends and members of our communities would begin to embrace birth as the meaningful life experience it is we would be better equipped to support and empower birthing women in our country. I know I'm a dreamer for saying it, but I believe this kind of support of the birth experience could be a catalyst to connecting us again as a human race. Rich, poor, all colors and languages alike, sharing something special.

I am passionate about helping women know their choices and empowering them in childbirth. Contact me if you are interested in Birth Plan Consultation or Doula Services.

Love and Honey,

More pregnancy info!



sweetfleece said...

Yes this woman inspired me all those years ago to have a homebirth.. what an inspiration she is ! Thanks for the post

Marcus Fidel said...

She was a prophet who brought back the old wisdom that pregnancy and labor are normal, and natural. At her time, it had become so medical, so sterile, so unnatural for natural child birth. Back then they would cut episeotomies on everyone if you delivered in the hospital. In my book collection I have a late 60s early seventies book by her with black and white photos of bearded hippies attending to their wives so tenderly in labor with massage. Very brilliant and caring woman. Fought so hard for women and children, well woman care and equal access care. I wonder if she knew Patch Adams?

Marcus Fidel said...

She has knowledge beyond her years...She even has a maneuver named after her even though it isn't always used

So impressed with this woman.

Missy Rose said...

Yes, Marcus! To read her first birth story is maddening - she describes what doctors did to her as rape! I wonder if she DID know Patch Adams! I love that her original midwifery training was a shared manual written in Spanish that she and her friends read in the caravan from Cali to Tenn. Their original "vision" for midwifery care was, "Just be nice to the women." Incredible isn't it? If that were everyone's first rule in medical care I think it would be a guiding light to so many more procedures. I'm sure that your experience with Doctors Without Borders would lend credibility to that statement of kindness as guidance for medical care!

Missy Rose said...

That said, as I read more about her and her own writing it is overwhelmingly clear that her experience is far more than that of an altruistic history. Her medical, philosophical, and historical knowledge is very likely superior to many in the field of Obstetrics. The woman knows her stuff. And beyond her book knowledge, her study of live women in birth and experience worldwide truly makes her an expert and ideal teacher on the subject!


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