So, having the research-driven brain that I have on top of becoming recently pregnant you can imagine what I’ve started doing with my time lately—that’s right, reading all the books I can get my hands on! I thought I would share with you some of my favorite reads as I go through them, and while I’m still a few pages from the end on Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, it’s been nothing short of a fascinating read for me so far! If you don’t already know (I didn’t until recently) Ina May Gaskin is kind of the main Mama of modern day midwifery so I thought that reading her books would be good insight into the core of that particular movement. We chose a local birth center run by midwives and nurse midwives for our delivery (it’s 1.4 miles from the hospital BTW in case I need to transfer) and while that is a much “crunchier” choice than I would have made 10 years ago, I didn’t feel comfortable with the full home birth route either so it seemed like a good middle point to start with and see how it goes.
Anyways, Ina May starts off her Guide to Childbirth book with positive birth stories (like, a ton of them) because she feels strongly that pregnant women, especially American pregnant women, are inundated with dramatic horror stories of births that can leave the mother feeling justifiably frightened and terrified of what she’s about to go through. While there certainly are difficult births or even births that end in heartbreak I think the point is that the majority of births do go well and it’s important to focus on that and hear lots of positive stories to counteract the scary ones. She talks a lot about the “mind/body” connection in the birth experience and just how powerful or hindering one’s outlook and thought process can be in how the body anticipates and responds to pain and carries one through the labor process. All the stories from her 30 years of midwife experience along these points are pretty amazing if you ask me and I love how she reaches back a few centuries at times to research the same phenomenons from doctors and midwife’s journals back in the day. I also loved seeing how she compares what you might call the “classic Western medicine” birth experience with births from other countries where they may not have access to (or necessarily want) some of the drugs or procedures we can access here in the US.
There’s definitely some “out there” methods and theories in this book if you haven’t read much into the world of midwifery and natural birth (check out the chapter on orgasmic birth if you’re interested, that’s a new one to me!) but some of them may sound odd at first and then make a lot more sense when you finish that section. For example, she talks about what she calls “sphincter law” which is essentially the idea that since the cervix is a sphincter it naturally follows a few rules that all the other sphincters in the body follow (such as not responding to outside commands and functioning best in a private and familiar atmosphere). It sounds a little weird at first but she makes her point well.
I do appreciate that Ina May’s tone through the book doesn’t feel braggy or like she’s looking down on those who want to go a traditional Western route. It feels more like she’s calmly educating you on a method that she really, really, loves and wants you to also know a few things about a more clinical route that you may not have known (risks and side effects of common drugs or pain medications for example). You don’t get the sense that she thinks it’s the ONLY way, but it’s a fantastic avenue that she wants you to be aware of when you are choosing how you want to give birth. Jane Sandall once said, and I think Ina May would agree, that, “Every woman needs a midwife, and some women need a doctor too.” So hospitals and doctors can and do save the lives of women and babies that traditional midwifery might not be able to help (babies that need an emergency C-section for example) and I like that I know women who have chosen all the way across the spectrum of home birth to traditional hospital procedure and everything in between based on what felt right for them. Overall, like I said, I have found this book and all the experiences of the women in it fascinating so far and I can’t wait to read more so I can compare and contrast with other methods (Ina May also has a book on breastfeeding as well that I’d love to read). One book down, a million to go!