Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The fabulous Ina May Gaskin

8.5 months pregnant, June 2011

"Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.{Ina May Gaskin in her book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, 2003}

Celebrated and beloved midwife, author, wife and mother, and founder of The Farm Midwifery Center in Summertown, TN, Ina May Gaskin wasn’t even a name that held any familiarity for me until just last week.  While searching my local library for books on natural childbirth, I couldn’t find anything that really fit the bill.  I wanted a book that not only taught me how to manage the pain of labor but how to maximize the whole experience.  I thought that I needed to see specific positions illustrated or read about how to breathe to be able to brace myself for the horrible pain that I experienced during my first two labors.  What I didn’t realize was that pain prevention is not the point of studying how to give birth to your child; why we labor and how to enhance the experience for yourself and your baby are the most important things to know. 

While searching books online in the library catalog, I came across one search topic that led to another and led to another and led me to midwifery.  Mrs. Gaskin’s book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth popped up, it was available, it was placed on hold for my account, and the next day it was in my hands.  I simply had to make a late-day trip to the library that next evening just to get the book, because I felt like I couldn’t go another day without it.  After finishing it in a matter of days, I cannot believe that I ever gave birth without Ina May’s wisdom and reassurance.  The birth stories shared in this book are just incredible, but they’re only a small part of why Ina May Gaskin’s message is so reassuring, so encouraging and so empowering! 

Mrs. Gaskin understands childbirth, and she understands women.  She’s passionate about reforming maternity care and birth experiences, and it’s her dedication to this cause but also her love of the women who it directly impacts that make her a person who I cannot help but feel a connection to.  I didn’t know even half of what Ina May taught me through her Guide to Childbirth, and I barely knew anyone who raised the issues and presented the approach to childbirth that Ina May shared in her book.  When I say “barely” anyone, I feel that it’s because women simply aren’t encouraged to think too deeply about childbirth and are treated as patients – i.e. people in need of care and direction – instead of autonomous, thinking, feeling individuals who are the direct way that God brings his people into this world.  I am blessed to have some friends who are extremely knowledgeable about childbirth, and I just want them to know that I finally understand their enthusiasm and conviction in helping women achieve childbirth in all of its amazingness (hey, spell-checker lets me know that’s a word, and I’d use it anyway because nothing else fits quite as well!).

If you’ve read any of Ina May Gaskin’s books (such as Spiritual Midwifery), what did you think?  Have you used her teachings and stories to encourage you during your own pregnancy?


  1. Haven't ever read her stuff but would like to at some point! :)

    Glad you are looking forward to birth and the amazing experience you can make it! :)

  2. She's totally your kind of woman! And you're hers. :o)

  3. Hey Kelly. You look great! I read some Ina May's stuff when I was preparing for Emma's home birth. It certainly had some good stuff in it!

  4. I read her before my pregnancy with pumpkin! And I too really loved the encouraging stories of women that gave birth feeling confident in God's timing and their strength. I still have the book- and even though I dont see any more babies in my future, I've held on to it in case! A wonderful place for reassurance!

  5. I just gave birth 8 days ago and during my pregnancy we completed a 'calm birth' course which referenced Ina May Gaskin quite a lot. This was our second baby and we found the information about how the body works, the interaction between hormones, fear and pain really useful. We just had so much more understanding of what my body needed to do compared to last time when it was just about 'it's going to hurt, here's your relief options' and this time it was a better birth with better outcomes for both myself and our baby.

    Best wishes for your upcoming labour!

  6. Kelly! You look radiant! Though passed child-bearing years, I used to read your blog a few years back when MG was in "training" to become a big sister :-)

    And you totally sold me on calorie counting!

    Back to the present, sort of, Ina May was my hero almost 30 years ago. "Spiritual Midwifery" totally changed my perspective about giving birth, quelled many fears. At the time, we were in a tiny apartment without many folks we felt truly akin to. My fantasy was to pack up and move to Summertown, TN!

    Didn't have to do that though. Ina May's wise counsel stayed with us throughout the journey. When focused upon deep love and gratitude, what was labeled as "pain" seems to become transformed. . . not unlike any major life event.

    GREAT to "see" you and your beautiful family!

    ps: I'm lovin' the leopard-print nails! A gal after my own heart.