Pregnancy Book Club
When a friend comes to me looking for guidance about pregnancy and birth, I give her two words of advice: Ina May.
If there is a face of midwifery — and general empowerment around pregnancy and birth — it’s Ina May Gaskin. Gaskin is an American midwife who has been guiding babies into the world naturally since the seventies. She is one of my heroes.
I pretty much spooned with Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth throughout my first pregnancy. I would wake up with the book, indentations from the binding slashed across my cheek. Gaskin’s messaging blew me away – her philosophy is radical and yet so simple: Women are designed to carry babies and give birth naturally. That’s it. Our bodies are made to do this. Contrary to the images forced upon us by television and the movies – childbirth does not have to be a terrifying event filled with glaring fluorescent hospital lights, bloodcurdling screams and masked doctors urging us to Push! Push! Push!
In fact, childbirth can be a beautiful and deeply empowering experience, where a woman experiences the truest essence of her strength. It was Gaskin who reminded me that childbirth is not an illness that needs to be treated. Labor and birth are a natural part of human existence that can actually take place at home, that was at one time only experienced in the comfort and familiarity of a woman’s home.
And the pain? Gaskin has some life-changing thoughts about the pain that many women associate with childbirth. She invites us to reconsider the way we approach the sensations that accompany labor and birth. “Many women react to labor pain the same way they react to the kind of pain they experience when wounded . . . they usually aren’t aware of the extent to which you can ease your own tense reaction by declining to think in terms of ‘uterine contractions’ and instead thinking of ‘interesting sensations that require all of your attention.’”
I am convinced that Ina May’s words played a key role in my two healthy, empowered birth experiences – both with midwives, both under three hours, the second at home. By the time my water broke I was absolutely convinced that I had the strength to give birth naturally, that a warm (no fluorescent lights, no masked doctors), drug-free labor and delivery was my birthright.
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