A Thank You To Ina May Gaskin
Are You On The Bus...
Ina May Gaskin was prepared to become an english teacher but her heart was not in it. She really wanted to write but felt that she did not want to write fiction or poetry and felt a little lost to what her calling may be.
She was raised on a farm and was fascinated by the birth of the baby animals and after the birth of her baby she embraced her fascination. She was bothered by the fact that she really had no choices in her birth at the hospital and that they extracted the baby with forceps.
The hospital staff told her that forceps were needed in most situations and that her body required it for the birth of her baby. She couldn't argue since she was in the middle of deep contractions and was completely dilated.
This situation made her question how animals on her farm were treated with more respect and dignity than a woman in a hospital and this questioning has led her to the path of becoming one of the most respected midwives in the world.
In the 1970's when one thinks of getting on the bus they think of the Hippies and Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. I almost feel guilty about lumping this group with the bus full of a community of midwives and their husbands, who were travelling around the country giving lectures and assisting in births. This was the bus that Ina rode in and they were trying to spread the message of the importance of comfort and wellbeing in the birth process.
They stopped the bus and started the Farm, in Tennessee, a community that would assist any woman who wanted a birthing experience other than what was being offered by medicine at the time. I want to stress that this was not a Hippy communal experiment this was a reexaming of how important birth is in a community and how our medical industry needed to take a look at how things operate.
Let's Talk About Birth
I am a husband and a father of three wonderful children. My family was introduced to the books of Ina May Gaskin during the birth of our second child, Hannah.
When in the hospital with our first, Sam, we had complete faith in the medical industry and left the decision making up to our OB/GYN, whom we rarely saw during this not very comfortable or memorable experience.
I am not going to spread scary stories. This is not what pregnant women need. What pregnant women need, according to Ina, is positive birth stories that bring to light how strong and magnificent the female body is and how nature has prepared the woman for birth.
We realized that we needed to do our homework with our second child. We read many books on pregnancy and birth other than Ina's and have to give great praise to the movie "The Business of Being Born" that Ricki Lake produced about birth in America.
My wife found out that during her first C-section they had used incorrect stitches and that the possibility of VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesaeran) was unlikely. We actually dumped the doctor that told us this and found a doctor and hospital willing to perform VBAC.
Most hospitals and OB/GYN doctors will lose their insurance coverage if they perform a VBAC. Some communities do not have hospitals or doctors that are willing to even try. To make a long story short we still had an unwanted C-Section that seemed to have to do with the fact that Hannah made it to 40 weeks.
Funny that Ina states that in the sixties they did not induce and would wait until labor began naturally. According to Ina this usually took longer than 39 or 40 weeks. The not waiting after 40 weeks is more of a financial decision of hospitals and not a decision based on the health of the mother or child.
We hired a midwife for our third child, a VBAC after two C-sections is unheard of in the medical community and we were shunned by even suggesting our desires. Luckily Reno has a great support group called "The Nurturing Nest" that provided us with support and our midwife seemed not to be concerned at all.
We tried for a homebirth but ended up with another C-Section. Even though one might say, at least you have beatiful children, there is quite an effect on the mother having to go through this and not having the opportunity to experience natural childbirth.
A Moment to Remember
The truth, to me, is that the birth of your child should be a memory that you cherish. It is a moment that the couple involved should grow closer in and that the baby born should feel the power of the birth.
Our country has a shortage of comfortable birthing centers and midwives. Most of us have only the option of our local hospitals where we have no choice in how the hospital is run.
The truth is most hospitals do not differentiate the OB/GYN ward with the ICU. We are delivering our babies next door to the Cancer Ward or who knows where the morgue is located. We need to consider the comfort of our wives and our daughters and the importance of comfort during the process of birth.
Yet providing special spaces for the birth of our children does not generate revenue and is not a priority to an institution whose concern is more monetary than that of the health of it's community.
The Sphincter What?
One of Ina May's most discussed theories is her Sphincter Theory. The Theory itself has been disregarded by some due to it dealing with areas of the body that we would rather not discuss.
But this is a important discussion. Ina states that our sphincters, anal and otherwise, will not operate properly until we are relaxed. Also our sphincters may close if a sudden stressor arrives.
I will not explain in detail these events I feel that with a little imagination you can see what is being said.
Ina states that the birth of a baby is similar to the actions of sphincters in our body. Unless the woman is relaxed and comfortable the birth may not occur like a sphincter not opening until we take a deep breath.
Also, she goes on to say that if the birthing process has begun and a jarring our stressful experience occurs there will be a reverse in process.
So why is this important? Well most hospitals that are understaffed and do not have sufficient space for the movement of the mother can be very uncomfortable, along with the beeps and the buzzers, and the needles sticking out of your arms.
Is there a connection with the ability to birth in a timely manner? Does this have a lot to do with the fact that some hospitals in Florida have over a 50% C-Section rate?
Some of the birth stories in her "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" talk about how in some situations how the doctor behaves can cause the dilation to decrease and the birthing process to back track.
A Booklist by Ina May Gaskin
Babies, Breastfeeding, and Bonding
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding
Birth Matters: A Midwife's Manifesto
I would strongly suggest to mothers-to-be to buy a copy of "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth"
The first half of the book is birth stories that really help mothers to feel good about their bodies and their capabilities.
The second half is full of some history and finally valuable information about birth. She understands that we all do not have the choice to have a midwife or doula available during the birth, so she lists all the choices that a mother has in hospitals.
She discusses what the appropriate questions are to ensure that the hospital you choose is up to standards. She tries to educate new mothers on the issues that need to be addressed by their OB/GYN's and the Nurse's working on the floor at the time of birth.
She also lists a long list of resources to call or to check out online. So even if you, as a new mother, does not have such strong feelings about the current state of our healthcare, Ina still offers a wealth of information needed for a happy and memorable birthing experience.
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