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A Thank You To Ina May Gaskin

Updated on October 6, 2014
Ina May Gaskin
Ina May Gaskin | Source

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.

Ina May at the Farm
Ina May at the Farm | Source

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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

Spiritual Midwifery

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding

Birth Matters: A Midwife's Manifesto

Ina May Gaskin
Ina May Gaskin | Source

In Conclusion

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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    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 3 years ago from Reno NV

      Ina May lost her husband yesterday. I am sharing this hub to show, in my small way, that I care Ina. I am sorry for your loss. Jamie

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 4 years ago from Reno NV

      Thank you Dana Tate. Jamie

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 4 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman. This is a very well-thought and informative hub. The story of this remarkable woman who was a pioneer for natural birth was very inspiring. You did a excellent job of telling this woman's story it was a pleasurable read... Thanks for sharing I voted up!

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 4 years ago from Reno NV

      Thank you manatita44 she was an interesting woman with so much to offer. Jamie

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 4 years ago from london

      Interesting woman. Happy that she had such a positive effect on you and so many others.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 4 years ago from Reno NV

      Thank you Teresa and Audrey, it means a lot to me to hear your kind comments. Especially with a hub that I feel strongly about. I hope that both of you have a wonderful weekend. Jamie

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      What a great hub Jamie---Ina was and is a pioneer is health--and I am all for natural birth--the body knows how to do this without all the drugs and whatnot that we think we need--really a great read!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Jamie- Such an important and well written Hub, offering knowledge and choice and hope to women and couples. I had my three sons over 30 years ago. I was very young and hospitals and doctors made all the decisions. I took Natural Childbirth classes, but the doctors were uncooperative. I have a good friend who became a midwife in the 1980's and has assisted many women in giving birth at home. Thank you for providing this information about Ina May Gaskin. Blessings! Theresa SHARING.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 4 years ago from Reno NV

      Thank you Eddy, Jodah, My Cook Book, Ann, and DDE for stopping by and reading a hub that I hold close to my heart. After the birth of our third child I have become a staunch supporter or Healthcare Reform in America especially when it comes to the birth of our children. I feel that I was able to share my concerns with you and Hubpages and it makes me feel good the response I have recieved. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Jamie

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A Thank You To Ina May Gaskin a very interesting and well expressed hub about such a wonderful hearted person.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 4 years ago from SW England

      This is interesting; what a pioneering lady she was! It's a little different here in Britain but I guess the progress from then to now is similar. Birthing choices are numerous but I think much advice from hospitals is from their point of view, regarding cost and time and availability of staff. My older daughter is about to have her second son; she is having a C-section because of complications at the natural birth of her first. I'm going to talk to her in more detail having read this, just to make sure she's happy that it's right for her.

      Thanks for bringing this to everyone's attention. It's important that any mother and baby has the best experience possible. Up + and shared. Ann

    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 4 years ago from India

      Well written hub, thank you for sharing :)

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      What a great hub Jamie and tribute to a great midwife. I think I had heard the name but knew nothing about her. Good advice here for anyone about to become parents. I suggest you watch the excellent British TV series "the Midwives" if you can find it. Wonderful historical series.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      What a wonderful and so interesting read Jamie. I had never heard of this great lady before but so glad I did now. How wonderful that her time on the farm and also her own experiences led to her legacy in life .

      A wonderful read to treasure Jamie. Here s wishing you and your beautiful family great day.