Early this fall I was introduced to one of my new favorite books on natural childbirth: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. My dear neighbor, R, lent it to me after hearing me wax enthusiastically about natural childbirth, and I’m quite grateful.
Since becoming a mother, via an unmedicated, at-home birth (more on this another time), I’ve had lots of people ask me about my experience and recommend some “must reads.” Ina May has gone to top of the pile. She mixes birth stories with information on how the body really works in childbirth. Given her years of experience and her practice’s statistics, listed in the back of the book, you feel comfortable trusting her expertise. She also speaks in plain English, so that even later on when she’s talking about the business of birthing everything is easy to understand.
Speaking of expertise, I would like to dwell for a moment on Gaskin’s stats. This is a women who, in thirty years from 1970-2000, had a c-section rate of 1.4%. The national average is 24%. That statistic covers over 2,000 births. She must be doing something right.
I will say, Gaskin is something of a hippie. More to the point, many of the birth stories, especially some from the early days, are rather “hippie dippy.” Look past the fact that the baby was named Autumn Apple Breeze, or some such. The stories themselves are powerful messages about the power of women’s bodies and what’s possible when you let nature take its course. If I had read the book before giving birth, I might have sneered at some of the stories and how the women seem to romanticize labor. Having read it after going through it all myself, I was able to appreciate what they had gone through. They are honest reports of labor. And the more positive labor experiences you can hear about, the better.
The second half of the book talks about how the body works during pregnancy and labor. After taking a Bradley class on natural childbirth, reading a good bit, and going through labor once, I still learned a lot from Gaskin. I found myself making mental notes for round 2. The techniques she discusses are available to any woman. There’s no need for modern fanciness or mumbo jumbo. It’s a woman’s body doing what it was made to do. Think about it; we were designed by whatever powers there may be to have babies and nurse them. If we stopped getting in the way with modern interventions that don’t actually help that process, our bodies could do their jobs just fine.
So, whether you’re enjoying your first pregnancy or are already a mom, try reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, if you’d like to learn more about natural childbirth.