The story of my son’s birth is not one I’ve discussed on this blog, and in truth, is a bit painful for me to tell, despite having a flawless pregnancy and relatively easy birth. Our plan had been to birth at a freestanding, midwife-owned birth center two hours from our home (the closest option for a woman-supported, non-hospitalized, natural birth scenario). However, as the “recommended” gestation period of 42 weeks drew to a close, Little B, otherwise known as genderless “Sprout,” had no intention of moving and instead remained floating around inside of me instead of engaging on my cervix. My midwife wanted to induce labor by breaking my waters but feared that she would “walk me into a C [section]” if Sprout’s hand or the umbilical cord became caught between his head and his entrance to this world. So, to the hospital I was sent.
I was crushed, in a very literal sense. My spirit was darkened. I bawled all the way to the hospital. When we got there, I didn’t want to go in. To me, the towering structure before me represented everything I didn’t want for our family: an impersonal, medicalized experience where I was just a number. One of hundreds, thousands. We sat in the parking lot for an undeterminable amount of time while I came to terms with reality. I decided that the only way to “survive” the hospital, so to speak, was to go in with all the strength I could give. I changed my shirt, I put on some makeup, I brushed my teeth with one of those throwaway things that I kept in the glovebox. We entered. I was admitted, and from that point forward, vowed to be in control.
But that’s not really how it goes with a hospital birth.
Thankfully, when nurses were pushing Pitocin on me (despite labor progressing at a normal pace), my midwife, Nicole, came to the hospital and acted as doula. She advocated for me, spoke when I physically couldn’t, and was what helped me get through a less-than-ideal scenario safely and naturally. My labor was only 11 hours from first contraction to the birth of B–fairly fast for a first birth. According to the nurse who attended to me, I was the only woman on the packed labor floor who “didn’t scream and didn’t get an epidural.” I attribute this to the strength and help I received from Nicole.
My personal experience is what makes me shout from the hilltops about Birth Story, a documentary of Ina May Gaskin, the undisputed “mother of midwifery” in America.
Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin & The Farm Midwives is a tale of three parts: the story of Ina May and how she became a midwife, the story of “The Farm,” where her practice grew into one of the best-known midwifery practices in the U.S., and the love story of Ina May and her husband, Stephen. Another element of Birth Story is the emphasis on the success that The Farm midwives have had: they have very low instances of C-Sections and infant death, illustrating that a natural, midwife-supported birth is not only safe but ideal.
I had the pleasure of viewing Birth Story in a local theatre, after which a Q&A with Peggy O’Mara (formerly of Mothering Magazine) took place. The audience was packed with midwives and other birth professionals and natural birth supporters. Many of the women present had lived through, if not advocated for, putting power back in hands of women when it comes to birth. The Girl Power was palpable.
Birth Story documents the history of The Farm, and features footage of births that occurred there. For me, this was thrilling. My only experience with birth has been my own. The opportunity to witness the techniques used in textbook and more-complicated births (such as a breech baby) is not to be missed. Scenarios which may send a woman into an operating room in the hospital setting were treated with calm and wise support by The Farm midwives.
This film is certainly for those who do not fear birth. Many of the reviews mention this as a film everyone should see. While I personally loved it, I’m not sure Birth Story is exactly the vision everyone has of what birth can or should be; it could turn off a conservative thinker, since a good portion of the film focuses on the “hippies” who followed Stephen Gaskin and started The Farm commune. In this way, natural birth is presented as a liberal, anarchist idea–not exactly the message I’d want to send to a friend nervous about birth options.
All that said, I think Birth Story is an important documentary of a woman who has become a great figurehead in Women’s Rights. Perhaps everyone SHOULD see Birth Story, so they understand who is championing for the most basic of all rights: the right to control one’s body. Ina May is protecting our bodies, our children, and our sacred spaces. Birth Story portrays so many dimensions: love, commitment, and the respect for what is natural.
See Birth Story for yourself!
Limited screenings are happening on Mother’s Day. Check HERE to see if there is one near you.
Birth Story is now available for purchase!
You can find it on Amazon Instant Streaming (rental or purchase) HERE. It is also available on iTunes and DVD.
If you are an educator, you can learn about obtaining a classroom copy HERE.
I was not compensated in any way for promoting this film. I viewed Birth Story on my own and am pleased to share about this incredible film. An affiliate link appears in this post for the Amazon download.
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