Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Birth Story

Last night, since Mr. Moon was out of town, I finally sat down and watched my copy of Birth Story which I received a few weeks ago. I had donated a few bucks to the effort of getting it out into the world and in return, got my very own copy and there it had sat in the kitchen on the center counter where things collect and I even took it to the beach for Lily and me to watch but we never got the block of time to give it our uninterrupted attention and so last night, I was ready. I steamed my peas and potatoes and a squash and went into the Glen Den to watch it and of course I couldn't find the damn DVD player remote but somehow I managed to manually work the thing which is a small miracle.

I had thought that the movie would be mostly about childbirth practices and perhaps a lot of hospital versus home-centered birth information and so forth but in fact the movie makers have made a documentary which was, to my very non-objective eye, a love letter to Ina May Gaskin and her Farm midwives and to the Farm, the commune that a group of hippies led by Stephen Gaskin, Ina May's husband, formed near Nashville, Tennessee back in the seventies. I was captured by it. Completely and lovingly. I've spoken so many times about how Ina May, first with her chapters in Hey Beatnik! This Is The Farm Book

and then with her incredibly beautiful Spiritual Midwifery

changed my life as I am sure it did many, many others. 

And watching the film was like watching the book come to life, all of those midwives whose pictures I had looked at a million times, the women who told their birth stories in the books, older and some of them still practicing, grayer, rounder, but still here. Still dedicated to the practice, to the art of midwifery and still convinced of the ability of the human female mammal to give birth with little intervention, given the chance, but always with a watchful, trained eye. 

It was beautiful.

There was old footage of some births including a breech birth and a shoulder dystocia birth and watching those was so very mind-blowing. To see women deliver babies in such situations is to see power so intense and so primal that it is no wonder that men are afraid of it, that they have tried to take it over and replace it with surgery, which is, after all, what a Cesarean birth is. The shoulder dystocia birth was especially moving for me because Lily's shoulders got stuck (she weighed over ten pounds at birth) and I did what Ina May says to do in such a situation which is to flip over to hands-and-knees, thus allowing the pelvis to open up more fully and she was born and here she is, having now had two babies herself, one at home. 

And I have been at a home breech birth, too. No one realized that the baby was coming breech until that butt appeared and there we were in the loft of a handmade hippie house and the father, who had delivered at least one of his other kids delivered this one too, and all was well. 

Anyway. Anyway. 
I watched that movie. Those graying midwives, Stephen too, now seventy-eight years old, the man who gathered this group of hippies together first with his Monday Night Classes in San Francisco and then with the Caravan and finally, to the Farm. The man who inspired Ina May to be brave enough to begin to catch babies in the first place, to not be airy-fairy or superstitious about it but to dedicate herself to learning everything she could about childbirth from books and from doctors and from other midwives all over the world and from the women she assisted in birth. Stephen's eyes still twinkle with the sort of light that only comes from those who are in on the Cosmic Joke of it all, who have chosen quite definitively to love. 

It was lovely to see Stephen and Ina May in their home now, still married, still taking care of each other. 

It was just a lovely film. 

Somehow, it reminded me that I was part of something important. That being a hippie did mean something. That one woman can change the lives of thousands, if not millions. It reminded me of my own strength and it reminded me of how incredibly powerful women are, how well-constructed our bodies are made, how joyful and correct it can be to give birth unmedicated and freely so that we can receive these children to us knowing fully how their passage into life from our bodies where they were formed and grew felt. 

Well. If you get a chance, watch the film. You can order it, you can attend a screening of it, you can probably Netflix it. Just google it. 

And now I'm off to my day. I'm going to go shopping with May, one of my own home-born babies. It is beautiful here today and I'm just in a very grateful mood for it all. For having been born in the times when I was, for being able to have my children the way I was intended, safely and with pure intent and purpose.

For Ina May Gaskin and for the movie makers who created that love letter to her and who have now shared it with the world, her work going on even as we speak, her message that women are stronger than we know.

Something to ponder always.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. This is so very moving. I will have to watch the film. Thank you.

  2. Well, amen. I met Ina May in 1978 at a conference and she was selling Spiritual Midwifery so I bought a copy and autographed it. She was here in Seattle in 2011 and she re-signed my book-'We're still at it!".

    She truly inspired us all to keep going, to believe what we knew to be true, that babies come out, in their own way, in their own time and we could take back our births because it was important. And it still is.

    XXXX Beth

  3. I love your movie review -- and your review of what it means to birth naturally. I, unfortunately, never got to experience that but know in my bones that it had things been differently "managed," I might have. I keep hearing more stories of women who are doing this at home, and I am encouraged by that -- that there will always be women who seek that, who are proponents of it.

  4. This was a moving post...I thought of my mother and the details she related to me about my own hospital birth and how she was knocked out, presumably with medication...

    I really wish both of us could have experienced what you describe from the movie and book.

  5. I don't know nothin bout birthin babies...
    but I did see the interview with the two who made this film-quite interesting in itself, so I imagine the film is pretty good.

  6. I have been thinking of paying for the download and now I will. I met Ina May in 1982, on the day I found out that I was pregnant, she was giving a talk in Dublin and I got the chance to meet her afterwards as our hippie GP wanted a word and we tagged along. She was full of congratulations, very encouraging, told me to drink raspberry leaf tea and then we all had some baby cham (orange juice and fizzy cider) which she told me would be ok for once. Ha!
    There was a fledgling offspring of the Farm in Ireland for a while, a group of people came from the US to settle in a beautiful, half ruined manor house with a large walled-in garden in Clonakilty in the south of Ireland but I think their ideas and concepts, esp. the gardening did not survive the Irish rains and local country mentality. Or maybe they just went broke. We still - and forever will - have a large wicker laundry hamper made by a lovely guy living there in exchange for a weekend of weeding and building a plastic green house.

  7. Angella- I think you would love it.

    Beth Coyote- I've got my original copy but it is not signed. I've met her a few times. Very casually. She is a rock star to me.

    Elizabeth- I bet you're right. I bet some doctor tried to make you believe that your body was somehow not up to the task in this specific case. I've seen it happen so many times. And I think that women in this situation are robbed.

    e- It is a life-altering thing.

    Magnum- Where'd you see the interview, Baby Daddy?

    Sabine- Wow! Thank you for the sweet story! I love the idea of Ina May being there the day you found out you were pregnant. What a memory for you!

  8. I think my copy of Spiritual Midwifery is still around here, unless I gave it to one of my daughters. My 3rd daughter had her arm over her head and didn't get herself born until I kneeled. I'm going to look for the movie.

  9. Interesting! I will check out this film. I've heard of Ina Mae Gaskin but I know next to nothing about her or The Farm, so this would be a good eye-opener for me.

  10. I was born by C-section. I don't think my mother would have entertained anything like a home birth. In fact, she thought those who did home births were crude.

    I wonder if Mrs. Gaskin talks about the anatomical frames of women who can deliver naturally. There were two ladies who worked for me who wanted to do natural childbirth but couldn't pass the baby because they were too small and the baby too large.

    It all seems pretty intense to me.

  11. Kristin- Yep. My giant baby Lily had her hand up there too. This added to the problem. But, we safely managed.

    Steve Reed- The Farm and the Gaskins are quite an amazing story, really.

    Syd- Yes. Ms. Gaskin does speak a lot about that very thing and she is of the opinion that a woman is not a lemon and that most women are of a size to deliver babies of most sizes. I have known several quite small women who safely delivered babies who weighed over ten pounds. My grandmother was TINY and had a baby over eleven pounds!

  12. I thought I had sent you this link, not sure if you had seen it.



  13. Invisigal- I saw that just the other day. Pretty swell, huh?


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