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.
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.