Last night I attended a screening of the new documentary, Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin & The Farm Midwives.
What a rush!
The film tells the story of how Gaskin became the most trusted and influential midwife in the world. It is both endearing and inspiring to see how a group of hippies bucked the medical establishment in favor of a kinder, gentler, more humane, and yes, more natural, view of birth.
See the movie if you can, just to hear Gaskin discuss her theory of sphincter law. You will laugh, because it's funny, and you might cry, because it's serious. The cervix is a sphincter, and as Gaskin puts it, "sphincters are shy". This is why, she adds, even toddlers head into corners when they're filling their diapers. Privacy is key. The worst thing you can do to a mother in labor is frighten her, or make her feel exposed. I've had two births in hospitals, and one in a birthing center. One day I'll go over all the differences. For now, let's just say the hospitals earned a big FAIL in the don't scare and respect privacy departments.
A question posed by Gaskin in the film is: What if the first thing that medical professionals caring for women in labor had to learn was: BE NICE? A profound idea, in its simplicity, and its ability to affect change. The way people act around a laboring woman matters, a lot.
After the film, Gaskin spoke to an appreciative audience full of mothers and birth professionals. She is everything I imagined her to be from her books: a woman of presence, with a strong, distinctive voice and seemingly infinite energy to help women and effect change.
Preaching to the choir is one thing, but finding a way to get her message out to society at large is another. "Your body is not a lemon," Gaskin says. Make it a mantra. Say it again and again, to your friends, and your sisters, and your daughters, until they start to believe.
I came home last night and told my lovely young babysitter to go see Birth Story. Doing what I can to spread the word.