Tag Archives: natural birth

Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta, by Ina May Gaskin — A Book Review

By Hope Lien CD(DONA)

In her influential new book, Ina May Gaskin, the godmother of natural childbirth and world renowned midwife, writes of the harsh realities of the maternity care system in the United States– with some of the highest maternal morbidity in the developed world. She compels readers to consider that every woman should have the right to positive and safe birth. Gaskin’s evidence -ased work, rigorous examination of past, present, and future maternity practices, and intimate writing style all made this a delightful read.

There were many parts of this book that resonated with me, both as an advocate for women to receive better care, and personally as a female consumer. In the beginning of the book, Ina May reflects on the way she reminds women to trust their bodies to birth. “Let your monkey do it,” is a phrase Gaskin refers to in the book, and often encourages women to remain in a sort of primal state that their body will best progress in during labor.  By staying in tune with their natural birthing state, and when placed in a comfortable environment, such as their home, women are able to avoid many interventions imposed on them by the obstetrical system today.

Birth Matters is peppered with birth stories from the Farm Midwifery Center where Ina May lives and works as a midwife. These tales of the great strength of women who have birthed their babies without the use of pain medication or surgical measures give power to the opinions expressed throughout her book. Gaskin devotes an entire chapter to discussing technological advances in the obstetrical realm and the ways in which women may have been better off without. She educates readers about the effective and safe options that were previously available before the invention of ultrasound to predict a baby’s weight, widespread c-section for breech babies, and electronic fetal monitoring, to name a few.

One of my favorite sectionsof the book speaks directly to fathers-to-be. In this section, Gaskin gently encourages partners to be familiar with the sphincter law, the idea that the cervix opens best in privacy and to follow a mother’s cues to show you how to move through the labor process. She also suggests how to help the laboring woman tune into her “monkey” or most primal state, and keep her adrenaline or fight or flight response low, while boosting her oxytocin and beta endorphins which keep labor moving and reduce pain levels. Gaskin does an excellent job of encouraging fathers and reminding them that birth is a normal process, although the media may tell you otherwise.

At the end of the book, Ina May shares her vision for subsequent births here and around the world. She maintains a hope that one day medical personnel will be more properly educated to assist birthing women, and that maternity care standards would be revised. Most importantly, Gaskin is optimistic that we can develop a better way to keep track of all maternal deaths taking place in the US, and that we could develop better practices based on the outcomes.

Birth Matters is a persuasive and enticing look at birthing standards in the US, with many traditional and non-invasive ways to improve upon them. It is certainly one of Ina May’s most far-reaching call to women and maternity care specialists everywhere to improve the care we offer to expectant mothers, both here and around the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Midwifery, Pregnancy

The VBAC of John Gabriel

by Kalli Huehn

Before I get into the birth story of my second, I should say that my first child, my daughter, was born via c-section. She was presenting face-first, and according to our midwife it was against hospital protocol to deliver a baby face-first vaginally. Even though we desired a natural birth, we pretty much got the exact opposite of that, but in the end we still got a beautiful, healthy, plump little girl and everyone recovered wonderfully.

In preparation for our second birth, we really wanted to have the all natural, drug-free VBAC we’ve been dreaming of, so we ditched the hospital idea and decided to go with a birthing center. We surrounded ourselves with a team of extremely supportive, encouraging, all-natural believing midwives, a doula, and family members to aid us in our pregnancy and delivery.

Labor started early on Sunday morning when my water broke at 2:00am. We got excited with the possibility that we would be having a baby soon! But the story goes on and on….  We spent all day Sunday being active: walking in malls, eating good food, walking around the neighborhood. We went in for a check-up at the birth center, but nothing had changed. Contractions were like they’ve been for the past couple of weeks, 10 minutes or more apart, slow and putzy.

Monday we went in for another appointment at the birth center and started an herbal induction. I got checked and I was about 70% effaced and 1 cm dilated, so that was good news! The herbal induction was a remedy of castor oil, an herbal liquid and two different kinds of pills. All the while we tried to stay as active as possible, lots of walking, eating good foods, trying to stay positive! All the while contractions stayed the same, about 10 minutes apart and not too intense.

Monday night we had a home visit from our doula Rochelle and midwife. Our midwife had started getting plans in place for a hospital visit since it was over 24 hours since my water broke and no baby.  My husband was pretty scared; he did NOT want to go to a hospital since we worked so hard to have a VBAC all natural. But we all agreed to go one more night and, if nothing much happened, we would go to the hospital for an induction.

Well, that night we did go into labor!!  I woke up around 1:00am because I couldn’t sleep anymore through the contractions. We called Rochelle over and labored all night long. We thought we were making good progress, but still the contractions were just not picking up and getting stronger. They were about 5 minutes apart, but not lasting very long and not getting terribly strong.  The midwife decided to transfer us to the hospital. Reluctantly we did, but it was pretty obvious that my body was just not going into labor on its own.

We checked into the hospital around 11:00am and by 12:00 my AMAZING birthing team had assembled including Rochelle, my sister, and midwife apprentice from the birth center and the midwife from the hospital. We ran into some trouble with hospital politics when we first arrived. Even though our midwives had called and spoken to hospital staff about our situation and got the “all clear” to be admitted as a midwife patient, the OB resident was nervous because of my previous Cesarean and wanted me under his care, not the midwives. After speaking with him about our desires for delivery and our concerns (and going back and forth on the phone with our midwives and the hospital staff), the OB decided to keep us under midwifery care, but he would check on us.

Finally I got started on pitocin. Labor progressed still fairly slowly but it was definitely happening. We labored all day and into the night. Again we were able to stay active, walked all around the hospital, and used the birthing ball. I rarely sat down or laid in bed during contractions; it just felt much better to be active. I was disappointed to see midnight arrive and STILL no baby. Around 1:00 or 2:00am labor was pretty intense and I got checked. I was only about a 5. That was it for me. I was so distraught and discouraged, and I kept thinking “I can’t keep doing this I can’t keep doing this.”  Thankfully my birth team was SO SUPPORTIVE and encouraging; we tried a couple more positions and used the rebozo to move the baby around. Then we decided to get in the water. Still by this point I kept thinking “I can’t do this anymore.” Contractions were SO INTENSE by the time I got in the water it wasn’t even relaxing, I was vocalizing and grunting. I started getting the feeling I needed to push soon after getting in the tub. Everyone was so patient and calm I remember the midwife saying “If you need to push, then push and I did! I remember feeling him descend through my pelvis. Because I was on pitocin the whole time I remember E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. — every feeling, every conversation around me, every everything.

As soon as I could start feeling his head I forgot about “I can’t do it” and thought “I am doing this!” During pushing I asked to see his head in the mirror and got to feel him. I have never felt such joyous bliss, what an unreal moment that was. After about two hours of pushing, I caught my son; at 3:59am; 72 hours after my water broke and 26 hours after laboring, John Gabriel came into the world a whopping 8 lbs, 10 oz! He is a dark, handsome little lad, he has a PROUD big sister, mother and father.

Rochelle Matos, AAHCC, CD(DONA) is a member of the Childbirth Collective

Leave a comment

Filed under Birth story, cesarean, Doula