By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on April 16, 2013. Posted with permission.
It’s time to rethink the culture of birth. It’s not a medical emergency.
In the words of Ina May Gaskin, the mother of modern midwifery, “Birth is not a brutal affair.”
Birth is a rite of passage that is best experienced in the company of women, notably midwives and doulas. Television and movies create a bloody and horrifying image of childbirth with a woman screaming while shouting medical professionals lurch for instruments necessary to avert disaster.
Such images breed fear.
In the early 1970s, Gaskin began The Farm Midwifery Center in rural Tennessee. It was in her earliest midwifery experiences when she realized a laboring woman needed “love, care, and respect.”
“She didn’t need me to tell her what to do or to provide constant interruptions. She needed calm and to fully recognize her own heroism,” Gaskin said in a recent telephone interview.
Gaskin is the author of numerous books including the most recent “Birth Matters.” The subtitle is “A Midwife’s Manifesta,” and there is a raised fist in these pages. A century ago, midwifery disappeared from the American birth landscape, and it has been Gaskin’s decades-long quest to revitalize the profession. Today, midwives attend about 10% of American births.
Gaskin will be delivering the keynote address at the Green Family Expo on April 20th, 3 p.m. at the Fort Myers Alliance for the Arts. A special screening of her new documentary, “Birth Story”, will be at 1 p.m.
As a Fort Myers doula, Christine Ghali serves as a mentor during the birth process from pre-conception to postpartum. She agrees with Gaskin and argues that birth is a revelatory journey when a woman “knows herself, her true self, what she needs and how she grows.”
“There is so much uncertainty when it comes to life, and it is important to hone in on birth and allow the process to unfold. This is respecting the baby, this new life, right from the get-go,” Ghali said.
Perhaps this rite of passage could be marked with more than a C-section, if a mother so chooses. Birth is an enormous moment. It’s not only the creation of a new life, but of a new mother and a new family. There are other options including birthing centers like Baby Love Birth Center in Cape Coral or even a home birth.
According to Baby Love’s director of midwifery services Samantha McCormick, true emergencies are rare in low-risk pregnancies, and the Baby Love staff is trained to anticipate and manage common obstetrical complications.
But, most importantly, a birthing center can offer a serene environment.
Women in labor need to move, and, at Baby Love, they have their choices of three themed birthing rooms (Garden, Ocean, and Angel) replete with a bed, sofa, bathroom, and a birthing tub for an optional water birth. Unlike most traditional hospital births, kids, extended family and friends, and pets are welcome to share the experience. One recent Baby Love birth attracted 30 friends and family.
As Gaskin and McCormick have said, “Adrenaline is the enemy of labor,” and a woman has to feel comfortable in her birthing space. “We must respect the intimacy of the experience and we can do that without compromising safety,” McCormick said.
For more information about Ina May Gaskin’s Fort Myers engagement, visit www.greenfamilyexpo.org. Check out Baby Love Birth Center at www.waterbirthbaby.com. Visit Doula Christine Ghali at www.mindfulbirthservices.com.