The caption to a photograph in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth reads: "Unmedicated, first-time mother experiencing birth ecstasy." Ina May Gaskin, the midwife whose 1970s book, Spiritual Midwifery, inspired baby boomer parents to buck the system and have their babies naturally at home, now presents a book with the same message of self-empowerment but that also provides information on hospital- and birth-center deliveries.
This comprehensive guide covers topics such as interviewing birth practitioners, birth interventions, VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean), sleep and more. An entire section is devoted to testimonials by parents who gave birth at Gaskin’s birth center in Tennessee, called The Farm.
Gaskin’s guide offers expectant parents a new way of looking at childbirth. She encourages parents to experience childbirth with joy-—even pleasure—as she describes how we can work with our bodies for a safe and empowering experience. Reading the birth stories in the book highlights how amazing birth is—women refer to contractions as "rushes" and couples describe childbirth as holy, spiritual and magical.
Gaskin’s qualifications as a midwife include 30 years’ experience organizing The Farm, as well as intensive fieldwork with traditional Mayan midwives in Belize, from whom she learned to handle a birth complication known as shoulder dystocia. She even has an obstetrical maneuver—the Gaskin maneuver—named after her.
With warmth, wit and wisdom, Gaskin gently reminds us to trust ourselves as women and as parents to achieve the childbirth we want.
Mary B. Cantoral