There is one thing everyone has in common reading this story- we were all born of a woman! A point Ina May makes at a speaking engagement she is filmed giving that is shown in Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives. I’ll admit that I’ve been fascinated by The Farm ever since I learned that it existed not too long ago. After deciding to switch from an OB/GYN to a homebirth Midwife very late in my second pregnancy when NY State once again allowed for legal homebirths I started voraciously reading up on the subject. This included reading my “Birth Bible” which is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I’m one of the many, many women who considers Ina May somewhat of a hero; her common sense approach to birth and midwifery care for women calmed my nerves as I prepared for my first un-medicated and first homebirth.
This documentary about Ina May’s life, her husband Stephen, and the other midwives on The Farm traces the beginnings of their homegrown midwifery that came about only because there were so many pregnant women traveling in the cross country tour. If you are imagining a bunch of long-haired hippies living in a bus delivering babies then that is just about right. The footage from their days before moving to The Farm is just like I would imagine it to be.
The film does outline how Ina May and her group of self-taught midwives learned their trade. At that time birth had gone completely medical and away from all midwives; there were really no others to look to for guidance. Ina May Gaskin herself experienced a traumatic hospital birth and was tied down to deliver her baby, not even recognizing it by the time she saw her own baby again a full 24 hours later. Though their work started out as delivering babies in their community in rural Tennessee it spread to traveling to local residents’ homes, delivering babies for the nearby Amish community, and even serving those who came to live on The Farm for a few weeks only to have a baby.
Along with outlining the history of The Farm and the resurgence of midwifery that Ina May lead the charge for, the film shows select birth scenes. These are real births and real footage, including shots of women crowning and fully delivering babies. It was so heartwarming to see the older footage of women giving birth in the 1970’s and then watch their interviews from present day. One particular woman was beaming as she relived her birth story and excitedly proclaimed that she was ready to do it again only one hour after her birth! I know I felt the same way after having Everett; those hormones are a powerful drug!
The final birth scene was enough to make me want to get pregnant once again. I won’t spoil the movie or this scene for anyone but it was truly a perfect, peaceful, beautiful birth and I’m so glad the mother was willing to be filmed and included in the movie.
Surprisingly, my husband sat in the room with my while I watched the movie. I did call out to him “don’t look!” during the up close and intense footage of a woman giving birth to a baby with shoulder dystocia; she had to do the “Gaskin Maneuver” (get on all fours to open her pelvis) to get the very large baby out. That was the only portion of the movie that made my nether regions hurt in sympathy and re-think having another baby someday! I also made him watch The Business of Being Born in order to further explain to him why I so badly wanted to stay home for our son’s birth. He is getting used to these sorts of things by now.
The film itself was done wonderfully as well and the filmmakers deserve a lot of credit for their diligent research and attention to detail. We still have a long way to go when it comes to giving every woman the care she deserves, which includes access to midwives and the choice to birth at home or even in a hospital without any interventions. Even with the high maternal death rate here in the US we are still moving forward thanks to Ina May and women like her who are fighting to our rights to quality care, and caring providers. I understand homebirths aren’t for everyone but midwives should be, with the exception of high risk pregnancies. Nothing compares to the quality of care and attention you receive from a midwife.Take a lesson from Ina May and remember that “Your body is not a lemon” and that you can do almost anything. For anyone interested in more birthing inspiration you can see this movie now- Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives.
Then go on to read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and her most recent book, Birth Matters. Another movie to see would be The Business of Being Born and the sequel More Business of Being Born. Knowledge is power, people!
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I received a copy of this DVD because I was a backer of this film on Kickstarter (the very first, in fact!) and wanted to review it because it is awesome and I think everyone should see it. Links to products mentioned in this post are affiliates and any purchases made using my links will result in a small fee on my behalf.