Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth- My New Bible

Since we have switched over to having a homebirth versus birthing in the hospital with this baby, I knew I should do some reading.  Pretty much everyone told me I should read “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.”
I had already heard of Ina May, who is referred to as “The World’s Most famous Midwife.”

Let me first say that I don’t think of myself as the “hippie” type.  While I certainly seem to do many crunchy things (cloth diaper, co-sleep, “extended” breastfeeding, EC, etc) to most people I seem like a regular Joe.  Outwardly, I don’t dress the part.  I do not own birkenstocks.  My clothing is fairly mainstream.  I have never been to a drum circle.  And so on.  Not to say being crunchy or a hippie or dressing in birkenstocks is bad.  It just isn’t me.

Ina May’s first book, “Spiritual Midwifery” was also recommended, but I was warned it had very “granola” language.  So I went with her second book.  The first part of the book is dedicated to birth stories.  I was very glad to see this because reading other homebirth and birth center stories is reassuring.  Every person had a different experience, everyone coped with the pain in different ways, but all the babies were born healthy and happy.  I picked up many useful tips from reading the stories of other women.  The most useful lesson from all of the stories was that the midwives and labor support are invaluable to helping you manage your pain.  I see how having skillful and experienced support can really change the mood of a mother from “Holy Shit I am in Pain and I Want Drugs.” to “I can do this because there is someone here telling me I can, and they know, they have seen hundreds others do it too.”

I do not believe I am the sort of human who can use the “mind over matter” techniques.  I doubt imagining a beach will erase my labor pains.  And while I really want to believe that reciting mantras about opening my cervix and making my vagina “huge” to get the baby out will do the trick, I am slightly skeptical.  Oh how I wish the power of words worked in this way.

While I was reading this book a friend of mine came from out of town to visit.  She picked it up and read a few birth stories.  Later, she commented that she would be happy to strip and lay in bed with me naked while I labored.  I politely declined her obviously joking offer.

I do plan to stay dressed while laboring, or at least wear a top while in the tub.  I have a birthing skirt from Binsi I plan to wear before I get into the tub as well.

The second half of the book is more about facts.  While I certainly enjoyed reading the birth stories, I think some of the chapters in the second half of the book were even more helpful.  Understanding how a practice of midwives can have such an amazing record of births (1.4% C-Section rate) makes you understand that your body does, and should work, as long as you have the right tools and assistance.

I recently remembered something that my mother told me when I was very young.  She told me that my pediatrician said I could never have a vaginal birth because I was “too small.”  This was a fact I was aware of in high school.  I do recall telling my high school sweetheart that if we had children I would have to have a C-Section.  The fact faded from memory and I don’t believe it even crossed my mind when I was pregnant with my first son.  I went on to have a vaginal delivery, though I was induced.

Needless to say, understanding how so many women have been convinced their bodies are not capable of birthing a child, who then go on to trust a doctor who is so obviously clueless, makes sense to me.  If I did not get information from books and online about these things, maybe I would have ended up with a different outcome.  Already, I let my OB tell me I needed to be induced because of my Gestational Diabetes, which was so in control it was ridiculous.  I didn’t realize he also probably wanted to avoid working on Thanksgiving…..

I was also happy with how Ina May differintiated between a true Emergency C-Section and one which was caused in some way by the doctor, or scheduled for no good reason.  I know many mothers who ended up with C-Sections feel as if blogs take it lightly.  I feel as strongly as ever that doctors are the main cause of C-Sections.  Not small pelvises.  When the C-Section rate is highest at 6 PM and 10PM there is a problem.

I had my home visit with my midwives yesterday and we once again talked about my son’s birth for a few minutes.  I told them after reading Ina May’s book, I am grateful I had a vaginal birth, since so many factors were against me.  They agreed, and joked about how my lying in bed with my legs pulled back was a ridiculous way to give birth, and that no wonder I pushed for 3 hours!

In the book this position is explained.  Women haven’t been giving birth this way forever.  Most were upright, on all fours, squatting, holding onto a rope, etc.  This position became popular when forceps were invented.  This was the easiest and best position for a forceps delivery.  In another book I read, it chronicled the invention of the forceps and their rise to fashion.  Pretty much everyone was using them shortly after they were made available to the public.

So why the heck do doctors tell us to lay in bed when this is the opposite of what we need?!  Granted, many women are under the influence of drugs and cannot get out of bed.

Also, the “Sphincter Law” chapter made so much sense!  I would not be able to poop with a strange and untrusted doctor watching me, and giving birth is no different.

I wish I could go on forever about how much I enjoyed reading this book and how it has helped me feel more confident in my decision to give birth at home.  As crazy as it sounds, I am looking forward to going into labor.  I want to see how I handle an unmedicated birth.  I know homebirth isn’t for everyone, but it makes so much sense to me now.  I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams doing this 2 years ago.  Now, I can’t imagine not doing this.

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