Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
I heard about this book through my childbirth class and picked it up as a final way to prepare myself for labor, since it’s been months since I read Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth. There is a bias in the book toward “natural” childbirth and against a “medicalized” model of care, but Gaskin makes a very persuasive case for why her general approach is best for the majority of women. Despite her agenda, Gaskin speaks in a respectful and mostly non-judgemental way about women whose birth choices she would disagree with, mostly because she seems to see them as victims of the dysfunctional health care system. I thought the best and most useful parts of the book were the descriptions of “sphincter law” and the mind-body connection as applied to childbirth.
Reading this book in the final weeks of my pregnancy was both reassuring and scary. It was good to hear stories about births going well and being pleasant, even joyful. Stories like these don’t get told very often among women; I’ve noticed that when women talk about their childbirth experiences, there is a tendency toward sensationalism that is almost calculated to horrify women facing their first delivery. Gaskin’s stories were very different, positive in tone and focused on celebrating the power of the woman’s body. Often, she described some problem that was encountered in a woman’s labor and the homey, logical steps she and her midwives took to solve it, and the almost magical results.
I am probably not Gaskin’s ideal audience. I’m not the “granola” type; I don’t go in for chanting and visualization and Enya music, and I’m way more sexually repressed than Gaskin’s orgasmic mothers, so some of her suggestions seemed kind of far out and weird to me personally, although I’m sure they would work for someone who’s into that stuff. Reading this book didn’t change my birth plan much. Not much of the information was new to me. I chose the Vanderbilt Nurse-Midwives for my care because I wanted to work within the midwife model of care, but I also wanted to deliver in a hospital in case of emergency. I want to go with the flow and trust my caregivers and follow their advice. Reading this book gave me a few extra ideas and strategies, and a bit more confidence that everything will be all right, and that makes it worth reading for any expectant mother.