For months and months, one name has been bubbling at the back of my mind. It's dropped into lectures, tutorials, midwifery blogs and conversations between peers. Ina May Gaskin - the mother of the natural birth movement.
When you're a midwifery student, birth is on your mind 24/7. Every full moon, I look up at the sky and wonder how many babies are being born at the time. I see pregnant people everywhere, and I'm always itching to ask them about their pregnancy and birth plan. If I see a new mother, I immediately want to know what their baby weighs, how old it is and hear her birth story in excruciating detail. With my first semester as a student midwife drawing to a close, and exams and assessments stressing me out, I found myself wondering why am I doing this to myself? I turned to Clemmie Hooper, the writer of my favourite midwifery blog, Gas and Air, on twitter to ask which Ina May Gaskin book she would recommend to a student midwife, desperate to reignite her passion for caring for women in the midst of stressful physiology and nutrition exam prep. The answer - Spiritual Midwifery.
The book opens with a collection of beautiful, natural birth stories in which Ina May and her gang are finding their way as midwives and the mothers are made to feel empowered and beautiful throughout their birth. For Ina May and the Farm midwives and the women they serve, giving birth really is a spiritual experience. They are without fear and they ride their "surges" like a surfer rides a wave, finding their own unique ways to deal with the intensity of birth and help their bodies open up to bring a baby into the world. I was totally in awe of every single woman in this book! Never have I read such a massive collection of birth stories which are so positive about the experience and so natural in happening!
The second part of the book talks in detail about midwifery practice, with more demonstrative birth stories along the way. Of course, as with reality, there are not always happy endings, but the statistics at the back of the book show a remarkable disparity between the birth statistics on The Farm, which show an overwhelming majority of natural births and extremely low intervention rate, and the rest of America.
I could not put Spiritual Midwifery down and I know it will be a valuable tool in my career. While reading my copy of the book, I envisioned creating a little "library slip" for the inside cover and lending it out to friends, family and colleagues over the years. Already it has made it's way to Yamba for one of my fellow midwifery students and good friends to read on her holiday.
This book really opened my eyes to the magic of birth, and the power of the experience. While some bits were sort of hippy-dippy, overall, I absolutely loved it. The pages are interspersed with beautiful black and white photographs of happy families and women in birth, and gorgeous, symbolic illustrations are peppered throughout. It was both informative and entertaining, and I would recommend Spiritual Midwifery as a MUST READ to all expectant mothers, midwives and midwifery students, and as an interesting read to anyone who enjoys a good birth story!