Ina May

When I think of the 70’s era, it conjures up the image of the braless hippy protesters, their long haired bandana wearing partners, with peace logos across their shirts, smiling throught their John Lennon sunnies in their overcrowded Combi Vans.

It’s certainly was an decade of revolution and as I watched the documentary of Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives and their amazing journey that began during the 70’s, I was bitterly disappointed I was born a decade too late!

For many who are familiar with birth, Ina May is a household name and undoubtedly the most famous midwife in the world. In the early 70’s, Ina May and her husband, Stephen founded a commune called “The Farm”, in Tennessee. Ina May and the midwives of The Farm created one of the first birth centres that existed outside of hospital in the United States. People would travel far and wide to birth on ‘The Farm’ with Ina May and her midwives.

What you see these midwives do in this documentary, is what I see a lot of midwives providing each and everyday; the belief that birth is far more than biology, it’s about a mind-body connection, an empowering emotional state that needs care providers that have an emotional connection with a woman and her baby. That’s exactly why continuity of care midwifery has the best birth outcomes bar none.

Ina May has a resounding trust in woman’s bodies to birth, something that can’t be intellectualised, overmedicalised or intervened in. To quote Ina May herself; “if men had something as extraordinary as a uterus, they’d be bragging about it!”. Our bodies, with the right nurturing conditions and support know how to birth.

She has changed the birthing world and even had obstetricians attending ‘The Farm’ to birth, as they knew that the farm midwives would create an environment that supported normal birth. According to Carol Lorente (1995), the work of Gaskin and the midwives might not have had the impact it did, if it hadn’t been for the publication of her book Spiritual Midwifery (1977):

“Considered a seminal work, it presented pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding from a fresh, natural and spiritual perspective, rather than the standard clinical viewpoint. In homebirth and midwifery circles, it made her a household name, and a widely respected teacher and writer.”

Just as Ina May has left an indelible imprint on families, women and birth for the last few decades, the amazing midwives who care for you know are doing the same in this country. Many don’t realise that for midwives to have gained Medicare provider numbers has taken resounding effort, determination and commitment, and so many are still working hard to gain visiting access to local hospitals to support the women in their care.

I’m told midwife means ‘with woman’ . I think that’s a gross under definition. Having a known midwife means empowerment, someone who continues to fight for birth rights, who supports evidence based care and provides the emotional and medical support that every woman and family deserves. Hats off to Ina May, the farm midwife and every midwife who shares her vision of care!

Alecia Staines, Shivaya Therapies

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