Thursday, January 13, 2011

Book Report: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

Remember this, for it is as true as true gets:  Your body is not a lemon...Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth as well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo.  Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.

When I realized that today was the day I needed to write my blog, I had a little bit of a pre-writer's block panic.  What have I been doing in the last week that could help me write about yoga?  What particular aspect could I shed light on today?  I was kind of coming up empty.  In the last week I've worked on my personal practice, which is going well, but not really the stuff of an entire entry.  I started back at Karma Kids, which has been great fun, but still...nothing was really coming.  I finally saw the first season of Mad Men, but aside from recommending some yoga to help chill Peggy Olson out and cheer up Betty Draper, that wasn't providing me with any insight.

What's really been on my mind more than anything else for the past week and a half has been pregnancy and childbirth.  After taking my amazing prenatal training last month, I put two recommended books on hold at the library - Birth: The Surprising History of How We Were Born, which I started yesterday and am almost halfway through now - and the subject of my post today, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth.
I absolutely positively devoured this book.  It's been a revelation for women since 2003, but Gaskin has been empowering women and revolutionizing the way we view childbirth and our bodies since the 70's when a big home birth movement descended upon the country.  Gaskin's first book, Spiritual Midwifery, is now in its 4th edition.  (And is next on my reading list!)

The book begins with a series of Birth Stories written by women who gave birth with the capable help of either Ina May or one of her fellow midwife partners.  The dates range from the 60's to the 2000's, and the voices range from ultra granola to the ultimate modern, techno-savvy woman.

The second half of the book, titled The Essentials of Birth, is a wealth of information about your body, the mind/body connection, the science and ABC's of labor and birth, and the state of obstetrics and midwifery today.

Given that it's so densely packed with information, I expected it would take awhile for me to read.  I don't tend to read informational non-fiction books the way I read novels, but I have to use that word again - I devoured this.  Gaskin is intelligent, detailed and shrewd while still being perfectly clear, understandable, and often very funny.

What has struck me the most about this new wealth of knowledge I've discovered between my excellent Prenatal training with Juliana Secches, re-watching the documentary The Business of Being Born, and reading these books is that in this, the information age (it is still the information age, right?), how is it that the true, genuine, natural process of childbirth remains so shrouded in mystery?  Why do we blindly accept the procedures done in hospitals, the rising C-section rate, and the seeming necessity to give birth in a hospital, the positively absurd notion of laboring and birthing chained to a bed?

I don't ask these questions to pass judgment on the way anyone has chosen to give birth - far from it.  I ask them because I want to know if we all are aware of the process of birth.  Not just drugs vs. no drugs, but what do the drugs do?  What natural drugs does your body provide, in terms of hormone release, and how do synthetic drugs affect them?

It's amazing that in this age where we can google literally anything and educate ourselves, there is so much darkness surrounding the facts of childbirth.  Not to say there's no information out there - no one gets more book or magazine or information recommendations than an expectant mother.  It's that there's such a wealth of information and misinformation, how does one distinguish the genuine, woman-based information from the big business based or faulty information?

There's entirely too much to be said about this book and its profundity than I could hope to capture in a quickie blog entry.  I don't just recommend this book for couples thinking of having a baby or women who are already pregnant - read it because at some point in your life, whether you plan to have a baby or not, you will know someone who is.  Women deserve to know the facts about what their bodies are capable of and what is truly best for them.  This book espouses a principal that is profoundly yogic and profoundly truthful:  the power lies within you, body and mind, to create a successful experience for yourself.

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