Delayed trains and bad weather couldn’t deter me from missing the documentary on Ina May Gaskin at Barnard last Sunday.
I discovered Gaskin, the world’s premier hippie midwife, while pregnant with Savannah. Her crunchy Earth Mother style resonated with me and I devoured her books, becoming one of her biggest fans.
In 1971, she and husband Stephen founded a commune in Tennessee, which later became the home of The Farm Midwifery Center. A powerful force, she has written extensively about natural childbirth and her best-selling books showcase women who transcended the pain of labor and delivery, some even becoming orgasmic
“Look, just get as many drugs as soon as you can,” Kat, my childhood friend and mom of six, quipped when I shared Gaskin’s “fear not” philosophy. The idea of using oils, candles, music and massage to relieve pain clashed with her Midwest sensibility.
I plowed ahead, induced on the ultimate hippie day – Earth Day. This, however, is where Gaskin and I parted.
When the contractions escalated from pinches to prolong, side bending S&M stabs, my sturdy triathlete OB/GYN burst through the door. The baby’s heart rate was slowing and they wanted to do a C-section.
Her face told me to forgo my idea of a spiritual awakening.
Later, upon returning to my to yoga classes, I would be consumed with mommy-guilt when a granola-type haughtily scolded: “Oh, there were things YOU could have done to get the baby to descend in the canal.”
Still grappling with the fact that Savannah was rushed into Neo-Natal Intensive Care following her birth with a blood sugar of 16, I resented her ignorance. Traditional medicine saved my daughter’s life.
Soon after Savannah was diagnosed with a rare medical condition, which left me feeling about natural childbirth, the same way I do a big, expensive wedding: it’s one night in a lifetime. It is no indication of a coupe’s love for one another, or their future together.
I eventually threw out all my pregnancy books. Gaskin’s along with them.