Get Me To The E.R. In Time: An Unnatural Birth Story

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

Repeat:  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.

5 responses to “Get Me To The E.R. In Time: An Unnatural Birth Story

  1. It took about 13 months and I finally unsubscribed from all the “Baby milestone newsletters” the constant ‘this is yet another thing your child isn’t doing’ finally frustrated me enough. The books never prepare you for when things go wrong.


    • I can relate. I too am very selective in what child development materials I read. I also had trouble with mommy groups in Savannah’s early years. Moms would be complaining because they couldn’t get their kid to eat, while I was sweating the results of a lab test.


  2. I think I prefer the term “evidence-based medicine” to “Traditional medicine” – just saying. 😉
    And it saved my daughter’s life, too.


  3. I’m so sorry you had this experience. Like you, I planned on the “hippie” route, but my kiddo had other ideas. We also ended up at the hospital for a c-section. I’m embarrassed to say that I felt like I had failed in some way because I couldn’t make the natural way work. I agree with your other readers here. People think there is only ONE experience of parenthood/childhood, and most of the books/groups out there don’t help. Like braxtonjoseph said, the books don’t talk about what to do if your kid doesn’t fit the “standard.” It ends up making you feel like a failure. Thank you for writing about this. . . . and for letting me vent. 🙂


    • Natural is great, if, in fact, you can do it. Unfortunately, the other side of the story is never really discussed. Added to the equation is the pressure women put on each other to “do the right thing.”

      The same goes for breast feeding, another controversial topic. Stay tuned, I’m gearing up to tackle that one. ☺)


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