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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Encouraging Modern Midwifery: An Interview with Ina May Gaskin

Mar 29, 2013 04:57PM ● By Linda Sechrist

Ina May Gaskin

Ina May Gaskin, a certified professional midwife and the founder and director of The Farm Midwifery Center, in Tennessee, and the author of Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta, has attended more than 1,200 births. A recipient of the Right Livelihood Award (widely known as the Alternative Nobel Prize), she will be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in October.

On April 19, Gaskin, who has been called “the midwife of modern midwifery,” will appear at the Lee County Alliance for the Arts VIP reception for a private viewing of her award-winning documentary, Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives. The public screening on April 20 is part of the Southwest Florida Green Family Expo and Great Cloth Diaper Change.

Why does the medical profession believe a birth is a procedure that requires hospitalization for every woman, when centuries before, and today in other cultures and countries, home births assisted by midwives are the norm?

No midwives dispute that hospitalization is sometimes required for some women. However, many medical professionals assume that humans are inferior to other species of mammals in their ability to deliver their young. I find this an absurd assumption—of the 4,600 species of mammals that deliver their young in a natural birth setting, it is highly unlikely that humans are the only species built by nature to fail. Human mothers require the same consideration as other mammalian mothers: freedom to move and change position during labor, low lights, and a secure place to labor in privacy without undue interruption.

A midwife understands that a birth is much more than pulling one human out of another and that it’s a process which other cultures, far wiser than ours, know more about. I think we need a synthesis between birth technology, when it is necessary, and the kind of ancient wisdom that midwives can access.

What can we do to help midwifery become more acceptable?

Women, as well as the fathers of their babies, have to research and study their birth options just as they review options before buying a car or household appliance. To help allay our cultural birth phobias, I suggest several YouTube videos. In HappyBirth, a French woman has a happy home birth and squeals with joy as she pushes the baby out. In Elephant Birth: The Dramatic Struggle for Life and Baby Chimp’s Birth at Attica Zoological Park, we see the females’ innate wisdom about birth positions, what to do in unusual circumstances and the need for other experienced females to attend births for moral support. These are empowering examples of female wisdom, a greatly minimized cultural grace. A woman should not be scared out of her wits during the birth process, nor should she be scared out of her power, which is founded in deep wisdom.

Our goal should be that every low-risk and healthy woman should be able to have a home birth attended by a competent midwife. This is especially true in poor rural areas, where there are no obstetricians or hospitals and women have to travel long distances for prenatal care and delivery.

For more information about the reception, documentary screenings and Gaskin’s appearance as a keynote speaker at the Green Family Expo, and Earth Day events, visit and

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