Meeting Ina May

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Last week, I got to meet Ina May.  Ina May Gaskin is a world-renowned home birth midwife.  I’ve wanted to hear her speak in person and she was in Knoxville speaking at an ICEA conference.  I was so excited to get to see her in person.  I expected that the crowd would be much larger, but was a small group of probably under a hundred people.

There were other speakers at the conference who spoke about some really interesting topics, laid-back breastfeeding, birth center collaboration with the UT Knoxville system, HUGS (a parenting class) and other stuff, but honestly, I was there to hear Ina May speak.

She started out by talking about her Safe Motherhood Quilt.  This project is so beautiful and so sad.  Ina May informed us that in the United States, we do not have a national death certificate.  That means that every state does not have to report the same things when a person dies.  During the year a woman is pregnant and the year following a birth, there is nothing on most death certificates that ask if a woman was pregnant, is pregnant or neither. We also rarely do autopsies in the United States because they are so costly.  It is important for us to track motherhood mortality so that we can improve maternal care.  The United Kingdom has a free published book that tracks the deaths associated with maternal deaths related directly and indirectly to pregnancy.

On Ina May’s website, she lists some stories of women that died shortly after childbirth.  The first story shows how odd our society can be when it comes to taking care of women in the postpartum period.  Ina May Gaskin’s links.

When trying to search for the UK’s book, I found this that I thought was interesting to share as well: Safe Motherhood,

Ina May is collecting quilt blocks that memorialize each woman who was affected by maternal deaths.  Some quilt squares even show the babies that were lost as well.

You can see many, many more quilt panels at the Safe Motherhood Quilt project website.Ina May then moved on to other topics.  She talked about the Sphincter Law in birth.  This is my favorite law and I’ve used it with both of my children’s births.  If you keep your mouth and jaw relaxed, your cervix and anus, stay relaxed.  Go ahead…you’re at the computer reading this by yourself.  Tighten your perineum (if you are a guy, remember that even guys have a perineum), now pretend to blow bubbles in some imaginary water with your mouth.  Can you keep your perineum tight?  Nope!  That is the sphincter law.  It works for those that have issues using the restroom too.

She showed us pictures of women giving birth with ecstatic faces. They were beautiful.

She showed us movies on YouTube about giving birth.  But not human birth, Elephant Birth and Chimpanzee Birth.  We learned that elephants know about the Sphincter Law and they know how to revive their babies if need arises.  We learned that chimps know instinctively how to keep their perineum intact by birthing in a very unusual position to slow pushing and how chimp doula’s just stay out of the way.

Then Ina May moved onto the topic of poop.  She talked about poop, she showed us pictures from a children’s book that talked about poop and then she sang us a song to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas, but about breast milk baby poop from the book Fit to Bust.

I loved it all.  I even got my picture with Ina May before she spoke and she signed both my Spiritual Midwifery book and her newest book on birth.

I loved that I got to watch her get coffee numerous times as she walked by my table and I enjoyed watching her interact with her husband.

Such an awesome day.


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