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"The gifts of manual skills, patience and wisdom…"
While I found some of the chapters too historically heavy, I loved the positive and empowering birth stories scattered through the book. It was also interesting to read about cultural blindness of industrialised countries, how technology impact not only labour but also midwives and doctor training and the importance of manual skills to excel in assisting pregnancy and labour. Birth Matters is packed with Ina May Gasking extraordinary experience and knowledge and she shares her ‘personal’ experience in attending births.Read moreLess
"Comprehensive, detailed and clear…"
Ina May’s new book is a manifesta setting out the philosophy of natural birth, and therefore nothing that has not been said by wise women (and men) countless times before. The value of this work is its comprehensive, detailed, and clear presentation of the information, such that surely no rational human could disagree. It is The Politics of Breastfeeding for birth, and it is a scientific celebration of what nature has achieved and what women are capable of.
The first chapters set the subject in its global context, and birth stories are scattered through the text to remind the reader that while these are global, political issues, they have personal, individual impacts.
I have learned about the cultural loss of breastfeeding knowledge, and it makes a sad kind of sense to me to be reading the same description of society’s attitude to birth: the loss of skills among health professionals and the consequent loss of positive birth stories. This cycle will be perpetuated and added to, and will spread beyond the US increasingly rapidly, as we lose touch with and confidence in our own bodies.
Ina May Gaskin discusses the role of feminism in driving an ‘escape’ from pregnancy and motherhood, a push towards equality between men and women instead of a celebration of the important differences between us. Why should power be measured only in masculine terms and defined by the choice NOT to do something? Ina May’s positive, empowering feminism offers a far wider range of choices.
It seemed crazy to me to take on the belief that the human female is the only mammal on earth that is a mistake of nature… it’s our minds that sometimes complicate matters for us. (p.23)
She quotes Simone de Beauvoir describing the pregnant women as inciting fear in children and contempt in young people, ensnared: “life’s passive instrument.” De Beauvoir, the great feminist intellectual, writes as though she believes what men have said for centuries about women’s bodies: that we are disgusting, inefficient, and inferior to men (who cannot, normally, grow or feed babies); and seems unaware that historically speaking, medical men who profit from managing birth have had personal and financial interests in telling women that it is a dangerous and painful process, that requires the presence of a qualified doctor. Again the parallels with the unethical practices of formula manufacturers undermining women’s knowledge of and confidence in breastfeeding are clear.
Some of the practices resulting from this basic assumption of women’s inferiority and ignorance are barbaric, and many persist in 21st Century western healthcare. The book describes a bleak outlook for maternity care and motherhood in a world where politics and economics are everything. Yet the short-termism of the idea that labouring women must be cured or rescued from themselves costs far more in terms of money, life, and quality of life. How can this be an acceptable situation?
I was struck by the anecdote in which a couple kissed to raise oxytocin levels and aid relaxation and the progress of labour. It helped me to think about the way I talk to antenatal groups about the role of oxytocin in breastfeeding. And also of the way the idea of sex to bring on labour has been reduced to the role of prostaglandin, when everything about it promotes skin contact, eye contact, and a feeling of well-being. In this, I find yet another example of the big picture being reduced to one male-orientated detail.
I was aware that birth in the US was highly medicalised, but the details and the implications of that, as clearly laid out by Ina May Gaskin, are horrifying and depressing. At the same time, the positive birth stories are affirming, empowering tales, a contrasting picture of the good that is possible when women are informed and respected.Read moreLess
Wow what a great read, Ina May Gaskin is an absolute inspiration. Her passion and determination for change comes across in every single word that she writes, her style of writing is engaging and makes the book an easy read. You end up desperate to read more and find out more. She shares a lot of her own personal history and shares the knowledge that she has obviously worked so hard to gain on such a broad subject. The sections about how countries all around the world manage pregnancy, labour and birth are so full of facts and true stories that they really stir your own emotions and make you wish that things would change for the better.
The birth stories scattered throughout are fantastic, a real inspiration and a wonderful confirmation of what a womans body can do given the opportunity and no medical intervention.
It is so sad to think of all of the knowledge that has been gained for as long as man has been around being lost and negated in such a way. Women should be safer than every now giving birth however with more medical interventions more women in the USA will die in childbirth now than in their own mothers era. It really is going the wrong way, so much is now down to politics and money that the most natural process on Earth is being ruined and altered.
This book really initiates conversations and I have personally found myself discussing it with friends and family on many occasions - so much so that they now want to read the book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone in the health profession, any mums or mums to be or anyone with an interest in childbirth, it is an extremely thought provoking piece from a fantastic author.Read moreLess