I watched the most beautiful documentary last night. Jon was out of town and so after Cecile went to sleep, I curled up on the couch with a glass of wine and "Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin & the Farm Midwives," which is now available on iTunes. More than once during the film, my eyes welled with tears of joy and awe at the sight of courageous women becoming mothers. Ina May Gaskin changed the way so many people view natural birth--from something to be feared, to something that is challenging but rewarding beyond words.
I delivered Cecile in a hospital without an epidural. It was my mother who encouraged me to try natural birth. She had worked as a labor-and-delivery nurse at Georgetown University Hospital at about the same time Gaskin was traveling the country with a commune of spiritually-seeking hippies, delivering children on the road with nary a doctor nor epidural in sight. "[Natural childbirth] was not common then," Mom told me this morning. "But there was one other nurse who was a friend of mine who had done it; she really inspired me to try." Late in my pregnancy, after I made the decision to try a natural birth, I was so lucky to have Mom's you-can-do-its to drown out the prevailing "you're crazy" voiced by so many. On the night Cecile was born, I labored on the phone with my mom until Jon got home from work (something that took a while, given that my contractions started in ernest in the thick of the evening rush hour), and then again once I got to the hospital when the contractions were coming one after another after another. She gave me the courage to work with every contraction, to work with my body. Yes, the pain was great, but the highs were greater. And so much of what my mother told me that night is echoed in the film, which is perhaps why it resonated with me so much. There need to be more encouraging voices out there, letting you know that natural birth is possible, it is beautiful, and that you are capable.
Now, to be clear, I do not envision myself delivering a second child on a farm with a midwife in a bath, but back in a hospital with an OB/GYN. What you may envision for your child's birth may not be the way it plays out, which is why I like the option of an available OR just down the hall, just in case. Of course, how to have a baby is an extremely personal decision. And whether you hope to labor with or without medication, with a midwife or with doctor, at its heart, Birth Story is a film about mothers and the courage it takes to become one. And for that reason alone I recommend it to any mom or mom-to-be this Mother's Day, irregardless of your birth choices. Happy viewing.