In regards to the lack of blogging this past weekend, I must explain that I became a little Ina May obsessed.
I spent all day Saturday listening to Ina May Gaskin speak at Victoria College on the U of T campus – an amazing experience, to say the least! I also spent the entirety of Earth Hour telling hubby what I learned that day (poor hubby!)…he was a good listener though.
I found my way to a few Babble blog posts that were written by or interviews of Ina May, and followed through hundreds of comments of debate that she actually participated in – quite interesting. I finished Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta, and got about halfway through Spiritual Midwifery, and the whole time I kept wondering…
Where was this woman and where were these books when I was pregnant??
Of course, they were around…I just didn’t know where to look for them. I read plenty of pregnancy books, but I didn’t really know much about the natural parenting movement until fairly recently. I didn’t really get the power of reading and hearing positive birth stories, and of surrounding oneself with a community of supportive women (whether that be in person or online – I believe they are both very valid).
I’m not even sure exactly how I got into it all…I think it was coming across some information about cloth diapering – the idea of it both (initially) repulsed and intrigued me. I started doing more research, and that was my entry way into the crunchy, natural, peaceful parenting world.
I resonated with it instantly, as I did with Ina May Gaskin as soon as I came across her as well. The minute I heard she was coming to Toronto, I knew I had to be there. I knew that seeing and meeting this woman even once in real life would be something I would want to tell my grandchildren about (as well as being incredibly inspiring for me).
And I honestly don’t believe this is simply because I’m a mother or because I’m attracted to things like natural birth and natural parenting…I really, truly believe that Ina May Gaskin is one of our modern day heroines – she is a champion for women (and children) whether they ever get pregnant and have babies or not.
And I felt that inspiration and power of being a woman and being supported by other women throughout this past weekend.
It began on Thursday night when I went to see Ina May read from her new book and happened to sit next to a super friendly doula named Marion Wall. I was telling her how sad I was that the weekend event was sold out before I even heard about it, and then decided to go out on a limb and just ask this total stranger if she would help me – if she heard of anyone who needed to sell their ticket, could she please let me know?
She agreed immediately; I got an e-mail from her the very next morning, and I was in!
On the day of the event Marion even helped get me into a near front row seat (I didn’t know anyone there!), and I ended up sitting next to a young woman who was in her 3rd year of the Midwifery program at McMaster University (for any of you non-Canadian readers, midwifery is something that is covered by the provincial health program here for low risk pregnancies, and there are very good, very competitive training programs for Midwifery at 3 universities in Ontario – something I hope to do someday!).
At any rate, this girl and I could not stop discussing how amazing it was to be in a room with so many like-minded women…I was as much in awe from looking around the room as I was of our speaker!
And that was a big focus of Ina May’s discussion – that women’s bodies are not made faulty, unable to give birth without technology. That midwives and doulas (and any birth professionals) are there to offer loving, fearless support – to bring calm to the birthing room. That true feminism involves the right to give birth in dignity, beauty, love and kindness.
And women, coming together, are making this known and making this happen.
One of the most powerful moments of that day was just after the lunch break, when a woman did a demonstration of the use of yoga during birth (I do apologize because I didn’t catch her name – I believe she is a doula in Toronto). She had everyone standing in a circle and led us through a short exercise…and I must say I usually cannot get into these things…
Basically, she told us to feel our feet on the ground, and feel that roots were going down from our feet, through the floor, through the basement, into the earth…then that these same roots were traveling back up as energy, through our bodies, out our upraised hands. I’m simplifying it, but I just want to share because I felt the energy of this – very briefly, but it was there.
She went on to talk about how sound is energy that actually travels through sound waves, and had us all make sound together – simple drawn out ahhhs or oooaahhs. But it was so cool! Because all of these women together made an incredibly beautiful sound…a totally pure harmony that was lovely to listen to.
It was an actual physical experience of the unity that brought all of us to that room, that day.
And I kind of what to emphasize…I normally feel pretty silly doing stuff like that, but I think I got so into it because I was just so impressed with seeing all those women in person who really knew and felt the importance of supporting women in birth.
Another really cool part of this was the incredible differences between everyone there…young, old, pregnant, mothers, non-mothers, babies…it wasn’t your every day average type of group.
I say all this because personally, I’ve never really defined myself as a ‘feminist’ – the word actually had a negative connotation for me. But I think inside I always have been one, and I’m still defining to myself what that word means for me…but having a daughter…well, it causes all of these ideas to have a lot more significance.
I asked Ina May to inscribe the Birth Matters book to my daughter when she signed it, because I want my daughter to grow up knowing birth as a normal, joyful thing…not as a mystery or something to be feared. I was very fearful throughout my pregnancy; I had a lot of anxiety about birth, and though my labor and delivery weren’t what I would call traumatic, they weren’t my ideal either.
Understanding that birth is not something to automatically fear is huge. Understanding that we are not a faulty design is huge. Understanding or even beginning to grasp the power of women together and supporting each other is revolutionary.
I have much to share from hearing Ina May speak and will be posting from her talk again, but this, above, is the main impression I came away with. It’s what I want to continue to learn, be a part of, and teach to my daughter. It’s what natural parenting, becoming crunchy…all of it…is about for me.
And I’m truly grateful to have had the chance to be part of it all this past weekend.
Was the experience of giving birth something that was empowering or disempowering for you? If you could support one woman in your life to be more empowered, what would you do?
Disclaimer: Please know that I understand that technology can be needed during birth, and can be a very helpful and good thing. I understand that things can go wrong, and I am extremely grateful for people who are medically trained to assist in these situations. I just feel that we have been taught that this is all that birth is about, and that it is always something to be feared, and I believe there is a balance that needs to be found…