Thursday, May 17, 2007

Small World

In a perfect world I would have this baby at home.

As far as hospital births go, I have no complaints about my labor and delivery experience with Joshua. But I am not particularly looking forward to another hospital birth. I had Joshua at Northwestern Memorial, one of the best women's hospitals in the country. While it is definitely a baby factory, I never once had anyone question any of my decisions about labor, delivery, or aftercare. I'm not so sure how things are going to go here.

I have looked extensively for a midwife willing to perform a homebirth, but the only midwives in the area work for the big hospital and won't do deliveries at home. Heck, I can't even find a doula within 50 miles. But short of a homebirth (in which I envision myself laboring in my own bed, in my enormous tub, even in my yard) I would prefer to make this one work without medication. I feel much more confident in my ability this time around since I will be able to labor at home longer now that the hospital isn't sixty miles away and since I've already been through this once. But just in case I decided to do some more reading on unmedicated birth to supplement my Bradley Birth classes from my pregnancy with Joshua. I searched the internet and noticed that many bloggers had read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth.

Rewind to Christmas...

My mom, my best friend, and her mom were visiting together at my mom's house. We were discussing scenic routes in Middle and Western Tennessee, and fun, out-of-the-way places like Hohenwald. My mom started talking about Summertown, TN, a commune founded by some California "hippies" in the 1970s who wanted to live in intentional community and create their own utopia. This story surprised me. I've lived in Tennessee for most of my life and had never heard of The Farm, as it is known. It is still going strong, as you can see from their website and they are most well-known for their group of nationally-recognized midwives, led by the co-founder of the commune.

Can you see where this is going?

Yep, the co-founder of the commune and preeminent midwife in the United States is none other than Ina May Gaskin of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. And she lives 120 miles away.

Now my ideal birth is on The Farm with Ina May and the Midwives. But I have a sneaking suspicion I'll probably be in the hospital.

Just for fun, Vanity Fair recently did a story on the Farm. It's fascinating. You can find it here.


anna said...

A good friend of mine is doing doula training and working on her nursing degree. She just did her first birth end of April. She highly recommened Ina May's book. Too funny and such a small world. Now I've gotta get her book!

And yes you'll be able to labor much more at home this time around and it will be much more relaxing I think. Second births are always better.

Jenny said...

Okay, my interest is piqued.
Any chance of it actually happening? How far away is it? and is that sort of thing covered by insurance? I mean, it's not as if you're asking the lady down the block to bring the blankets and the men to boil water; they are professionals and all...

Kat E said...

I have become addicted to the baby shows on Discovery Health/TLC (no I am not pregnant, I promise!), but anyway, one of my favorites is "House of Babies", about a pair of midwives that run what I guess is a birthing center in Miami.

I absolutely love the idea of a natural birth, because, you know, this is what our bodies are meant to do, and I find that amazing. It's discouraging to see so many moms turn to epidurals on those shows (not that I'm judging them, it just makes me wonder if, when the time comes, I'll be able to make it through without meds). For me, a true needle-phobe, the very thought of an epidural makes me cringe. I think I would have a panic attack if they tried to stick a needle in my's just a guess, but I can really see myself taking the pain over the puncture.

Then again, I've never given birth!

Please keep us posted on this. One factor I'm especially interested in is whether or not insurance will cover midwife/doula services. I've heard that most do not.

Good luck!!

Kat E said...

OK, I am halfway through the (very interesting!) Vanity Fair article...did you see the line where they mention that "Farm midwives have attended some 2,500 births. They encourage the husband to fondle and French-kiss his wife while she huffs and puffs." Just wanted to make sure you know what you could be in for! ;)

Jennifer said...

“the only midwives in the area work for the big hospital and won't do deliveries at home.”

I thought this was the definition of a midwife. Mind you, I have not had much experience in this department. But I thought that’s what they did – came to your house and delivered your baby. Odd.

I really admire women who choose to go through childbirth without painkillers or people in scrubs running around with sterile instruments. I’m not one of them. I would freak out. But more power to ya, sister!

I am going to spend the rest of the day exploring The Farm. Fascinating!!

Mary Beth said...

Jenny--The chances of me going there to give birth are slim to none. The Farm is two hours away and, no, it's not covered by insurance. But if you're not paying a doctor, anesthesiologist, nursing staff, hospital administration, etc. then the costs will be unbelievably cheap. They have cabins in which visitors can stay that they rent for something like $10/night. Then when you go into labor you head down to the Birthing House (I think) and the midwives help you have the baby. Ina May is a really accomplished midwife. Her bio is here. We probably won't go because it's two hours away and the logistics are just too difficult. But according to the book a lot of families go there to have babies and then move into the commune! Ha!

Ritz--I stopped watching "A Baby Story" and "Bringing Home Baby" because I was tired of watching doctors advise women to do all these things that are so counterproductive to labor (i.e. pushing while laying flat on your back, suggesting C-Sections during plateaus in labor) and watching women and men who were so obviously uninformed about the whole process. I actually saw one where the doctor came in to do the internal and informed the woman that she was "minus 2 station." The husband said, "What does that mean?" and the wife said, "I don't know." What? Read a book for heaven's sake! And the Bringing Home Baby show made me mad because they always made a huge deal about "Will she give up breastfeeding?" The answer? Probably so if she's got a camera in her fact 24 hours a day. Breastfeeding is hard enough without having a stranger in your house. And, funny enough, those shows were always sponsored by formula companies. Hmmm. But the "House of Babies" sounds like fun. I'll have to watch!

I had an epidural with Joshua. I was way too unprepared (despite 12 weeks of Bradley classes).

I must've missed that part of the article. But breast stimulation and sexual arousal help the cervix open up more quickly and easily. In many cultures men actually have sex with their wives while they're in labor because it helps so much.

Jennifer--Lots of midwives attend hospital births. In many cases it's a financial issue. In our town we have several Ob/Gyn practices and one Nurse/Midwife clinic. The midwives charge much less per visit than the doctors because, well, they're not doctors. But they still attend births in the hospital. Weird, huh.

Ruth said...

Have you checked the Doulas of North America website ( for a doula in your area? There are approximatly 14 doulas in TN and one of them may be close enough and willing to travel.

TLS said...

I read Ina May's book when I was considering becoming a midwife in college. Trippy.

I eventualy realized I was more interested in the politics of midwifery and why women and been shut out of the "birthing industry" than with the actual birthing itself.

Another great book for ya'll is Emily Martin's The Woman and the Body. She details how ob/gyns came into being as a way to provide income for the too crowded and competitive sphere of male physicians.

adrienne(zoes mom from kindermusic!) said...

oh my goodness!!! hey! this is adrienne (zoes mom from kindermusic!!!!) i found your post while looking up midwives in west tn!!! (yes we are expecting our second little one in january, and we too want to homebirth!!!) i had no idea you were considering this!!! we must have a bit more in common that i thought!! we've actually found a midwife in memphis that does home birth, we are going to meet with her next week!!! if you want email me so we can talk more:) (i should have known we'd get along once i knew you too used cloth diapers!!) ha! ok, my email is: ill email you my # too so we can talk more homebirths!!! yay! oh yeah, is josh goingto the next kindermusic? i think were gonna sign zoe up :)