Responding to Ina May: Not a universal experience

Responding to Ina May: Not a universal experience September 14, 2011

Editor’s note: I asked some of our regular contributors to each respond to a quote from midwife and natural birth advocate Ina May Gaskin.  In her new book Birth Matters Gaskin wrote:

Birth… matters because the journey through pregnancy and birth offers an irreplaceable way for women to explore their deepest selves – their minds, bodies, and nature… There is a sacred power in the innately feminine capacity of giving birth.  It is one of the elemental, continuing processes of nature that women have the chance to experience, and it is the one act of human creation that is not shared by men.

This short passage stimulated some quite different responses.  Yesterday we heard from Suus, and today we hear from Lili:

I love and respect Ina May. She is changing how pregnancy and birth are handled in the United States, which is a much-needed vocation and a high calling. What she speaks of I have personally experienced- a true woman’s mystery. But from my own personal experience, I can say that Ina May Gaskin is only referring to the most ideal and wanted of pregnancies and births. I experienced what she is talking about in my second pregnancy, but not at all in my first.

The first time I was pregnant, I was a teenager (who was scared and ashamed of getting pregnant and who was judged by friends, family and strangers for being so). Because of my predicament, I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening- until my body would no longer allow me to deny what was happening. It was a hard lesson- ignoring your “problems” does not make them go away. I gave up my child for adoption, and the whole experience left me with scars, PTSD, and a desire to never experience such powerlessness again.

Finally, as a woman in her late thirties, I wanted that ideal pregnancy, birth, and child that Ina May proclaims in her quote, despite my myriad fears. I had found my voice and no one could force choices upon me to which I did not freely agree. I assembled a team of people (midwife, partner, doula) to protect and nurture me. I finally found the experience that Ina May describes.

But I am keenly aware that this birth experience- of deliberately conceiving a wanted child, seeking midwifery care in lieu of a doctor (midwives spend more time with their patients and support them holistically- versus a doctor who sees you for a few minutes each visit), creating the spiritual container for such a miracle, and birthing with a team who were all behind my choices- is not a universal experience.

I truly wish this spiritual experience for every woman- but I know intimately that it cannot happen unless the basics are met. This means conception only when a woman is ready and desirous of it, pregnancy and birth according to her own plan and her body’s rhythms, and support and loving care from multiple people during a vulnerable time in life. Only then can a woman experience the spiritual side of pregnancy and birth, when all other physical and emotional needs are met. We are far from this experience universally. Let us work to make conception, pregnancy, birth, and childrearing a choice. Let us work to make them the spiritual lesson they were meant to be. So mote it be.


Lily Shahar Kunning, aka Witch Mom is a mama, student, priestess, and blogger- not necessarily in that order.  Her interests include parenting, Witchcraft, crafting, sustainability, and theology.

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