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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
Spiritual Midwifery
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on August 29, 2013
I kid you not, there is a picture in this book of a lady with slanty dope eyes and a big grin with a baby hanging halfway out her body. THC and drugs are okay with Ina May, but not a hospital. That being said, this book is a great table piece to flip through and laugh at.

I am all for non-intervention, but this gal is nutz. FYI, her own baby died at a home delivery. Just think about that. So if the medical community is on one end of the spectrum, she is on the other. Bradley method is much better, and it is somewhere in-between. Another FYI, the most common cause of birth related deaths in the world is hemorrhage. Good luck getting a blood transfusion in a barn.

One more thing, this book has scarred me in other ways - I will never forget that picture...

There is a passage about two ladies hanging on to each other imaging that their crotches are canyons with water rushing out. Meanwhile they are actually gushing blood out on the floor. All I can say is....FREAKING WEIRD! No wonder midwifes aren't allowed to deliver babies on their own.
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on February 18, 2011
I'm a student midwife and Ina May is revered in the 'birth world' I exist in. This book is- as the many reviews can attest to- almost a Bible of natural child birth and the regeneration of midwifery practice in the US. My understanding is that I am reading the most current version of this book...

The good: Getting to hear and see pictures of many families who went through their births on the Farm was great. I am very interested in birth stories and the internal mechanisms that women/families use to cope with birth. Also, I very much enjoyed finding several stories about loss and unexpected outcomes. It's wonderful to see these kinds of stories and occurances shared for others to use as a map through a similar circumstance. Sometimes, you've never met anyone who's had a loss. Knowing you're not the only one who's felt the way you do is an amazing comfort. Another positive of this book were the stories about the Amnish women who had Farm midwives attend their births. The cultural differences were really interesting- I wish Ina May would write a whole book about these births!

The bad: Ok, first and foremost, there were several times that INACCURATE information was put forth in this book. At one point, Ina May suggests that a woman 'toughen up' her nipples during pregnancy if they are sensitive to get them ready for nursing. That's just wrong. She also says parents whould use alcohol on a baby's umbilical cord and around the base on the stomach- again, a care method that has been proven to actually increase healing time. Perhaps these things are minor, but honestly, for someone who is so respected- and who many people will look to for definitive information, this kind of thing should be corrected.

Secondly, I needed a 'Hippie-to-English' dictionary to understand many of the stories! If I hear the words 'tantric', 'psychedelic', 'telepathic' or 'high' again, I think I'll scream. If I read one more description about how someone looked "real soft and pretty" or "real golden and pretty" or "real pink and pretty" again, I'll cry. Honestly, it was as bad as if I had to read someone saying something was 'dope' or 'crack-a-lackin' over and over. The words don't really mean ANYTHING to people who weren't hippies. Maybe invite those who originally wrote the pieced to update them into modern, non-hippie language? I really found it so distracting...

Finally, I got the sense- and perhaps I'm totally wrong about this- that if a woman had trouble dealing with the pain of her contractions it was her own fault. Women were expected to mentally transform the pain into 'an interesting sensation which gets the baby out'. Now, I understand that fear and tension can increase the amount of pain felt during birth, but it seems that the women were expected to be laughing, joking and 'giving some' to others during their labor & delivery. They were discouraged from 'complaining' during their 'rushes'... I feel that placing these expectations on a laboring mother is unfair. Pain is experienced differently for different women. For some women, labor can be an ecstatic- even orgasmic- experience. But to place on a woman that there's a 'good' and a 'bad' way to labor & birth is just... I don't know- it seemed unreasonable to me... Like everyone is being forced into a certain birth disposition and if they don't conform they fail as a 'paddy-ass'.

Anyway, just my two cents. Many people obviously enjoyed the book more that I did. And I really did WANT to like the book so much more than I did- I wanted to enter into the spiritual side of the midwifery... Oh, well...
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on July 4, 2011
Wow. First of all, mad props to all the women who could actually make it to the end of this irrelevant and outdated bs. Do you know why it is titled Spiritual Midwifery? Because if you're birthing a baby in the back of a school bus with an english major encouraging you to have sex (Helloooo I thought birth was about getting something OUT of there, not putting something IN!), miles away from anything resembling civilization, all you have is God to pray to that you and your baby don't die. I'm afraid the truth of the Farm won't really be revealed until the self proclaimed grandma of midwifery is not of this world any longer- like most cults, we don't realize what was really going on until much too late. Not only is this anecdotal crap hard to swallow, there is SO much horrible advice in here- like, oh just smoke pot during labor, or premature labor? Just go home and drink. This book is outdated and full of anecdotes that should not be taken to heart.
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on November 24, 2013
Spiritual Midwifery has long been regarded as the benchmark for the homebirth midwifery revival. Ina May Gaskin wrote Spiritual Midwifery in 1975. It is a collection of birth stories from the women of The Farm, Ina May's background in midwifery, and a guide for midwives. The first section is a collection of very similar birth stories told by and about the women of The Farm community. The section for midwives in the back is woefully outdated, representing Ina May's training and education and a general lack of understanding of what non-intervention in birth really means. Ina May represents birth care in which the woman is not only not autonomous, but is reliant on her attending midwife and her beliefs. I contend that this book is not only outdated, but potentially dangerous and serves as a guide to midwives on how to have a standard hospital birth in the home or birth center.

Though the birth stories have been heralded as empowering and enlightening, I strongly disagree. Simply as a matter of opinion I believe that these stories represent disempowered women birthing under the authority of a midwife trained and educated by outdated obstetrics texts and under the tutelage of hospital based physicians. While these stories are all a far cry from what standard practice in hospitals was at the time, they still showcase intervention obstetrics, only at the hands of then un-trained midwives. I was unable to finish reading the stories simply because I tired of reading accounts of being so "blissed out" and "groovy." Most of the stories were the same, the mother labored, had multiple vaginal exams and a hands on, hands in, interfered with birth, but given her alternative it represented a vast improvement. I don't believe these stories are applicable or helpful for women birthing today, and at best serve as a historical reference of interest. Sadly many women are encouraged to read these stories and therefor believe that homebirth is that hands-on.

The "For Midwives" section in the back is woefully inadequate, interventionist, and encourages midwives to disempower birthing women. Many of her prenatal care guidelines have the potential to be dangerous. At multiple points throughout the guide Ina May Gaskin uses terms language indicating that the mother must have permission to do or feel anything in her labor. Gaskin does not provide adequate detail for determining the mother's health status despite her liberal use of invasive observation. Her birth procedures display a total lack of regard for the mother's autonomy. The midwife, in Gaskin's opinion, should be staging this birth just so, including coaching the couple on their relationship during the birth. After reading Spiritual Midwifery I can't help but feel a little sadness for the thousands of women who were subjected to her puppet mastery and still are today.

Despite having been updated in 2002, many of the recommendations and practices are still extremely outdated. very little was actually reviewed and updated to reflect current research, not even simple things.These glaring oversights, make this book obsolete even as a simple pocket reference. It lacks enough detail to have ever been more than a pocket reference to begin with, regardless of it's detrimental recommendations.

At best this text is an anthropological study of birth practices. At it's worst it is a dangerous reference for midwives that encourages the disruption of a natural, normal process that does not NEED anyone other than the mother to work. Even Gaskin states that birth works fine on its own, however her practices suggest anything but is true. I would not recommend this book for reading to any parent and would openly discourage it if asked.
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on June 8, 2011
I am a student midwife so am currently reading every midwifery book I can get my hands on. I really enjoyed this book, but I want to warn readers not to take everything is says and run with it. I saw where some reviewers were slightly offended by its new age content, hippy language, and sensual birthing experiences. Even if you don't agree with all that, there is still some wonderful information in here so I suggest reading this with an open mind and pull the good and toss the bad, whatever those may be for you.
The good for me: It was interesting to learn about the Farm culture and hippy culture in that time. I thought that the hippy language was funny and instead of being offended by it like other reviewers, I appreciated the cultural authenticity it created in the book. I was encouraged by the ways to get through the pain of natural labor. While not all methods work for everyone, I find myself really relating to Ina's suggestions to relax, breathe, have a sense of humor, love on your husband, and don't complain. I will definitely walk into my next birthing experience with a more relaxed, accepting, appreciative, and uncomplaining approach. My husband and I really bonded through my daughter's birth, and I love how Ina tries to incorporate the husband into the experience. I don't think I'm into being sexual through birth, but having your husband there to hold onto and work through it with is a very amazing and intimate experience. I like her approach of not thinking of child birth as painful. Yes, it hurts like crap, but if you can stop focusing on the pain and stop expecting or fearing it, you will have a much more relaxed and easier time. It definitely put into perspective how amazing and special childbirth is. I also liked her section for midwives. I found it very easy to read and understand and I'm sure I will refer back to it often.
The bad: I am a Christian, and this book is what I would call new age. While a lot of new age beliefs correlate with Christianity, the ones that I did not connect with were like the telepathic and psychadelic stuff. Some of it was just a little weird for me. Also, some of the information seems a little outdated. Like having a woman on bedrest drink vodka everyday to keep from going into labor. I don't have a problem with a small glass of wine to try to relax the uterus, but hard liquor every day? Not in my practice!
Overall, if you can get past what you don't agree with in this book, I think its an excellent resource for women preparing for natural childbirth. Read every book you can and pull from it what will work for you. I also think anyone pursuing midwifery should read it. I learned a lot about myself and how I want to be (and not be) with my clients, along with a lot of useful skills.
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on April 12, 2011
....This book brought me the courage and strength to have two natural births....
I essentially enjoyed both pregnancies solo, although, I never felt alone. I always felt like I had the experience's of all those strong women and the loving aura of each of their births tucked into my collective conscious. The birthing memories of all the women throughout the ages who've been giving natural births, beginning in caves, came through to me in their stories. The words in this book sent me strength, support and calm assuredness. If they could do it, so could I!
My story: I had my babies in remote southern oregon. So remote that the midwife wouldn't commit to my care. I went through my pregnancies with no prenatal care, Lamaze, etc, and few other woman to talk with. Instead, I had and a handful of books, namely: What to Expect When Your Expecting, and SPIRITUAL MIDWIFERY. (I did go to clinic a few times to have my vitals checked, as per recommendation by the WTEWYE book, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc). On the day that labor started, we drove to the hospital, walked in and I said, " Im having a baby". They assigned me to the doctor on duty that day. Both births were lovely. We went home the next day. My children are 16 and 17 this year.
My advice, from my own experience, not found in a book: In the days before the labor starts, your body will begin to ramp up energy you will need for the birth and days after. It will be tempting to use that energy to fly into maximum nesting mode, or hike across town or rearrange the furniture in the whole house,etc, but resist, you'll want to be awake and strong for the birth. I didn't understand that for my first birth, and I used up this special energy all weekend, falling into bed exhausted at midnight Sunday. I immediately felt contractions and was convinced that my baby would come in hours, so we drove to hospital, by then I was so tired that I couldn't really muster up the strength for the strong contractions needed to guide the baby out. The labor went on for 23 long hours, and a pinch of pitocin in the last hour(so no, not 100%natural). For my second birth, I conserved energy towards the end. My labor pangs began, again, as I laid down in bed after a long day. I decided to get a little sleep before going to hospital this time. To my surprise, I slept through the night. This happened again the next night, and by the third morning, I woke to labor pangs and felt refreshed and ready to have a baby. In I went to the hospital and within hours I had an easy birth and a big bouncy baby boy! (And the aura in the room really did turn purple, just like one of the stories in the book says it did for her!)
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on May 19, 2014
I found this book and Ina May's "Guide to Childbirth" to be invaluable in my preparations for my first child. The reading is smooth and comforting and the stories are so varied, but all so empowering. I am certain that these two books are what gave me the strength and knowledge to have an entirely natural child birth (in a hospital, we couldn't afford a midwife in our area). Because of these stories, I was prepared for anything and I believed in my baby and body. I accepted the pain, kept breathing, and "rode the waves". Child birth was the hardest and most glorious experience of my life. I am so grateful to Ina May and the other women in these books for sharing their wisdom. I truly have love in my heart for them. No one in my family had much to share about birth, especially natural birth. It's just not something they talk about. If it hadn't been for these books I would have felt alone, scared, and possibly made decisions about birth that I wasn't comfortable with. These books made me feel welcome and safe in this beautiful part of life and gave me the power to have the type of birth I wanted for my son and myself. I can't express it enough. Don't bother with any other books on the topic, even if you want the epidural or other assistance, I'm positive this and the other book will help you. I would read, "A Guide to Childbirth" first and then this one. I think the other book is a bit more "universal" and it has a lot of good information about possible complications, ect. "Spiritual Midwifery" is as it sounds, a little more on the "hippie" spectrum, but absolutely pure gold. (yay! my first review! never been anything so important/worth it before) Good Luck Ladies!!! Your body was designed for this, embrace and love it!
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on March 7, 2015
Fantastic! So good!
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on January 13, 2016
Ina May is just the best - this is my favorite out of all of her books - I love the individual stories.
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on January 18, 2003
I think I'm the first _man_ to review this book. In a way that's kind of sad, but hey, I don't mind going first, fellas. Besides, I've reviewed just about everything of Stephen Gaskin's I could find, and it's about time I reviewed Ina May's book.
And here in Ohio we've got a Mennonite midwife named Freida Miller who's doing time in prison. Why? Because she saved the life of a birthing mother by giving her prescription medication without a license. Worse, she's not even in prison for dispensing the meds; she's in prison because she refuses to reveal the name of the doctor who _gave_ her the meds in the first place. This displeases me and causes me to question the legal and pharmaceutical establishments even more than I already did, which is a lot. So consider this review my little blow for the revolution.
Ina May Gaskin wrote the book on midwifery -- four times, in fact, as the fourth edition of the book was published in 2002 and it gets longer every time. The new edition is updated with the usual stuff, including yet more stories from the parents and midwives at the Farm (including some stories from the babies, now all grown up, who were the subjects of the _original_ stories) and a new preface by Ina May. And if you're reading this page, you don't need me to tell you that it's the bible of practical midwifery.
What you may _not_ already know is what a spiritual book it is. Of course the title is _Spiritual Midwifery_, but some readers may be inclined to write that off as hippie jargon. As other reviewers have noted, there is some hippie jargon in the book, but I don't think you should read "around" it or "past" it. You should read _through_ it; it's part of the point. The medium really is sometimes the message, and this is the appropriate language for the concepts Ina May wants to lay on you.
What Ina May wants you to know, what she and the midwives at the Farm have successfully shown for thirty years and counting, is that birthing really is (or can be) a sacrament and that _how we be_ has a profound effect on _how we birth_. As Stephen remarks somewhere, the Farm midwives have successfully demonstrated that _vibes are real_. This is good news and it's important to more than birthing mothers -- even to more than women.
I don't mean to minimize the importance of the practical midwifing aspects of the book, either; it's just that I didn't read the book for that reason myself. (I was present at the births of both of my children, but they were born in the hospital as my wife preferred.)
The thing is, Ina May and Stephen are good people. In fact they manage to be both kind _and_ competent -- a difficult trick and one that I certainly haven't mastered myself. And there are lots of other good people represented in this book, in the stories and in the pictures. (The folks in the photos look like folks you'd want to meet. If you look at them right, you can actually see their souls.)
So this review is partly to help spread the word about midwifery and partly to help spread the word about these good people. Vibes _are_ real, it _does_ matter how we be, and don't let anybody tell you any different.
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