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“I kept thinking while I was pushing, I’m going to get huge. I’m going to get huge!” she said.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“Contrary to myth, for instance, intrinsic physical characteristics only rarely interfere with the capacity to give birth. In other words, your pelvis is probably big enough for vaginal birth. Nearly every woman’s is. Mental attitudes and emotions, on the other hand, interfere with the ability to give birth far more than is generally understood.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“Stand or kneel with one hand on your pubic bone in front and the other on your tailbone. Notice how far apart your hands are. Now lean backward as far as possible (taking care not to hurt yourself) and continue to notice how far apart your hands are. Next, lean forward until your torso is parallel to the ground.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“Many midwives work as employees in large hospital practices, where the techno-medical model of care is still the rule. In practices like these, midwives are used to attract women who desire midwifery care, but they may in fact be under constant pressure to practice within the techno-medical mode.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“An Rh negative mother’s blood is said to be “sensitized” when this process has taken place. Procedures such as amniocentesis, aggressive external version, and episiotomy increase the chances of sensitization.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“Dear Lord, make us truly grateful for what it is that we are about to receive.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“Mother's milk is soul food for babies. The babies of the world need a lot more soul food.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding
“It will take your breastfed baby an average of five to six months to double her birth weight.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding
“We are, indeed, fully prepared to believe that the bearing of children may and ought to become as free from danger and long debility to the civilized woman as it is to the savage. —Thomas Huxley”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“In the Netherlands, the government health plan provides for a specially trained nurse/lactation expert to help each new baby’s parents in their home for a full ten days following each birth (with a small co-payment). Hired for three, five, or eight hours according to individual families’ needs, this maternity nurse serves the new parents breakfast in bed, feeds any older children their breakfast, walks the dog, helps the new mother with breastfeeding if necessary, cleans the house, and notifies the midwife if the mother or baby should need medical attention for any reason. The Dutch consider the care provided each family by the maternity nurse to be an investment in good health, which benefits the entire society because it so effectively reduces the number of illnesses mothers and babies experience during the first year of the baby’s life and thus saves money”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding
“How likely is it that you’ll be present when I give birth? • If not, who will be there instead? • Can I meet all of your partners? • What is your policy on ultrasound? • What forms of pain relief do you recommend? • How many women in your practice give birth without pharmacological pain relief? • What do you think about doulas? • How often am I likely to see you while I’m in labor? • What prenatal tests do you do routinely? • What labor procedures do you do routinely? • What methods do you suggest to alleviate labor pain? • Can my baby’s heart rate be intermittently monitored by the nurses? • Do you perform episiotomies routinely? How often do women in your care give birth without episiotomy?”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“Can I drink and eat in labor? • If I go into labor, check in to the hospital, and my labor slows down before I get very far, can I go home? • What is your induction rate? What methods do you use? • Can I walk around in labor? • Is there a time limit for labor? How long can I push? • Can I choose the position for giving birth? Can I give birth on my hands and knees if I like that position? • What is your cesarean rate? • This may seem a personal question, but [if female] can I ask if you ever gave birth vaginally? • This may seem a personal question, but [if male and a father] can I ask if any of your children were born vaginally? • What is your forceps and vacuum-extraction rate? • Will you cut the umbilical cord after it quits pulsating? • Can you put my baby on my chest (skin-to-skin contact) after birth?”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“In her insightful Of Woman Born (1976), Adrienne Rich said it very eloquently: “My children cause me the most exquisite suffering of which I have any experience. It is the suffering of ambivalence: the murderous alternation between bitter resentment and raw-edged nerves, and blissful gratification and tenderness.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding
“Believe me: if you are told that some experience is going to hurt, it will hurt. Much of pain is in the mind, and when a woman absorbs the idea that the act of giving birth is excruciatingly painful—when she gets this information from her mother, her sisters, her married friends, and her physician—that woman has been mentally prepared to feel great agony.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“Midwives provide all the prenatal care healthy women need. The midwifery ideal is to work with each woman and her family to identify her unique physical, social, and emotional needs. In general, midwifery care is associated with fewer episiotomies, fewer instrumental deliveries, fewer epidurals, and fewer cesarean sections. Midwives are trained to identify the relatively small percentage of births in which complications develop and to refer these to obstetricians.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“It is good to regard labor as hard work to be done, work that a long line of female ancestors did in the past that enabled us to be here at all.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“our bodies must work pretty well, or there wouldn’t be so many humans on the planet.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“… in the ordinary course of a healthy labour, the mouth of the uterus opens by some secret agency; or at least without any apparent force.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“Optimum functioning of our various sphincters is easier to obtain when we understand how to better accommodate our thoughts to the needs of our bottoms. I often say that our bottom parts function best when our top part - our minds - are either grateful or amused at the antics or activities of our bottoms. It is amazing how much better our bottoms work when we think of them with humor and affection rather than with terror, revulsion, or, worst of all, look away from them in shame. Lord knows, we can't turn our backs on our bottoms.”
Ina May Gaskin
“This means that most of the births they have seen were to women on epidurals lying still during labor, waiting for it all to be over. Seeing this kind of birth over and over again causes a subconscious imprint on the mind, and many women develop enough fear of the pains of childbirth that they block the messages their bodies give them about other positions they might take in labor. Others may simply fear diverging from the norm. A woman in the first stage of labor may find it beneficial to try several upright positions: standing, perhaps leaning on a counter or tray table; slow dancing with her partner; sitting while leaning forward or propped up with pillows; squatting; or sitting in a rocking chair. Sometimes one position suffices, but laboring women usually like to change from one position to another as labor progresses. One of the most effective labors I ever witnessed was that of a first-time mother giving birth to a very large baby. She moved through the first part of labor very efficiently by belly-dancing while putting as much of her weight as possible on a long staff she was holding to steady herself. She then pushed her baby out while leaning on the bed in a kneeling position. A woman’s position during labor and birth may affect her ability to breastfeed in a couple of ways. Dr. Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia, an Uruguayan obstetrician, was one of the first to scientifically investigate the effects of maternal position on labor. In 1979 he published a study now regarded as a classic, which demonstrated that mothers in a “vertical” position had thirty-six percent shorter opening stages of labor than “horizontal” women; the “vertical” women also reported less pain than the “horizontals.” Walking helped labor progress as well, because it brought the pressure of the baby’s head against the cervix, helping it to thin and open. And the “vertical” mothers’ babies’ heads were less apt to be extremely molded just after birth, indicating a somewhat smoother passage through the mother’s birth canal. Equally important, the babies of women who gave birth in upright positions had less fetal distress at birth.5 These factors all increase the chances that a woman will have a good early breastfeeding experience. Dr.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding
“Marie Striekwold-Ebben, passed along this piece of wisdom: “Even if you don’t have much money, keep in mind that the bedroom is the most important room in the house. Love and sadness are shared under the sheets, and you hope that your children will come into the world in your bedroom and that you will leave the world there.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“Where the techno-medical model of birth reigns, women who give birth vaginally generally labor in bed hooked up to electronic fetal monitors, intravenous tubes, and pressure-reading devices. Eating and drinking in labor are usually not permitted. Labor pain within this model is seen as unacceptable, so analgesia, and anesthesia are encouraged. Episiotomies (the surgical cut to enlarge the vaginal opening) are routinely performed, out of a belief that birth over an intact perineum would be impossible or that, if possible, it might be harmful to mother or baby. Instead of being the central actor of the birth drama, the woman becomes a passive, almost inert object - representing a barrier to the baby's eventual passage to the outside world. Women are treated as a homogenous group within the medical model, with individual variations receding in importance.”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“emphatically, that I was. After that I decided not to feel sorry for myself or”
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

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