Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives
By Cheryl Thomas Orengo
START FROM SEED, a local Doula Program is hosting An Evening with Ina May Gaskin with a benefit screening of Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives on Saturday, April 6 and a panel discussion after the film featuring Ina May. Ina May Gaskin, CPM (Certified Professional Midwife), has been called “the most famous midwife in the world.” She is the founder and director of The Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee and is the author of four books, including the wildly popular Spiritual Midwifery and her new book Birth Matters. Birth Story, the new film about the Farm Midwives, captures a spirited group of women who taught themselves how to deliver babies on a 1970s hippie commune, rescued modern midwifery from extinction, and changed the way a generation thought about childbirth.
The Farm was established in 1971, with 300 people who arrived by school bus to settle in Summertown, Tennessee, amidst a thousand acres of oak trees. Their intention for life on the farm, as stated by Stephen Gaskin, Ina May’s husband: “If we had a platform, it was clean air, sane people and healthy babies.” The belief on The Farm is that birthing, child rearing and care of the elderly are a holy responsibilities. They knew when they settled there that The Farm was established in 1971, with 300 people who arrived by school bus to settle in Summertown, Tennessee, amidst a thousand acres of oak trees. Their intention for life on the farm, as stated by Stephen Gaskin, Ina May’s husband: “If we had a platform, it was clean air, sane people and healthy babies.” The belief on The Farm is that birthing, child rearing and care of the elderly are a holy responsibilities. They knew when they settled there that chose a state where people had been safely born at home so the public health authorities were not worried about what they were doing.
Ina May and other women on The Farm learned to help women give birth with the assistance of a local doctor who had attended Amish births nearby and an obstetrician who trained Ina May in emergency midwifery techniques. By 1974 The Farm motor pool included two state-certified ambulances with a crew of more than 40 state-certified emergency medical technicians, including a state approved emergency medical training instructor. In Ina May’s first book, Spiritual Midwifery, she says, “I learned from compassionate doctors, the women whose births I have attended and from studying medical textbooks.”
The Farm Midwifery Center has served mothers, babies, and their families for over 35 years with a practice based on the belief that pregnancy and childbirth are natural life events. Prenatal care, support during labor and delivery, and postpartum supervision are provided by a group of seven midwives credentialed as CPMs by the North American Registry of Midwives, and also certified by the state of Tennessee. Central to their work is the Midwives Model of Care©. In Ina May’s new book, Birth Matters, The Farm Midwifery Center’s report from 1970 to 2010 states that there were 2844 pregnancies and labors on The Farm during that time with 2,694 births at home, 148 transports to the hospital, and 50 cesareans (1.7%). Their statistics include: 0% rate of cesarean birth for breech babies, 17 sets of healthy twins all born without cesarean (two sets born at the hospital), a 96.8% rate of VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), 0% maternal mortality and morbidity, and 1.7% neonatal mortality rate (compared to a range of 9.5% in 1970 to 7% in 2010 in the US).
“Today, as nearly 1/3 of all U.S. babies are born via cesarean, they labor on, fighting to preserve their knowledge and pushing, once again, for the rebirth of birth. With incredible access to the midwives’ archival video collection, the film not only captures the unique sisterhood at The Farm Clinic, but shows childbirth the way most people have never seen it—unadorned, unabashed, and awe inspiring.
Birth Story is a celebratory tribute to the endangered art of midwifery and its most influential practitioner, Ina May Gaskin. A disarming example of documentary filmmaking that stakes out an opinion with plainspoken, commonsensical wisdom, this insightful effort from helpers, Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore, doubles as a defense of natural childbirth.” (Variety, 2012)
Birth Story premiered at the 2012 LA Film Festival and won the prestigious Audience Award. “… An incredible story … heart-stopping.” (Matt Holzman, KCRW)
START FROM SEED is hosting this Evening with Ina May Gaskin with a benefit screening of Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives on Saturday, April 6.
Doors will open at 5:30pm with hors d’oeuvres, refreshments and exhibits. The 95-minute film will begin at 6:30; there will be a postscreening panel discussion led by Ina May and Stephen Gaskin, local midwives, doctors and other local birth professionals about the film and normal and safe birth. One of the midwives on the panel will be Western North Carolina’s own, Lisa Goldstein, CPM, CNM who is mentioned in Ina May’s books and provided home births in Yancey county for many years.
Start From Seed is a non-profit organization that provides birth and postpartum doula services and childbirth education to low income, at risk pregnant women throughout Buncombe County. This is a benefit screening for Start From Seed and all profits will go back to the program so they can continue to do the work they love.
Cheryl Thomas Orengo is Program Advisor for Start from Seed, veteran doula of 24 years, local DONA Birth Doula Trainer and childbirth educator. Contact: Cheryl@peacefulbeginning.org.
‘Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives’ Ferguson Auditorium on the AB Tech Campus, 340 Victoria Rd Asheville, NC 28801. Saturday, April 6, 2013 from 5:30 PM. For more information about the film see birthstorymovie.com.