Birth Story: a Review

Almost twelve years ago (WHAT.) I got pregnant with my first child. At the time I was familiar with the idea of home birth since a number of my childhood friends had been born at home (I didn’t live on a commune, I swear!), but I didn’t begin planning immediately for a home birth. It was a complex mix of insurance frustrations and doctors with poor bedside manners (to put it lightly) that led me to seek out a midwife around the middle of my pregnancy (one more parenthetical phrase. just for fun). Once you’re a part of the attachment parenting/home birth/La Leche League community, you tend to hear about certain things. Ina May Gaskin and the midwives of The Farm, for one. I was recently sent a copy of the new documentary Birth Story about Ina May and how she learned to become a midwife and how she inspired a movement.

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I know that not every mama is a candidate for an out-of-hospital birth, and that other mamas choose to birth in a hospital setting, and I’m so glad we have doctors to take care of those mamas. But there are more and more women who are making the choice to have a home birth, and there are quite a few women who don’t know they have the choice to make. This documentary is a beautiful story of what midwife-attended birth is, how it became a movement in America, and the power of an intentional community.

There is one awkward moment towards the beginning where Ina May is talking about her own history with birth and says something that felt less-than-inclusive to me. I mention this only because I don’t want to alienate mamas who might feel uncomfortable with the remark. I don’t know what the context was off-screen, and since she otherwise comes across inclusive, understanding, and loving, I assume that comment doesn’t speak for her as a person. In other words – don’t turn off the movie just yet!

The midwives in this documentary are midwives I’d choose for my births. (In fact, they remind me of the midwife I did choose for my births.) They balance current science with trust in a woman’s body. Ina May says, at one point in the film, “Your body is not a lemon.” Indeed. They protect their mamas from stress, and encourage them to find their inner strength. They laugh with you and look you right in the eyes when you need focus.

This film relies heavily on archival footage from The Farm’s history. Now, I may have an unnatural affinity towards 70’s fashion, and that may have played a role in how much I liked those old film clips, but they were also an integral part of the film. Through those clips, we get to experience a breech birth, see the Gaskin maneuver help a case of shoulder dystocia, and relive the beginnings of the community itself. Did you catch that? A breech birth. It was amazing, and I’m still high from seeing it 24 hours ago.

There is a scene where they are sitting around talking about how their hair has gone grey, and what that means for a midwife. It means respect. Instinctively, we know that older women hold the wisdom. In most of our culture we’ve lost that understanding – we do everything we can to stay looking as young as possible. But the midwives of the Farm have discovered that they are trusted more once their hair turns grey. I find that fascinating. In the most ancient of female roles, we rediscover our ancient understanding that becoming old is beautiful. Your body is not a lemon.

If you are interested in what midwives do, or the history of midwifery in modern America (and, in fact, the rest of the world, actually), I highly recommend this movie. But you don’t have to take my word for it! (Obligatory Reading Rainbow reference!) You can buy it on DVD or download it, or you can check the list of upcoming screenings to see if it’s showing in your area.

A Birthday! And a Giveaway!

In honor of SOAM’s upcoming fourth birthday, I am hosting a DVD giveaway! I happen to have a couple copies of 50 Nude Women which the producer, Margot, is refusing to let me pay for because she is clearly completely awesome.


I first became aware of this short film through one of SOAM’s readers several years ago, although at this point I can’t remember who it was now (feel free to speak up!) and as soon as I looked into it, I knew I had to own it. It is, simply, footage of 50 very different women, all nude. Tall and short, thin and round, young and old, from different cultures, of different colors, various body marks from head to toe – it is, in a word, women. Despite it’s length of only 12 minutes, the film makes me both laugh and cry. It shows the beauty in the diversity of women, and, actually, in humankind in general. We are beautiful in all our many forms. (I swear I’m not paid to say this!)

I believe Margot has made one of the most beautiful and important films ever, and I hope every woman (and man! and teenager!) finds a way to watch this movie and share it with their friends. And that is why this DVD is what I want to share with you as we embark on a fifth year of changing the world.

But I’m going to make you work for it. How do you enter? It’s simple – just go to Harriet Brown’s website and take her Pledge to Love Your Body. Come back here and leave a comment saying you’ve done that and you are entered to win one of two copies of the DVD that I’ll give away. Winners will be chosen randomly and I will announce the winners on Monday, July 5th, and we’ll have cake (gluten-free for me, virtual for you*) and sing and maybe even dance a little.

So go forth, spread the word on your blog or on Facebook or Twitter, and stay tuned for the festivities!

*I’d share, but cake just doesn’t taste as good once it’s shoved through the internet.