intensely trivial



KC Birth Network conference: Ina May Gaskin

Last weekend, I got to attend an amazing conference put together by the Kansas City Birth Network. There were doctors, nurses, midwives, and doulas there. The headlining speaker was Ina May Gaskin, the world’s best-known midwife and author of Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding. In the early 1970s, Ina May and Stephen Gaskin led a large group of hippies to establish a commune in rural Tennessee. The first baby born to these people emerged in a schoolbus en route to Tennessee, and several of the women in the commune decided they needed to learn all they could about birth if they were going to be truly self-sufficient. This community became known as The Farm, which still exists as a birth center, where births are still attended by some of the original midwives. Their birth statistics are astounding: They have only a 4-percent hospital transfer rate, and only a 1.6-percent cesarean rate. Compare that to the over 32-percent cesarean rate overall in the U.S., and you’ll start to ask some very good questions.
If Ina May had only spoken for an hour and there were no more attractions, I still would have dropped everything and come to Kansas City to hear her. I felt like a teenager when I walked into the room with the breakfast food, and there was INA MAY GASKIN at the table, getting granola like a regular person! She actually eats! She is flesh and blood, even though Dan jokingly calls her St. Ina May when we talk about her.
*OK, taking a breath.* I didn’t start this post to adulate Ina May; I wanted to share with you what she said, and hopefully, in subsequent posts, to share some of the other things discussed at the conference.

Ina May’s first talk was on nutrition for pregnancy, but I would summarize it more as “a healthy pregnancy lifestyle.” I’m just going to share below some of my notes from her talk — in not terribly organized fashion.

— Pregnancies have gotten less healthy as a result of our lifestyle. Ina May spoke sympathetically of doctors who have to bear quite a load in treating such unhealthy people.
— Technology isn’t magic.
— If you want good results in pregnancy, the woman needs a healthy lifestyle.
— We are part of the expression of nature, not other than nature. When we exploit nature, what makes us think we’re gonna get away with that?
— When you find out you’re pregnant, go through your house and get rid of all the poisons you can do without. Do things the old way.
— If we can eliminate stress on the organism (e.g. taking in substances that stress our bodies), we can eliminate many problems.
— In countries such as Italy and Japan, eating is part of their culture/religion. They eat more slowly (like for 1 1/2 hrs.); blood pressure is lower.
— Ina May promotes a plant-based diet for everyone (yes, even pregnant women). The main deficiency these people have is a lack of B12. Insufficient B12 leads to severe anemia. Can prevent this through powder or nutritional yeast.
— For protein: nori, miso, soybeans, other soy products; beans, nuts, almond milk, peanuts, nut butter, tempeh (BBQ tempeh delicious!)
— Don’t overcook your veggies, and you’ll like them a lot better!
— Make your own bread; it’s the best aromatherapy for your house
— Use a lot of herbs, esp. parsley (don’t even try to do without it, and get to know at least 2 kinds), basil, and rosemary. (“Anything with the word ‘weed’ in it is good.” Yes, she actually said that. 🙂 )
— Make food to be a feast for the eyes.
— Don’t argue or watch TV when eating
— Exercise, especially right after eating — great way to stabilize blood sugar
— In the vegan years at The Farm, they had only 1 person with diabetes! — due to diet and hard work

From the question/answer session, which was all over the place (most of these questions came from birth workers who had a special case they wanted advice for):
What about morning sickness?
Ina May’s answers, in this order:

— go through the woman’s environment and get all chemicals out
— strictly organic food, ginger, some homeopathics (nux vomica)
— be active, do outdoor work, no enclosed spaces
— water — very best beverage — be careful to get enough fluid
— experiment with teas, smells
— one area midwife recommends eating as much melon as you can for 4 days
— orange — poke the rind with a fingernail — that spritz of smell can help
— also related to stress — learn how to meditate and “get in the body”
— a lot of women don’t know anything about themselves from the chin down
— you might dream the food you need
— use seasickness bands for acupressure
— no supplements — instead of taking pills, eat real fruit/food
Preterm labor?
Ina May:
— 1970s remedy was alcohol
— tocolytics don’t work very well
— better lifestyle (removing stress) is the only real answer
Nutrition and mental wellness in pregnancy?
Ina May:

— look at the family line
— eating disorders — “little skinny women give birth fast” — check if you see a smile out of her; is her baby gaining well? sometimes these people get lost in the family because they’re not as assertive
— soups are good, esp. miso (which you should have as a staple in your kitchen)
— get these women to cook –> better pregnancy and happier
Heartburn (from 18 wks. on)?
Ina May:

— look at the woman’s food combos — have her keep a food diary
— should eat less at one sitting (1/2 to 1/3 usual size)
— the woman shouldn’t burden her stomach as much
— “make sure she chews!”
— watch what she drinks; no aspartame; push water
— alfalfa (preferably organic) can help
— no fried foods
— peppermint, stevia

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