Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives

Last summer at the L.A. Film Festival, a pair of filmmakers was pleasantly surprised to garner the Audience Choice award for their new documentary, "Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives." The film's screening tour kicked off in NY in January of this year, and not long after, my brilliant sister Julia (currently living with us) found a screening at a local yoga studio, so she, my husband, and I got tickets. We found ourselves in a big roomful of fellow birth enthusiasts, and felt a happy camaraderie there. The film went by far too quickly, and we left smiling and edified. 

"Birth Story" chronicles the Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee from its beginnings to present. Many current and former Farm midwives were interviewed for the film, most notably Pamela Hunt and Ina May Gaskin. I've loved Ina May since I first read her empowering book, "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth," during my first pregnancy (reviewed here by Meredith). The stories and counsel she provided gave me much confidence for my impending labor.

Watching this film further endeared her to me. Sunny and positive, she has a knack for saying things just how they are. Her heart is brim with love, especially for women. It was fun to get a glimpse into her personal life as she went about her daily routines, interacted with her husband, shared morsels from her extensive obstetrical library, met with pregnant women, and attended births. It also includes  snippets of public speaking appearances and her passionate fight to bring attention to the very high maternal mortality rate here in America, specially featuring her beautiful Safe Motherhood Quilt project

The film contains several live births, including (drum roll), a breech birth! Few doctors and midwives will deliver breech babies vaginally in our country, and Ina May addresses this and other conditions and problems in our current system. In another birth shown, the midwife used the Gaskin Maneuver to safely deliver a baby with shoulder dystocia, and the last birth of the film was a mother laboring quietly in a birthing pool, eventually catching her own baby.

Wholesome and lighthearted, this film honors the wise women who watchfully attend the reverent process of birth and speak out in its defense. Find a nearby screening if you can or encourage some locals to get together for one! Otherwise, keep your eye out for the public release in April or May. Enjoy!


  1. Boo--it's not playing anywhere near me. I love Ina May. And I was tempted with this pregnancy to check the Farm out but it is 5 hours away from where I live and therefore not quite realistic enough. I am excited for my upcoming home birth next month and look forward to the public release of this film, thanks for sharing about it!

  2. So lovely!! Who knew my thoughts on these things would go hand in hand with my husband's sisters?! Can't wait to see this.

    I was talking to some women recently were amazed by the idea that it is even possible to give birth vaginally with a breech baby. Oh I lament what we've lost!

  3. That looks wonderful! I am sad there aren't any screenings here. Maybe I should find a venue and host one! I love Ina May/want to be her.

    1. Meredith, I would help you with this endeavor...

    2. To be Ina May? Yes!

      jk ;) I will look into how to book a screening.

    3. It looked easy enough at that last link I included. I don't know what, if any, fees are involved, but they say you could host one at a home. I'm sure you could easily network enough to fill Mom's big room and watch it on the wall...

  4. Thanks for sharing, it looks great! I might have to organize a showing here, too. Let me know how that works out in UT...

  5. If you do a showing in SLC, I'd love to come! I enjoyed reading the birthing stories in her book.