Today’s guest post is by Jolina Petersheim, author of The Midwife.
A few weeks ago, a reporter asked what kind of research I did for my sophomore novel, The Midwife. I laughed dryly and said, “I had a baby!”
Though I meant it as a joke, I actually studied a vast amount on natural childbirth before the birth of my firstborn daughter two years ago.
I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by – you guessed it! – the internally renowned midwife, Ina May Gaskin. “The mother of authentic midwifery,” Ms. Gaskin is the founder and director of the Farm Midwifery Center, located near Summertown, Tennessee, which is the same state where I live.
According to the bio information on her website, by 2011, the Farm Midwifery Center, founded in 1971, had handled approximately 3000 births, with remarkably good outcomes. Ms. Gaskin herself has attended more than 1200 births.
Though I was too intimidated by all the tie-dye and patchouli-doused hippies to give birth at The Farm, I still read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth like it was a fragment from the Holy Grail. (FYI: take it from me, it’s not coffee table material.) Spurred by her low intervention birthing stories and Kumbaya experiences, I signed up for the birthing center located in the town near where I live.
My husband and I attended classes where—to test our level of natural birth commitment, I suppose—we watched a footling breech water birth video that could not be made soothing, regardless of the instrumental music that drowned out all other sound. (I spent the entire hour with my knees pressed together and my nails gouged into the fake leather sofa; my husband, afterward, had the dazed look of a car wreck victim.)
We heard statistics that were startling. For instance (again according to Ina May’s website), the United States has a higher ratio of maternal deaths than at least 40 other countries, even though it spends more money per capita for maternity care than any other.
Terrified by these statistics—which are accelerated by modern-day interventions such as Pitocin and epidurals, which slow labor down—I was determined to also have a Kumbaya birthing experience like those on The Farm.
Oh, yes. I would simply relax my facial muscles into an “O” like Ina May instructs, make a slight “swoosh-swoosh” noise, and my daughter would pop out in the tub, blinking at her surroundings before the midwife gently scooped her from the tepid water and wrapped the wee babe in her tie-dye sarong.
Of course, despite my naivety, I should’ve known this would not happen. Regardless of my Tupperware container of frozen grapes, gargantuan jug of raspberry leaf tea, and mad sprints up and down the fire escape stairs with my belly swaying, my labor did not progress.
At seven in the morning, I was whisked from the beautiful Zen room in the birthing center and transferred to the closest hospital where I was forced to put on the hospital gown, which—in my mind—was like losing a foothold in a landslide of interventions.
However, after twenty-four hours of labor, the dreaded Pitocin drip, an internal baby monitor, a dozen ice pops (I’d forgotten my grapes in the Zen room’s fridge and no longer cared about red food coloring and high fructose syrup), and—finally—an epidural that left me snoring in the hospital bed while my husband paced the floor, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl whose head barely showed the posterior (sunny side up) position she’d been in and which had inhibited a lickety-split, Kumbayah birth.
I wish I could say the hours of pain all melted away the instant she was placed in my arms, but I was honestly so emotionally and physically exhausted (not to mention drugged) that I didn’t feel the aura of new motherhood like I had expected from the experiences depicted in Ina May’s books.
Yet now—albeit, over two years later—I can recall my birthing experience and smile as I feel my second daughter rippling inside my womb. I realize that all that natural birth knowledge I acquired before my firstborn’s birth has not been for naught. Not only did that difficult birth prepare me for the difficult birthing scenes in The Midwife, it also took away the fear of birthing itself.
Regardless if I give birth at home, the birthing center, or the hospital, I know that the perfect birthing experience cannot be acquired through electric candles and instrumental music; it can only be acquired through trust in my body’s ability to know what it needs to do and when.
And that is what the renowned midwife, Ina May Gaskin, taught me . . . along with a pleasant appreciation for tie-dye and patchouli perfume.
Let’s be honest . . . a caffeine boost never hurts. For author Jolina Petersheim, it’s especially helpful to have her favorite drink on hand when she’s racing toward a manuscript deadline. In celebration of the release of her sophomore novel, The Midwife, Tyndale’s Crazy4Fiction team would love to enable your caffeine addiction and give you a taste of Jolina’s beautiful prose. For a chance at a $25 Starbucks gift card, an authentic Amish wall hanging, and your choice of Jolina’s novels (either The Outcast or The Midwife), enter through the Rafflecopter giveaway.
is the award-winning author of The Midwife
and The Outcast
, which Library Journal gave a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. The Outcast also became an ECPA, CBA, and Amazon bestseller, and was featured in Huffington Post’s Fall Picks, World Magazine’s Notable Books, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and The Tennessean. Jolina and her husband’s unique Amish and Mennonite heritage originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their young daughter. Whenever she’s not busy chasing this adorable toddler, Jolina is hard at work on her next novel.
What about you, readers? What drink of choice kick-starts your creativity and helps you keep moving?