Six years ago, I dragged my family off to Tennessee for two weeks. I had always admired Ina May Gaskin, a self-taught midwife who set up The Farm hippy commune in the seventies with her late husband Stephen Gaskin. I had been teaching Hypnobirthing then for four years and frequently referred to Ina May in my classes. I love to learn from people admire and so I enrolled on The Farm’s midwifery assistant course. I signed up 10 months ahead of time, not knowing that when the date rolled round I would be 32 weeks pregnant with my third child. Luckily the airline still accepted me for travel and I found one insurance company that would cover me for the journey. So off we set for the Farm. We flew to Nashville via…then after some Nashville sightseeing we hired a car and drove down to Summerville, a tiny town in rural Tennessee which just happens to be where Stephen Gaskin and his followers found cheap land to settle.
The Farm was set up in 19… by a group of … hippies who travelled from San Francisco. They were followers of Stephen Gaskin, a teacher whose Tuesday evening talks about… resonated with people and attracted over ….. This group set off across the states in a long caravan of converted school buses. On the way there were several births, and they were attended to by Ina May. She became The Farm’s midwife and, along with several other women, they set up The Farm’s birthing clinic. By …. The Farm was no longer a commune, sharing all resources, but became a community. The population had already dwindled to … and there are now around 300 people living there.
What I found at The Farm, along with a lot of wisdom and beautiful camaraderie with my classmates was something I couldn’t put my finger on at the time. There were three midwives teaching the course: Ina May, Pamela and…. all immortalised in Ina May’s book Spiritual Midwifery. These women had something about them that was hard to name. They were so present and unashamedly themselves that I sometimes felt sort of floaty in their presence, a sense that my spirit was not as anchored down as theirs. They were loving, down to earth, and honest. But if something was wrong they would call it out. They weren’t afraid to go against social norms, but theirs was a calm, journey. No name calling, no defensiveness. Just a whole lot of truth. They were immensely knowledgeable about childbirth and had phenomenal statistics for natural birth outcomes. They had no doubts at all in the efficiency of a woman’s anatomy or her innate birthing wisdom. I was in awe of this and when I left the course I spent a while trying to figure out just what these women had, and why I didn’t have it. I finally decided to call it authenticity, but I’m feeling like that word gets used too much. I am going to say that they combined love and courage in such a way that they were a force to be reckoned with. I’m sure each one of them had her own struggles just as we all do, but