By Christine Frackelton
I have been privileged to attend numerous, well respected trainings and continuing education workshops for birth professionals since I entered this field of work, including various doula trainings, placenta encapsulation trainings, a breastfeeding workshop, numerous childbirth education classes, and even a birth art course. Each one has expanded my perspective, knowledge, and skills, and has had a positive impact on my clients, as well as myself. If one training takes the cake, though, it would be the kinesiology workshop for mind-body therapists I attended this fall at the Farm.
It was a powerful trip that, besides transforming me, has given me practical tools to help others transform themselves and attain their personal goals — be it physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or any combination of those. I am so eager to share all that I learned here on the Tremendoulas blog! I hesitate, however, because I can’t resist prefacing my kinesiology story with the story of the Farm itself.
Truth be told, I had never really heard of kinesiology until this fall, and signing up for the kinesiology workshop was hardly premeditated. What most interested me was the Farm. I’d been aware of the Farm for years before I ever started working professionally as a doula. Prominently featured in documentaries such as The Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth, besides being well studied by obstetricians and midwives for the astounding statistics (more on that later), there may as well have be sirens at the Farm luring me to that parcel of rolling Tennessee hills.
One of those sirens, I suppose, is Ina May Gaskin. One of the world’s most famous midwives today, Gaskin and her husband were pioneers in the movement that caravanned thousands of pacifist, vegetarian hippies from the west coast of the United States to the middle of nowhere, TN, to establish their utopic commune, the Farm. Apparently, these hippies were full of love, and as we all know, the product of love is often pregnancy. With the hippies’ distaste for their parents’ ways of doing things, as well as a need for financially sustainable health care practices, Ina May Gaskin, and some of her female comrades, took up the art of midwifery.
Today, the midwifery clinic at the Farm, tied perhaps with the permaculture programs, is what the Farm is most well known for — the commune itself long since having been through financial struggles and getting restructured into a more exclusive “intentional community”. Why is this midwifery clinic so well known?
For one thing, there is Ina May Gaskin’s legendary book, Spiritual Midwifery. Now in its 4th edition, the book is attributed with sparking the movement among American women to return birth to the home, as well as the movement for contemporary, direct entry midwifery (or, midwifery that is passed on through apprenticeship rather than through first becoming a nurse). Spiritual Midwifery shares the joy and ecstasy of real birth stories, which, as normal as they are, seem like a rarity in our modern, Hollywood-informed perspective of labor as a terrifying and painful experience.
Besides fostering positive birth experiences for the mothers that these Farm midwives have served, they also have astonishing statistics to prove the efficacy of their gentle, low-intervention style. Against the current national backdrop of a 32.7% cesarean rate, the Farm midwives’ numbers speak for themselves:
In their report of 2,844 births they have supervised from 1970 through 2010:
- 94.7% of births took place at home (5.2% were transported to the hospital)
- 1.7% birthed by Cesarean section
- <10% of breech positioned babies required cesarean section
- 96.8% of mothers attempting vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) were successful at vaginal birth
- 0.37% required forceps delivery
- 0% resulted in maternal mortality or maternal morbidity
- 100% of twins were born vaginally
- 68.7% had intact perineums (compared to 15% nationally and in the UK)
- For those with birth canal trauma: 19.4% had 1st degree, 3.2% had 2nd degree tears — which are the most common type of tear nationally — 0.3% had 3rd degree tearing, and 0.04% had 4th degree tears
- 1.7% had postpartum hemorrhage (compared to 2.9% nationally, according to 2006 figures)
I placed a few stats in bold, but truly, when you investigate each figure and compare it to rates across the United States, they are — each and every one –– stunning.
It is no wonder, then, that women travel from all over the world to deliver their babies at the Farm, even when they are too far to receive prenatal and postpartum checkups from the Farm midwives. The midwives facilitate this experience by renting cabins to families at the end of their pregnancies.
Fortunately, for those who do not have the availability to travel to Tennessee for birth, there are a growing number of birth professionals who are learning from the Farm midwives, be it from their books (in addition to Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May Gaskin has authored Birth Matters, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding), Ina May’s TED talk about reducing fear in our birth culture, documentaries in which they are featured, as well as in-person workshops. (If you’re looking for a local professional who has been trained at a Farm sponsored workshop, you’re of course welcome to contact me 😉 ).
Wanting to glean all I could from these birth masters, I naturally found myself exploring options for continuing education at the Farm, which is how I discovered kinesiology. I was hooked on the idea after watching video testimonials from pregnant and new mothers, and even some of the Farm midwives themselves! After learning that I was the recipient for a scholarship that was being offered for a professional to attend the kinesiology workshop this fall, I found myself without any excuses to remain in Florida over that November weekend.
After my flight into Huntsville and a rental car trip the remainder of the way, I have to admit, I felt exhilarated by the fresh scenery! Below are a few pictures from my walks around the Farm. It was a wonderful experience, and I can’t wait to share more with you in Part 2 (coming soon)!