The Farm


“Who are these people who have managed to live so well on so little while contributing so much to vegetarians and others worldwide? In truth, they’re a bunch of aging hippies.

This community, so far ahead of its time, is the Farm, an experiment in communal living that began in 1971 when most of the current residents were still college students in San Francisco.”
–Sharon BLoyd-Peshkin The Vegetarian Times

The very first book I got on my list was Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. We went to Barnes and Noble, and I remembered a few books off the list (not that they had much of a selection there), and I saw this book. I thought it would just be ridiculous, even though it said on the cover it was written by the #1 midwife in the States.

But, something drew me to this book. I bought it and I read it twice in the weekend I got it.

Ina May Gaskin is absolutely amazing. Her books always start with the first half being birth stories of people from The Farm (will explain in a minute). I absolutely love birth stories. Especially the upbeat, natural, and completely holistic ones. They leave me happy, in tears, and I just love them.

I guess I should explain a little about The Farm before I go any further.

Stephen Gaskin started out on a ‘tour across America during the hippy revolution’. They toured in old school buses. There were about 50 buses in total that drove around from college to college.

They delivered a few babies along the way, since hospitals were part of the ‘establishment’ and they knew they could do it themselves. Along the way, they got some training from doctors, nurses, and by reading books on birth. This was during the time there were NO midwives in our country. They single-handedly brought this back to our country.

They set up camp in rural Tennessee after they bought some property, where it is still located today with all the modern convienences of a doctor’s office. They decided to live amongst themselves and fend for themselves. They helped each other give birth, and they earned the trust of the community and the hospital that was close to where they were.

They are completely vegetarian and completely self-sufficient. There is no money required in their community. You bartered for what you needed and helped others by living the golden rule.

The main view on the farm is that men and women have different types of energy. They have to work together to accomplish the love the society needs to have to survive. If even one person is off, the whole society suffers.

Abortion is prohibited in the community and they have an adoption program at The Farm. You have free care provided by trained midwives, then you hand your baby off to someone there you trust, and you can come back at any time to take your baby back. It is not done in courts, and the parent has the rights to come back when they are ready, if they come back at all.

The view I love about The Farm is this : “If you’re sleeping together, you’re engaged; if you’re pregnant, you’re married” (Stephen Gaskin). Sex is not about gratification. It is a holy experience between two souls that cannot be taken lightly.

Birthing on The Farm is a physical, emotional, and spiritual ritual at the heart of the community. ‘Spiritual Midwives’ help the couple achieve higher levels of intimacy and a deeper sharing through natural childbirth. They represent the entire community at the birth and bring the entire community to a higher spiritual plane.

“To be a real midwife, it is necessary to be spiritual. Compassion has to be a way of life for her. The midwife must be able to consider someone else’s viewpoint, and in her daily life take care of those around her” (Ina May).

One person that was more than helpful in making The Farm what it is today is Dr. Williams. He was an OB/GYN that helped train and advise the midwives as they were starting out. Eventually he was able to come to The Farm to help with births instead of having them come to the hospital. As he did this, he was also able to see what a loving environment can do for a woman in labor. They were the first place to show that you didn’t need anaestetic and an episiotomy to have a breech baby. Women trusted their bodies to do what they knew they could do, and he was able to see this and help them achieve what they wanted.

The parents at The Farm had to be completely in sync for the birth. The midwives helped them through problems and in some instances where they couldn’t work through it, the husband was banished from the birth until he could calm down, or even permanently. ALL energy had to be focused on the baby being born to reinforce the communal value of self-transcendence. The midwives dual process of criticism and enlightenment is what makes this happen. Many times they would tell a woman to ‘stop being self-indulgent’. It drains the community and can inhibit labor.

The Farm is definitely more female oriented. It brought back the family identity as a midwife and also put the woman in charge of pregnancy and conceiving by having them use basal body temp and cervical fluid to decide intercourse and such. (If confused by this, you can read “Taking Charge of My Fertility” by Toni Weschler).

The Farm is a natural birth haven which single-handedly brough back midwives and natural birth.

Even as I think now about The Farm, this is how I want my practice to be and how I want my birth to be.

Her books are so informative and they don’t hide the truth. The Farm has a c-section rate of less than 2%, when the national percent is almost 40%. There has to be a reason for this.

That reason is the love and support women get in labor. If they have someone who they trust and who is supporting them, they are more likely to have a shorter labor, and have a better delivery. You can have what you want!

Before I die, I want to meet Ina May Gaskin. I even bought her second book, even though it isn’t required, but I love the first one I read more than this. I love how she describes how holy birth is, and it should be a place you are comfortable. Not in a place that has lights and sterility, and not somewhere your choices are taken away for a time constraint.

I want to be able to give people the kinds of birth experiences she describes in her books and the feeling I get when I read the stories of positive and upbeat births from The Farm.

Wouldn’t you want a birth your way with people who love and support you?

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