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Creating Disabled Birth, Curing Capitalism: Reading Ina Mae Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery as Memoir-Meets-Manual

Creating Disabled Birth, Curing Capitalism: Reading Ina Mae Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery as Memoir-Meets-Manual

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Title: Creating Disabled Birth, Curing Capitalism: Reading Ina Mae Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery as Memoir-Meets-Manual
Author: Day, Allyson
Abstract: In the 1970’s, the contemporary home birth movement began to take hold in the United States through a back-to-the-land counter culture movement and the feminist health movement, perhaps most inspired by the work of Ina Mae Gaskin and her bestselling book, Spiritual Midwifery (now in its Fourth Edition and widely used internationally in doula and midwife training). This paper proposes reading Spiritual Midwifery as a memoir-meets-manual, applying life writing theories of testimony, autopathography, autographics alongside feminist and disability bioethics. The first half of Gaskin’s book, Spiritual Midwifery, is composed of individual birth stories written by parents who have had midwife-assisted births. These stories work to demystify a bit of the birth process while also emphasizing the safety of home birth; more important, perhaps, than the safety is the focus on how low-intervention home birth provides a form of spiritual healing for parents who have been mired in a capitalist post-industrial world. As Gaskin writes in her introduction, “This is a spiritual book and at the same time it is a revolutionary book. It is spiritual because it is concerned with the sacrament of birth—the passage of a new soul into this plane of existence. The knowledge that each and every childbirth is a spiritual experience has been forgotten by too many people in the world today, especially in countries with high levels of technology. This book is revolutionary because it is our basic belief that the sacrament of birth belongs to the people and that it should not be usurped by a profit-oriented hospital system” (12). Indeed, home birth is framed through these birth stories as a cure for capitalism. In this paper I propose that medicalized birth is understood as a symptom of capitalism; capitalism is understood as a spiritual sickness; medicalized birth is indeed a disabled birth. The second half of Spiritual Midwifery works as a manual for home birth practitioners; here, if normal birth is considered a cure, or a form of rehabilitation, for capitalist medical systems, then it should be no surprise that bodies already disabled prior to pregnancy are entirely absent from Gaskin’s book. In Gaskin’s presentation of home birth we can understand that disabled bodies, with their reliance on “too much technology”, to use Gaskin’s terminology, are incurable. With this framing of home birth, the movement for midwife-assisted care in the United States has become unnecessarily unidirectional and problematically utopian.
Subject: home birth
midwifery
Ina Mae Gaskin
Type: Abstract
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/33698
Date: 2017-05-15

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