Keep Your Yanni out of my Yoni: Sort of a review of Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth

As Matlida or I may have mentioned before, I will be popping  a lil human out of my vagina in a few months now. I’m sorry, was that an indelicate way to phrase it? Should I have said “I’m going to bring forth life from my sacred womb”? Well, don’t hold your breath, because I don’t fucking talk like that.

Some shameful background admissions: I grew up in Northern California. I was a pot smoking, Birkenstock wearing, Phish listening teenager. I wore jewelry with my zodiac sign on it. I bought books about Wicca. Hell, I even believed that astral projection was possible.

Yes, I thought this was a thing. Stop laughing.

But I still drew the line somewhere. I could never bring myself to completely drink the koolaid. I never went for dreadlocks, for instance. As soon as my armpit hair started growing, I started shaving it. There was a boundary I could not cross when it came to New-age trends and beliefs.  I think the line was most tangibly drawn by the language used by so many of my peers. Or maybe it was the abundant paranoia. Or the stink of B.O. that permeated whole groups of people. Or the constant repetition of unsubstantiated claims being purported by obscure authors who went by exotic sounding monosyllabic names. But I digress.

When I went to college I had the reverse experience that many people have. I became less “open-minded”.  What I actually mean is I learned that I should use rational thought to determine the legitimacy of claims and to only put stock in those that had some semblance of supportive evidence. I learned to remember that I had inherent biases and that the inadvertent confusion of correlation and causation led to a ton of false beliefs. I had an epiphany: Humans can be kind of  morons and we need to take precautions not to completely misjudge the world around us. Believing in auras and telepathy and magic might seem awesome and make the world more like our fantasies, but it doesn’t make those things any more real. Actually, it takes away our focus and attention from the awesome things that are verifiable and beautiful. (Disclaimer: This is not to say I don’t think people are entitled to have unverifiable beliefs if they bring them comfort. But if you have to choose between acceptance of science and your spiritual beliefs, and you choose your spiritual beliefs, then we probably won’t get along.)

Sorry, I got a bit sidetracked. What I wanted to talk about was my experience reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Though I have fully embraced the practice of conventional medicine, it seems there is a trend in U.S. medicine in particular to embrace an over-willingness to intervene when it’s just not necessary. I may be a skeptic, and an agnostic, but I can still appreciate the spiritual and emotional elements of child labor. There is something profoundly beautiful, awe-inspiring, and just frigging amazing about the whole thing. I mean, there is a baby inside me! I’m getting kicked and tickled from the inside right now as I write this!  Childbirth is something I want to experience with a touch of sensitivity, a bit of setting, a smidgeon of solemnity. I get it, ok! Some of it, anyway.

The book itself is very helpful in describing the whole birthing process, from water bursting to final thrusts. It shares a number of women’s birthing experiences and shares their advice on managing and overcoming the pain using mental techniques. Helpful, and yet I was cringing during much of the book. not from the graphic descriptions of the birthing process. Instead, it was from the use of terms like “yoni”,  “plane”, or “spirit guide” (I’m pretty sure that third one was in there somewhere).  One woman shared her method of imagining your vagina is a cave near a ravenous ocean, and the ebb and flow of the torrential tides correspond to the contractions. I think she meant her vagina, anyway. She called it a yoni.

This is a yoni. I don’t have one. I have a fucking vagina.

Is this supposed to be an empowering word? It’s vagina in another language. Or did she mean one of the other definitions of yoni? Like “sacred temple”? How about “stable”? Is my baby a pony? Language like this immediately puts me off. Can’t I use the English words without selling out to the man? Does my desire to give birth in a hospital diminish the spiritual import of my child’s birth? No, damn it. It doesn’t. It’s up to each of us to marry our spiritual side with our clinical or rational side. Ina May has assisted thousands of births. She seems to be  a reliable source for information on the birthing process. But hers is not the only way.

I am going to give birth in a hospital. I realize incense won’t be allowed and there won’t be a drum circle outside the door (I’m not knocking it, that would be pretty awesome). But, the compromise is all the technology, sterility, and know-how that will be there. I’m going to resist unnecessary interventions and have my people know my wishes in case I can’t communicate them.  I completely admire women who opt to have home births. They are braver than I. If they want to chant, have a naked midwife, and blast Enya through cockle shaped speakers during labor, good on them! I just hope they get their children vaccinated or else we’ll have a serious fucking problem.So take from the book what works for you and, if you’re like me, try not to dwell on the shudder-inducing hippy talk.

I hope this doesn’t sound too angry. I’m really a happy, sympathetic person. Just keep the Yanni out of my yoni. (And vaccinate your kids.)

This is a Yanni. I don’t have one. I have a fucking vagina.

 

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Family Life, Humor, Misc

2 responses to “Keep Your Yanni out of my Yoni: Sort of a review of Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth

  1. Matilda

    As the person who (ahem) recommended this book, I feel that I have to chime in here. The first half of the book is as Charlie described, natural birth stories. Some of these women are intensely hippy (this is not an oxymoron-trust me). Others are not. But I can relate because I find it hard to relate my birth stories without the same element of awe- labor and birth are powerful. I really believe that imagery helped me, and that that is not weird or over the line. (Incidentally, Charlie- I remember some serious armpit hair on you at one point. Jus’ sayin!)

    I don’t know if you give full justice to the book because the second half is devoted to an evidence-based discussion of hospital births in the United States. While the book is out of date, the story remains the same. Women and babies can be put in danger by unnecessary medical intervention. Hospitals try to shape labor and birth into short, predictable, episodes not occurring on weekends or holidays. That’s not how it is meant to be. I think that the book is helpful in a lot of ways and was able to take what worked and leave the rest. But then again, I spontaneously started humming and swaying during labor, so I may not be far off from Ina’s hippy ladies. Or perhaps it’s just that we don’t know how we will react in a challenge, and the road we end up taking may be surprise us.

    • Dude- When did I have this alleged armpit hair, eh Mrs. Crystal-pits? You’re right, I did not give the book as fair a shake. I absolutely agree that excessive hospital intervention is dangerous and makes the “labor industry” resemble more a baby factory. I’m finding the book helpful in preparing for the day and it’s inspired some pretty intense birth dreams. I think my mistake was taking some of the themes and speaking to those under the umbrella of a sort of kind of book review. I apologize.

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