The farm experience
Taking time off for training is always a life transformational experience. And when you train in something you are passionate about, it’s even better. And if that training is with world renowned people it is mind blowing. And when you meet other people on the same page it is reassuring, comforting… And if on top of that you have a great time… you are on the right path…
Ina May Gaskin is my hero. I don’t know any birth-keeper who does not know her, admire her, is inspired by her, read her books, mentions her here and there… we all do. Ever since I’ve known about her, an experience at The Farm has been my dream. And the right time came, the stars aligned and I attended a Midwife Assistant Workshop in April 2015.
Students who attend this workshop continue their studies in a certified midwifery training programme or apprentice with a practicing midwife. I don’t have that calling, yet. I love my role as a doula, but attending this workshop gave me a better insight into what goes on around me in terms of medical procedures like foetal heart monitoring, fundal measurement, Leopold’s manoeuvres, baby’s position, engagement, dilation checks, blood pressure, pulse, basic sterile techniques, and we also went through anatomy and physiology, breastfeeding, charting, record keeping. Lots of open discussions and film nights.
The Farm is located in Summertown, Tennessee.It was founded by spiritual leader Stephen Gaskin who with a group of hippies looking to live their ideals, travelled from San Francisco in school buses across the US and settled in this rural area. During this long journey couples in the community had babies so some women began to learn about midwifery and naturally became midwives. When they settled they founded The Farm Midwifery Centre. Since then they promote a holistic and low-tech approach taking care of the physical and emotional wellbeing of the mother-to-be. Today people from all over the world travel to The Farm to have their babies. They hire a cabin in the woods and get to receive a home birth experience. Their first book ‘Spiritual Midwifery’ caused and enormous impact and remains an inspiration.
The Farm Midwifery Center first began offering educational workshops through annual midwifery conferences. Now they offer week-long classes and training. Pamela Hunt is the director of the Midwifery Workshops Programme; which started in 1995. She is one of the founding mothers and has 44 years experience as a midwife.
What is so amazing about The Farm is their low rate of interventions in a country with a highly medicalised maternity care system. They believe in birth, they believe in a woman’s ability to give birth instinctively. They support women, they take care of them with compassion. From a total of 2,844 mothers accepted for care at The Farm between 1970 and 2010 only 5% needed a transfer to hospital.
The Farm is such a safe place, nobody locks their homes, people are friendly and welcoming and if you are a student midwife you get an even bigger smile! It’s just a positive and peaceful environment. After a few hours at The Farm I could have a sense of how easily women can relax, let go and give birth here. Allowing their bodies do the job it’s been designed to do. Breech babies, twin babies, orgasmic births, they are all normal births here at The Farm. Their holistic approach includes a good diet, watsu sessions, which is a combination of shiatsu in water, relaxation, walks in the woods –all ways to enhance the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of women. No obstacles, no horror stories, no unnecessary interventions. Midwives do deal with emergencies and are prepared for that, but the whole environment here minimizes fear.
It was an inspiring week. Not only because I got to know the team of midwifes who have worked at The Farm since its origin in the 70’s, but because of the amazing group of women I had the privilege of meeting. Souls with similar passions, with different experiences to share and generous hearts.
Trainee Birthlight teacher