A Day in LA with Ina May

You know those days where you have a hunch that what you're doing and who you're interacting with seems like it very well might be a once in a lifetime opportunity?  That was me on January 6, 2012.  I found myself headed northbound to LA in the company of my dear friend and co-doula, Annely Allen.  Our destination was BINI Birth, a unique space that's dedicated to offering support, education, and resources for families and birth professionals.  I've been familiar with BINI for a few years and was thrilled to have the chance to see it in person.  I'd received notice a few weeks earlier that Ina May Gaskin was going to be speaking there.  Double hooray.  I've read some of Gaskin's work and her book Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is one that I recommend to women often.  She is someone who has had a deep influence in maternity care worldwide and the way childbirth is perceived.  I wouldn't say that I am her #1 fan, as there are others who would rightfully claim that title, but I do have great respect for who she is and the work that she has committed her life to.  Below are some photos and bits of wisdom I gathered from what she shared.

"We always think that paying more for something = better and typically, this is true... but not when it comes to the birth industry."
- Referring to the cost of maternity care and how often because hospital birth costs more (before insurance contribution) it is seen as the superior environment to give birth in

"Birth is not about making money... especially when the people making the most aren't the ones actually caring for the women and babies."
- Talking about insurance companies and policy makers

"When you don't have midwives, you don't have obstetrics either.  You just have surgery."
- Voicing the need for midwifery to continue to play a vital part in maternity care throughout the world... the need for both midwives and obstetricians to care for women and babies.  Not either/or.  Both have a rightful place.

"Wouldn't it be amazing if our little girls grew up knowing that the place babies came out of went from little to gigantic?"
- Talking about the fear women often have of giving birth vaginally and not fully understanding that the vagina is created to expand and accommodate birthing a baby.

Ana Paula & Ina May

Following the workshop, Ana Paula Markel, founder of BINI and a childbirth educator and doula herself, graciously invited anyone who was interested over for dinner and more discussion time with Ina May.  Annely and I looked at each other and without saying a word knew that the other was thinking "no-brainer."  There were a handful of other San Diego doulas who were in attendance and had the same reaction.  We headed to the grocery store and picked up some pasta, salad, and bread and made our way over to Ana's house.  We arrived before she and Ina May got there.  I LOVE how Dawn, one of the SD doulas, made Ana's kitchen her own and along with a few others, started working on preparing dinner.  Over the next few hours, we shared a meal and talked more with Ina May, Ana, and the 20 or so other women who joined for dinner.  It was a rich opportunity to connect with women who all have the goal of supporting and caring for women, babies, and their families. 

San Diego Doulas & Ina May Gaskin

In closing, after spending the day listening to, talking with and observing Ina May, here's what I most admire about this woman...
  • She's one of those people who you know has so much wisdom and a wealth of life experience and yet is humble and quite unassuming.
  • She's approachable and engaging.  I never felt like she was looking past the person she was talking with or that she was annoyed by the hundreds of requests to talk or take a photo with her.  
  • She speaks very plainly and candidly.  While she has great passion in the things that she shares, yet she doesn't get lost in the emotion, which would be so easy to do.
  • She's respectful and appreciative of many obstetricians and medical doctors.  She calls many of them personal friends.  
  • She's an avid reader and learner.
  • She appreciates the diversity and beauty of cultures throughout the world.
  • She's funny.  
  • She's a normal woman, who early on in her life, saw that there was a need and rose to the occasion.  She didn't assume that someone else was going to step in and do what needed to be done.  Instead, she got her hands dirty (literally) and looked for ways to learn and grow and teach others. 
  • She's a wonderful picture of someone who isn't slowing down as she ages.

Me, Ina May & Annely


  1. Love it! Anytime we can soak up wisdom (especially in person) the better:) Happy for you and that amazing experience.

  2. Jenna as usual you can put into written word what most can barely speak. It was such an incredible day and I am so blessed to have shared the experience with you. Truly a day to remember, so many new friends and sweet energy... I walked away knowing I was right where I was supposed to be and confirmed everything I knew and felt in my heart.

  3. AMAZING. I think I'm slightly jealous. Yes. I am. Wow!